Rams' resilience must be proved over tough four-game span

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Jared Goff didn't exactly want to say the Los Angeles Rams needed a win over the Arizona Cardinals.

But with the Rams on the verge of falling out of the wild-card race, the Rams needed a win over the Cardinals.

"Being able to show that we can respond and show that we do have the resiliency among us, it's great," Goff said. "We've had some rocky times in the past few weeks."

The Rams went 1-2 in November. They fell inexplicably to the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-12 coming off a bye week. Two weeks later, they took a 45-6 drubbing by the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football. It was the worst loss in Sean McVay's three seasons as coach, and it appeared possible, perhaps probable, that the Rams' season would come to a crashing end.

But in a 34-7 victory over the Cardinals, the Rams proved they still have some of the spark that powered them to back-to-back division titles.

"It's a good step in the right direction," McVay said.

Even if it was against one of the worst-ranked defenses in the NFL, and a young offense still finding its footing.

"We knew we had to show up," said defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who had 1.5 sacks after he was nearly absent from the stat sheet a week earlier. "That's the type of football we've got to stay doing for the last couple of games and we'll see what happens from there."

With the win, the Rams' playoff chances increased from 8.5 to 14.4%, according to ESPN's Football Power Index, and their postseason probability changed again on Monday night, rising to 17.8% after the Seattle Seahawks beat the Minnesota Vikings.

However, at 7-5, the Rams likely need to win their remaining four games to earn a third consecutive playoff berth.

It is a tall task and one that will require Goff and the defense to play at their best, against much stiffer competition. The Rams' remaining schedule ranks as the third-most difficult, according to ESPN's Football Power Index.

On Sunday, the Rams return to prime time for the third time in a four-week span, for a rematch against the division-rival Seahawks (10-2), who beat them 30-29 in Week 5 when Greg Zuerlein's 44-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right with 15 seconds to go.

They'll play road games against the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys (6-6) and NFC West-leading San Francisco 49ers (10-2), then return home to play a regular-season finale against the Cardinals (3-8-1).

Coaches and players understand what's at stake, though they have committed -- as least publicly -- to the cliché one-game-at-time approach.

"Just on to next week," said running back Todd Gurley, who rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries against the Cardinals. "Just trying to knock that game out the way."

The Rams have won three of their five games against the Seahawks since 2017, when McVay took over as coach. They'll need to play the way they did against the Cardinals to have a chance against their division foe.

"We cannot be satisfied," Donald said. "As long as we keep doing that and stay hungry, we'll be fine."

Against the Cardinals, the Rams recorded a season-high 549 yards. Goff passed for 424 yards, the third most in his career, and two touchdowns, breaking a three-game drought in which he failed to throw a single touchdown pass and committed six turnovers. Blake Bortles replaced him midway through the fourth quarter.

"To respond and play the way he did, play free, it just shows you the confidence he has in the system and the confidence he has in the guys around him," receiver Cooper Kupp said about Goff. "It was incredible to see him play the way he did."

Goff's highlight play wasn't a pass, but a block downfield. In the third quarter, Goff found receiver Robert Woods on a short throw on the left side of the field. However, Woods cut back to his right and Goff became his lead blocker before he was shoved aside by Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson.

Woods picked up 48 yards on the play.

"It's happened before and often I try to get out there, but I never get a chance to hit somebody," Goff said about his block. "Had it been someone other than a defensive back, I'm not sure what I would have done."

The Rams had 275 receiving yards after the catch, the most by any team in the past four seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. Woods had a career-high 172 receiving yards, 131 of which were earned after the catch.

Tight end Tyler Higbee also recorded a career-best 107 receiving yards, averaging 15.3 yards per catch.

The Rams' defense was 8:35 away from posting a shutout, sacking Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray six times. Rookie safety Taylor Rapp returned a Murray interception 31 yards for a touchdown.

"It always will be and always has been how you respond," Goff said.

The question that remains is whether the Rams can do it against better competition, and for four weeks straight.