Sports

Rams, Matthew Stafford find their touch in second half against Seahawks

SEATTLE — Even with a bum finger and on a short week of rest, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford found a way to get a critical win over an NFC rival, beating the Seattle Seahawks 26-17 on Thursday night.

Four days after Stafford’s throwing touch was off, that trend continued in the first half as he sailed several passes over receivers and intended to throw a ball away out the back of the end zone, but instead threw an interception to safety Quandre Diggs. Stafford was 13-of-19 for 131 yards with an interception in the first half, and the training staff checked out an index finger that “popped out,” Stafford said on the field after the game.

“Yeah, just looked down and it was on the left a little bit, threw it back in. Our guys did a great job, gave me a little tape. I was able to keep it warm the rest of the day and keep playing.”

In the second half, Stafford’s accuracy improved as he led back-to-back scoring drives to give the Rams their first lead and put them ahead for good. Overall, Stafford completed 25 of 37 passes for 365 yards — his most with the Rams in five games — with a touchdown and an interception.

Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald said this week matchups between division rivals always amount to heavyweight slugfests.

Thursday night at Lumen Field proved no different as the Rams edged the Seahawks in front of a boisterous 12th-man crowd that felt inspired by a late-game surge behind backup quarterback Geno Smith as starter Russell Wilson was sidelined to start the fourth quarter because of a finger injury.

“Thursday games are tough, physically and mentally,” Stafford said, but added it was almost perfect timing and allowed the Rams (4-1, 1-1) to leave their loss four days ago to another NFC West foe, the Arizona Cardinals, in the rearview.

Describe the game in two words: Unexpected struggle. And that goes for both sides. The Rams entered the game with the 18th-ranked defense, allowing an average of 24.6 points per game, while the Seahawks’ defense ranked just behind at 19th, allowing 25 points per game. Yet neither team — behind star quarterbacks Stafford and Wilson — was able to efficiently move the ball through the first half. The Rams’ defense held Wilson to 152 passing yards with a touchdown and an interception. Wilson left the game at the start of the fourth quarter because of a finger injury.

Buy on a breakout performance: After a relatively quiet four games for receiver Robert Woods (15 receptions for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns), Stafford looked to the veteran playmaker early and often on Thursday night. Following a week of questions about Woods’ lack of involvement in the passing game, Woods caught 12 passes for 150 yards. Woods’ numbers amounted to season highs on targets, receptions and yards. Woods said afterward that he initiated a conversation with coach Sean McVay about getting more involved.

Eye-popping stat: Stafford completed a 68-yard pass to DeSean Jackson during an eight-play, 96-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 5-yard run by Darrell Henderson that put the Rams up 9-7 in the third quarter. With the deep connection, Stafford now has four completions of 40-plus air yards this season, the most in the NFL. No other quarterback has more than two. Last season with the Detroit Lions, Stafford had five such completions.

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