The Rams locker room was barely open a minute or two Sunday after a gut wrenching 27-20 loss to Washington when Robert Woods motioned for reporters to come talk to him.
If anyone had reason to hide from the media or brush them off or figure out a way to make himself invisible it was Woods, whose two careless penalties during a critical fourth-quarter drive likely cost the Rams a chance to score a touchdown and take the lead.
Instead of coming all the way back from a double-digit deficit to forge ahead, the Rams frustratingly settled for a game-tying field goal.
Rather than inhaling all the momentum that comes with completing a stirring rally, and feeding off it over the final seven minutes, it was more like satisfaction with an asterisk.
But not good enough.
In a loss defined by self-infliction, loose ends and cursory penalties and turnovers, Woods’ fourth-quarter indiscretions – and the painful ramifications that resulted – offered an imperfect snapshot of the whole exasperating afternoon.
“We can’t hurt ourselves with the penalties, some of the different things that occurred through the course of the game,” said Rams head coach Sean McVay.
The Rams are an improved team compared to last year. Dramatically so in some ways, subtly in others.
As evidenced by how they spotted Washington leads of 13-0 and 20-10 only to come roaring back to tie it with just over seven minutes remaining.
They did it by tapping into Jared Goff’s continued maturity, the athletic ability of Sammy Watkins and Gerald Everett, the headiness of Cooper Kupp, a defense that made adjustments to slow down Washington’s offense and even Todd Gurley, who finally flashed to Los Angeles the kind of burst and running ability that marked his rookie season in St. Louis.
And a mettle and moxie we rarely saw last year, if at all.
There’s absolutely no room in the NFL for moral victories. But there are redeeming take aways young teams can embrace even in losing.
“We put ourselves in a hole 13-0, but you’re really proud of the way we battled back to get into it,” said tackle Andrew Whitworth. “We made plays and got ourselves back in the game. There’s a lot of times teams lay down in that situation or can’t figure it out. So hats off to the team for that. To have a 20-20 game go down to the wire, that’s NFL football.”
They just aren’t good enough yet to spot a team double-digit leads on top of turning the ball over twice and committing seven…