Jared Goff acknowledged that his surgically repaired right thumb was not 100%.
Two weeks before, Goff was injured in 20-9 defeat at the same stadium. So, he was happy to return and knock off the NFC West champions.
“All week we were told how good they were and how we snuck into the playoffs,” Goff said, adding, “Two weeks ago you saw them smoke cigars and getting all excited about beating us and winning the division. And we were able to come up here and beat them in their own place.
“And it feels good, it feels really good. It’s satisfying but by no means are we any bit finished or fully satisfied. I think we’ve got a lot of work to do and next week will be another challenge and we’ll be ready.”
The Rams won’t know who their next opponent will be until late Sunday afternoon. They will play either the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field or — if the Chicago Bears defeat the New Orleans Saints on Sunday — the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Fla.
Here are five takeaways from the Rams’ victory on Saturday:
1. Cam Akers is a huge piece of the puzzle
The rookie running back from Florida State showed once again that the Rams can flourish with a strong running game and defense.
Akers rushed for 131 yards and touchdown in 28 carries, taking pressure off the passing game. But he also contributed as a receiver, catching a Goff pass and turning it into a 44-yard gain.
“He was huge,” coach Sean McVay said. “I thought Jared’s best play of the day was on the third down where he stepped up, slide in the pocket and found Cam for the explosive. You see what a great athlete Cam is.”
2. Red-zone efficiency improved
After failing to score touchdowns in their final regular-season games against the Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals, the Rams twice reached the end zone after penetrating inside the 20-yard line.
Akers’ touchdown and Goff’s fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Robert Woods gave the Rams confidence.
“You watch playoff football, that’s what it comes down to,” veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “You’re not going to outsmart everybody, you’re not going to have trick plays that work.
“For the majority of the time, it’s going to come down to who wins those big [opportunities], and we just have to keep focused on when it is time to be big and it’s time to make those plays, make them happen.”
3. The defensive line has depth
Aaron Donald, possibly on his way to a third NFL defensive player of the year award, suffered a rib injury in the fourth quarter that forced him to leave the game.
Edge rusher Leonard Floyd, who had two sacks, and fellow starters Michael Brockers and Sebastian Joseph-Day stepped up in Donald’s absence, as did rotational linemen Morgan Fox, Greg Gaines and A’Shawn Robinson.
“You hate to see him go down,” safety John Johnson said of Donald, “but we’re just hoping he’s OK, ready for next week.
“It’s next man up. Obviously, it’s impossible to replicate what he does, but next man up, hold his own, make sure you get your job done and keep moving forward.”
4. Darious Williams is a playmaker
Williams never hesitates to credit the impact that star cornerback Jalen Ramsey has on creating opportunities for other cornerbacks.
But that was Williams who made a perfect read on Wilson’s screen pass to receiver DK Metcalf. Williams timed his break on the ball perfectly, intercepted the pass and dashed 42 yards for a touchdown. It was Williams’ fifth interception, and the fifth touchdown scored this season by the defense.
“When I film study, I just memorize plays real good,” Williams said. “I think that’s what helped me. I knew he was going to motion all the way over to one.
“The guys were tight and the big guy out there, I knew they were going to try and get him the ball and let him work.”
5. Kicker Matt Gay has become near automatic
After releasing seventh-round draft pick Samuel Sloman and veteran Kai Forbath, the Rams signed Gay before they played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Nov. 23.
Gay made 14 of 16 field-goal attempts during the regular season. He had not missed since a Dec. 6 game against the Arizona Cardinals.
Gay’s three field goals Saturday extended his streak to 15 without a miss.