Goff tosses 4 TDs as Rams defeat 49ers to earn No. 2 seed
Jared Goff threw four touchdowns, the Los Angeles defense came up with four takeaways and now Todd Gurley gets an extra week to rest his knees after the Rams beat the San Francisco 49ers 48-32 to earn a first-round bye in the playoffs.
The Rams (13-3) needed to beat the 49ers or have Chicago lose to Minnesota to earn the bye and Los Angeles decided to take matters into its own hands. Coach Sean McVay went with his starters most of the way with the exception of Gurley.
His replacement, C.J. Anderson, rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown. A week ago against Arizona, Anderson rushed for 167 yards on 20 carries as Gurley dealt with a balky knee.
With the loss, the 49ers (4-12) secured the second pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Goff threw for just 199 yards, with two touchdown tosses to both Brandin Cooks and Josh Reynolds.
Goff became only the fourth Rams quarterback to throw 30 touchdown passes in a season. He and Cooks connected on a 3-yard score for his 29th of the season. He later found Cooks again for the 30th touchdown pass.
The last Rams quarterback to reach the 30-touchdown plateau was Kurt Warner in 2001.
On the day, Cooks caught five passes for 62 yards, which was good for a career high in receiving yards -- 1,204.
While Goff and Cooks were reaching new heights, it was the defense that was setting the table. The stellar play did not go unnoticed by the offense.
"They did a great job getting us up early, in short fields," Goff said. "We were able to get up early, 14-0, and then Cory had the pick-six, obviously, and kept that momentum going defensively. I thought they played really well. They did a good job and started the game off for us."
Los Angeles' propensity for takeaways harkened back to Week 11 when the Rams forced Kansas City into five turnovers on "Monday Night Football."
"One of the most exciting moments of my life," Corey Littleton said of his second interception of the first half. "It's something that I've never done, I've been playing football for like 16 years and I finally got a touchdown, so it's amazing."
The accomplishment was recognized by McVay.
"Certain guys just have a knack for being in the right place at the right time," McVay said. "He's got such great athleticism, whether it's as a blitzer… Obviously, you see him make some picks today. And then he can cover, he can run. He's a guy that you win with -- players like Cory Littleton."
The Rams went 6-0 against the division, the only team this season to be perfect in its division. They jumped out to a 31-10 halftime lead and never looked back.
The lone bright spot for the 49ers was the play of George Kittle, who completed one of the best seasons ever for a tight end.
He notched nine receptions for 149 yards and one touchdown giving 88 catches, 1,377 yards and five touchdowns on the year. The yardage is an NFL record for a tight end.
"It hasn't hit me yet, but it's definitely exciting," Kittle said after the game. "It wasn't just me. We had three quarterbacks throwing the ball. It's a credit to the whole team continuing to grind."
The Rams opened the game scoring twice in the first 4:18 of the game with Cooks and Anderson giving L.A. the 14-0 lead.
San Francisco got on the board on ageless Robbie Gould's 38-yard field goal.
Then it was Littleton's heroics and an 18-yard touchdown pass from Goff to Cooks that made the score 28-3.
Quarterback Nick Mullens found Richie James from nine yards out to cut the 49ers deficit to 28-10, but Greg Zuerlein's 28-yard field goal made the score 31-10 heading into intermission.
Aaron Donald entered the game needing 3 1/2 sacks to pass former defensive end Michael Strahan's single-season NFL record 22 1/2 sacks recorded in the 2001 season. He recorded just one sack on the day.