June 19, 2024

It looked like a knockout hit, a play that would send Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford to the sideline and out of the game.

Instead, it ignited a comeback.

Stafford rallied the Rams from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter and defeated the Seattle Seahawks, 17-16, on Sunday in front of 72,704 at SoFi Stadium.

Lucas Havrisik kicked a 22-yard field goal with 1 minute 31 seconds left and the Rams survived Jason Myers’ failed 55-yard field-goal attempt to end a three-game losing streak and improve their record to 4-6.

Puka Nacua caught a touchdown pass, Royce Freeman rushed for 73 yards and cornerback Derion Kendrick intercepted a pass for the Rams, who saw star receiver Cooper Kupp leave the game in the first half because of an ankle injury.

The victory lacked the polish of the Rams’ 30-13 season-opening comeback victory over the Seahawks in Seattle.

But as with that win, it fostered optimism the Rams could be a playoff team, especially in the wide-open NFC.

Stafford, 35, started for the first time since suffering a right thumb injury that sidelined him for most of a rout at Dallas Cowboys and all of a defeat at Green Bay.

For much of the game it looked as if it would be anything but a triumphant return for the 15th-year pro, who wore a soft brace on his throwing hand.

Rams players Dejuan Johnson (94) and Byron Young (0) celebrate a missed field-goal attempt by Seattle's Jason Myers.

Rams players Dejuan Johnson (94) and Byron Young (0) celebrate a missed field-goal attempt by Seattle’s Jason Myers in the final seconds of the Rams’ win Sunday.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Rams longest pass play came on a pass-interference penalty that netted 45 yards in the first quarter but later Stafford’s pass on fourth and goal from the five-yard line fell incomplete.

Late in the third quarter Stafford overthrew a wide-open Henderson, who had acres of open field ahead of him to the end zone.

Stafford appeared injured in the fourth quarter when he was hit after throwing a pass that was intercepted by cornerback Riq Woolen, but to what extent was unclear. Stafford returned the next series, however, and seemed to come alive, leading the Rams on the two scoring drives.

First, he engineered a 68-yard drive that Henderson capped with a short touchdown run to pull the Rams to within 16-14.

Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua pushes past Seattle Seahawks safety Julian Love to score a touchdown.

Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua pushes past Seattle Seahawks safety Julian Love to score a touchdown in the second quarter.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

On the ensuing possession, Kendrick intercepted a long pass by Seahawks backup quarterback Drew Lock, giving Stafford another opportunity.

Stafford completed a 32-yard pass to Nacua to start the drive and then Freeman did the bulk of the work as the Rams moved into field-goal range for Havrisik.

Stafford completed 17 of 31 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown, with an interception. Nacua caught five passes for 70 yards.

It was a huge win for a team that just used an off week for self-evaluation. Rams coach Sean McVay had claimed they felt refreshed, recharged and rejuvenated.

That’s not how they played for much of the game, but it certainly applied the way they finished.

It was not all good news for the Rams.

Kupp continued to struggle before he was injured.

Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp attempts to catch a pass against Seattle in the first half.

Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp attempts to catch a pass against Seattle in the first half. Kupp left the game in the first half because of an ankle injury and didn’t return.

(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

His first reception in the first quarter was nullified — because of pass interference against Kupp.

On the next snap, the Seahawks jumped offside, essentially giving the Rams a free shot at the end zone. Kupp got behind defenders, but he fell down and Stafford’s pass bounced off his hands. Kupp caught an 11-yard pass on the next play, but the Rams could not convert the first-and-goal situation into points.

Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith completed 22 of 34 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown.

DK Metcalf caught five passes for 94 yards.

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