Matthew Stafford carves up former team as Los Angeles Rams beat Detroit Lions

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. — They emptied their bag of tricks to keep it close, converting two fake punts and recovering an onside kick.

But in the end, the Detroit Lions were undone by two moves that came seven years apart — one they didn’t make and one they did.

Aaron Donald, the defensive tackle the Lions famously passed on in the 2014 draft to take Eric Ebron, had a key pressure with the Lions driving late in the fourth quarter, causing Jared Goff — the quarterback they acquired in the Matthew Stafford trade earlier this year — to throw an interception in the end zone and send the Lions home losers again.

Stafford threw for 334 yards and three touchdowns as the Los Angeles Rams beat the Lions at SoFi Stadium, 28-19. The Lions (0-7) remain the only winless team in the NFL.

Detroit Lions linebacker Julian Okwara (99) tries to block a pass from Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) during the first half at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.
Detroit Lions linebacker Julian Okwara (99) tries to block a pass from Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) during the first half at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.

Stafford threw his third touchdown pass of the day on the fourth play of the fourth quarter, officially marking the 33rd comeback of his career. Thirty-one of those comebacks came during his 12 seasons in Detroit.

Both Stafford and Goff, the No. 1 overall pick by the Rams in 2016, spent time during pregame warmups saying hello to old teammates and friends. But Goff’s homecoming — and Stafford’s reunion — were quickly overshadowed by the Lions’ aggressive play on the field.

The Lions ran two trick plays in the game’s first four minutes that caught the Rams off guard and kept LA’s high-powered offense off the field.

Goff led the Lions on a six-play, 75-yard drive to open the game, with D’Andre Swift turning a screen pass into a 63-yard touchdown.

Tracy Walker recovered the ensuing onside kick, and after the Rams got a stop on third-and-7, punter Jack Fox threw complete to gunner Bobby Price on a fake punt.

The Lions took a 10-0 lead on Austin Seibert’s 37-yard field goal, but gave up points on all three of the Rams’ full first-half possessions and trailed 17-16 at halftime.

After a 33-yard field goal by Matt Gay, Stafford threw touchdown passes of 11 and 2 yards to Van Jefferson and Cooper Kupp. The Rams failed to score on their final official possession of the first half, when Stafford took a knee to run the final 4 seconds off the clock.

The Lions converted another fake punt in the third quarter and took a 19-17 lead on Seibert’s fourth field goal of the day, from 31 yards.

But Stafford gave the Rams (6-1) the lead for good on the ensuing possession, when he converted third-down passes of 59 yards to Kupp and 14 yards to Tyler Higbee and threw his second touchdown to Kupp.

Kupp beat Daryl Worley, an injury replacement for slot cornerback A.J. Parker, on a deep over route for a 59-yard gain on third-and-12 on the final play of the third quarter. Four plays later, Cupp beat Worley again for a 5-yard touchdown.

Goff answered with a 15-play, 63-yard drive that reached the Rams’ 12-yard line, but Donald beat Halapoulivaati Vaitai with an inside rush on second-and-12 and hit Goff just as he threw to T.J. Hockenson in the end zone.

Jalen Ramsey stepped in front of the wobbly pass for an easy interception, and the Rams tacked on a final 47-yard field goal with 58 seconds to play.

Goff finished 22 of 36 passing for 268 yards. He threw a second interception off Swift’s hands on the Lions’ final possession.

Swift had a career-high 96 yards receiving, and Kalif Raymond added 115 yards on six catches for the Lions, who play the Philadelphia Eagles next week before heading into their bye.

Stafford, who asked for a trade in January after three consecutive losing seasons in Detroit, completed 28 of 41 passes and Kupp had 156 yards receiving on 10 catches for the Rams.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Matthew Stafford carves up former team as Rams top Lions