Los Angeles — The Los Angeles Rams were still reeling from the mass shooting less than five miles from their training complex when wildfires consumed the nearby hills, forcing a canceled practice and the evacuation of many players and coaches from their homes.
At the close of a horrific week in Thousand Oaks, a comeback victory over the Seattle Seahawks somehow seemed both more trivial and even sweeter to these resilient Rams.
Brandin Cooks rushed for a 9-yard touchdown with 5:49 to play on the first snap after Dante Fowler forced and recovered a fumble by Russell Wilson, and the Rams bounced back from their first loss of the season with a 36-31 victory Sunday.
Jared Goff was forced from his home during the week, but he passed for 318 yards and two touchdowns as the Rams (9-1) swept the season series with their division rivals.
“It’s just been a tough week for the whole city, the whole area up there,” Goff said of the Rams’ weekday hometown, one hour northwest of downtown Los Angeles. “Hoping today provided a little bit of joy and regularity for those people.”
Todd Gurley rushed for 120 yards and a score as Los Angeles moved into commanding position for its second consecutive NFC West title, but only after plenty of late drama in a rivalry that’s never lacking in excitement.
Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee caught TD passes for the Rams, who survived a topsy-turvy game with just enough big plays. Although the perfect season ended last week in New Orleans, Los Angeles still has never lost back-to-back games under coach Sean McVay.
“It means a lot, (because) there’s a lot of tragedy that’s been going on,” said Aaron Donald, who had 2.5 sacks of Wilson after evacuating his family during the week. “We’ve all been affected by it. We had to move ourselves, so to win a game like this, a divisional game, we’re trying to give people something to smile about.”
Fowler, the pass-rush specialist acquired from Jacksonville late last month, made up for his costly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the third quarter by stripping Wilson of the ball and then recovering the fumble, setting up Cooks’ run for a 12-point lead.
Wilson threw three touchdown passes, rushed for 92 yards and nearly rallied the Seahawks (4-5) all the way back after his fumble.
Wilson hit Mike Davis for a short TD catch to cap a 90-yard drive with 1:56 to play. After the Seattle defense held, he got the Seahawks to the Los Angeles 35 before throwing four straight incompletions in the final minute.
“I think the whole stadium was nervous on that last drive, (but) it didn’t work out,” Wilson said.
Wilson also threw TD passes to Nick Vannett and Tyler Lockett , but the Seahawks have lost two straight after winning four of five.
Seattle took the lead with Lockett’s TD catch in the third quarter, but only because their drive was kept alive by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Fowler after a third-down stop.
“I knew I had to go out there and redeem myself,” Fowler said.
►New Orleans 51, (at) Cincinnati 14: Drew Brees threw three touchdown passes in the first half, moving ahead of Brett Favre for second place on the career list, and the Saints rolled to their eighth straight victory.
Brees led the Saints to touchdowns on all five first-half possessions with a nearly perfect performance — only two incompletions. His 17-yard TD to Michael Thomas with 2 seconds left in the half gave him 509 career touchdown passes, one more than Favre.
Up next: Peyton Manning’s record 539.
Brees had his way with the Bengals’ historically bad defense , even diving over the pile to score a 1-yard touchdown. Cincinnati (5-4) became the first team in the Super Bowl era to give up 500 yards in three consecutive games; New Orleans finished with 509.
The Bengals matched the most lopsided defeat in franchise history and gave up the second-most points in club history. In the first half alone, the Saints piled up 311 yards and had 21 first downs on 40 plays. Brees was 18 of 20 for 214 yards with three touchdowns.
Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara recognized Dez Bryant by crossing their arms after scoring touchdowns. The former Cowboys receiver signed with the Saints on Wednesday but tore an Achilles tendon in his second practice.
►(At) Kansas City 26, Arizona 14: Patrick Mahomes threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns, outplaying Arizona counterpart Josh Rosen in a matchup of two of the NFL’s bright young quarterbacks.
Mahomes threw both TD passes to Tyreek Hill, the second giving the Chiefs’ first-year starter 31 for the season. That broke the franchise record set by Len Dawson in 1964 — with plenty of games to go.
Not to mention the playoffs, with the Chiefs (9-1) barreling toward the No. 1 seed.
Rosen had 195 yards passing with a touchdown and two picks, taking several brutal hits in the fourth quarter. David Johnson ran for 98 yards, with TDs on the ground and through the air, while Larry Fitzgerald passed Terrell Owens for No. 2 on the NFL’s career receiving yardage list late in the game.
Fitzgerald finished with six catches for 50 yards to give him 15,952 for his brilliant career.
Hill had seven catches for 117 yards, and Kareem Hunt pounded his way for 71 yards rushing, as the Chiefs kept the Cardinals (2-7) winless in six meetings at Arrowhead Stadium.
►Dallas 27, (at) Philadelphia 20: Ezekiel Elliott had 151 yards rushing and the go-ahead 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter in Dallas’ victory over Philadelphia.
The defending Super Bowl champion Eagles fell to 4-5 with their third straight loss at home while the Cowboys improved to 4-5.
Dak Prescott had 270 yards passing with a touchdown and also ran for a score. Elliott also had a scoring reception.
Carson Wentz threw a pair of TD passes to Zach Ertz, but his pass to Ertz on fourth down fell a yard short of a first down at the Cowboys 29 with 1:09 left. The Eagles got the ball back at their 32 with 40 seconds left and drove to the Cowboys 32 for the final play. Wentz completed a pass to Ertz inside the Dallas 10. Ertz lateraled to Golden Tate, but he was tackled to end it.
►(At) Green Bay 31, Miami 12: Aaron Jones ran for career highs of 145 yards and two scores, Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams connected for two touchdown passes.
The Packers (4-4-1) pulled away in the second half, sandwiching scoring drives around cornerback Bashaud Breeland’s interception deep in Miami territory. Green Bay went ahead 28-12 on Adams’ 25-yard touchdown catch with 7:24 left in the third quarter.
Maybe this is the game that will get the Packers going in the tight NFC North race following a choppy first half of the season.
Rookie Jason Sanders tied a Dolphins franchise record with four field goals, but Miami (5-5) couldn’t find the end zone. The Dolphins squandered another opportunity on the game-opening drive after Brock Osweiler fumbled away a shotgun snap.
►L.A. Chargers 20, (at) Oakland 6: Philip Rivers threw two touchdown passes, Melvin Gordon gained 165 yards and the Chargers won their sixth straight game.
Rivers bounced back from a first quarter with no completions to throw an 11-yard TD pass to Keenan Allen in the second quarter to give the Chargers (7-2) the lead for good. He hit a 66-yarder to Gordon on the opening drive of the second half.
Los Angeles coasted from there against the Raiders (1-8), who have lost five straight games by at least 14 points under coach Jon Gruden. They and have been outscored 75-9 in the past nine quarters in what has quickly become a lost season.
►(At) Cleveland 28, Atlanta 16: Rookie Baker Mayfield threw a season-high three touchdown passes and rookie Nick Chubb streaked 92 yards for a TD as Cleveland ended a four-game losing streak.
The Browns (3-6-1) played their most complete game this season under interim coach Gregg Williams, their defensive coordinator who improved to 1-1 since replacing the fired Hue Jackson.
Mayfield outplayed Falcons star quarterback Matt Ryan with a performance that further justifies Cleveland’s decision to take the QB with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. Mayfield completed his first 13 passes and finished 17 of 20 for 216 yards. He threw a 28-yard scoring pass to Rashard Higgins, a 13-yarder to Chubb, and 11-yarder to Duke Johnson.
Ryan and the Falcons (4-5) had their three-game winning streak — and any playoff momentum — stopped cold.
►Washington 16, (at) Tampa Bay 3: Alex Smith threw for 178 yards and one touchdown, and Dustin Hopkins kicked three field goals for Washington (6-3), who forced four turnovers and rebounded from a lopsided loss to Atlanta despite playing with a makeshift offensive line because of mounting injuries.
Smith, who was 19 of 27 with no interceptions, threw 6 yards to Josh Doctson for the game’s only touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Hopkins kicked field goals of 43, 43 and 26 yards, the last set up by Greg Stroman’s fourth-quarter interception and 24-yard return to the Bucs 14.
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 403 yards for Tampa Bay (3-6), but was intercepted twice and lost a fumble on a sack inside the Washington 10.
The Bucs, who’ve lost three in a row and six of seven following a 2-0 start, failed to force a turnover on defense for the sixth straight game.
►(At) Indianapolis 29, Jacksonville 26: Andrew Luck threw three touchdown passes in the first half and the Colts’ defense forced a late turnover. Indy (4-5) has won three straight.
Tight end Eric Ebron had a career-high three touchdowns, including one on a 2-yard run, all in the first half.
Blake Bortles threw for 319 yards and two TDs, but the Jaguars (3-6) came up short when Kenny Moore III stripped the ball from Rashad Greene Sr. and Malik Hooker recovered for the Colts with 1:24 to go. Initially, Greene was ruled down by contact, but it was overturned on a replay review from the booth.
►Buffalo 41, (at) N.Y. Jets 10: Matt Barkley stunningly sparked Buffalo’s bumbling offense with two touchdown passes, including one to offensive tackle Dion Dawkins. LeSean McCoy broke out of a season-long slump with 113 yards rushing and a pair of TD runs.
Barkley made his first start in nearly two years, and looked the best of any of the four quarterbacks the Bills (3-7) have trotted out this season. The 28-year-old journeyman was 15 of 25 for 232 yards while helping Buffalo snap a four-game losing streak as the Bills put up 451 yards of total offense.
Barkley got the nod from coach Sean McDermott ahead of the ineffective Nathan Peterman despite having just two weeks of practice with the Bills since signing on Oct. 30. Rookie Josh Allen has missed four straight games with a sprained right elbow, and Derek Anderson is sidelined with a concussion. Barkley’s last start came in the 2016 season finale for Chicago.
Meanwhile, the hot seat under coach Todd Bowles has reached a boiling point as the Jets (3-7) got completely manhandled by a team that entered with a league-low 96 points and had two touchdowns in its previous four games.