Rams say costly 4th-down PI penalty ‘wrong call’

  • Covered Rams for two years for Los Angeles Times
  • Previously covered the Falcons
  • Has covered the NBA and college football and basketball

The Los Angeles Rams were one play away from completing a historic come-from-behind victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday in Orchard Park, New York. Instead, despite overcoming a 25-point deficit, the Rams suffered their first loss of the season 35-32 after a controversial, fourth-down pass interference penalty resulted in the Bills’ go-ahead touchdown.

“It was the wrong call,” Rams safety John Johnson III said after the game. “We can’t narrow it down to that one play, but I don’t think it was a PI.”

Facing fourth-and-8 from the Rams 13-yard line, with 25 seconds remaining and Los Angeles ahead 32-28, Bills quarterback Josh Allen attempted a pass to receiver Gabriel Davis, who was playing in place of John Brown after the receiver injured his calf earlier in the game. The pass fell incomplete, but cornerback Darious Williams drew a penalty for pass interference, giving the Bills a fresh set of downs and moving them to the 3-yard line. On the ensuing play, Allen completed a 3-yard pass to tight end Tyler Kroft for a touchdown to ensure the Bills a three-point victory with only 10 seconds remaining in the game.

“No, obviously not,” Rams receiver Robert Woods said when asked if it appeared from the sideline that Williams committed the penalty. “Being out there, he’s playing defensive back, he’s playing hands-on, he’s checking him, and as he gets into his route, the receiver initiates the contact and the quarterback is literally just throwing the ball in the area, and it wasn’t even a catchable ball. But, obviously, they made the call, it is what it is, you got to keep playing and finish the game.”

Rams quarterback Jared Goff paused for a prolonged six seconds before responding when asked about the officials’ call.

“There’s a million calls in the game, and it’s unfortunate that one like that can go make it, essentially, if they don’t call it, the game is over,” said Goff, who passed for 321 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception. “But there’s calls that went our way that game and there’s calls that went their way that game, and unfortunately, that one was at the end of the game like that.”

The Rams trailed 28-3 with 8:05 remaining in the third quarter before they mounted a comeback effort that would have qualified as the greatest in franchise history if they had made the fourth-down stop to secure a victory.

After a slow start, the Rams’ defense forced two turnovers in the second half, while Goff led four consecutive touchdown drives.

Williams, who had a critical interception in a Week 2 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, finished with two tackles.

“I hate it for our guys that it ended up the way that it did and came down to some of the things that it came down to,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “But we’re a tough group, we’re a mentally tough group, we’re going to use this as an opportunity to respond.”

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