KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Wild and chaotic doesn't do justice to what unfolded at the Los Angeles Coliseum Monday night, as the latest “game of the year” more than lived up to its hype as the Rams outpaced the Chiefs 54-51 in a contest featuring 1,001 yards of offense with the winner ironically determined by a defensive play.
“It was a whirlwind,” Rams coach Sean McVay told reporters after the game. “I feel like I might need a couple of beverages to relax tonight. It was great. This is what you love so much about this game.”
The 105 points sent a record most combined points in a Monday night football game, eclipsing the previous record of 95 points during Washington's 48-47 win over Green Bay in 1983. It also ranks as third-most points scored in a game during the Super Bowl era and the first game in NFL history in which both teams score at least 50 points.
The Rams appeared poised to race away with the game early, bolting to a 13-0 lead behind a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Jared Goff in the first quarter. Goff played flawlessly most of the night, finishing 31-of-49 passing for 413 yards and four touchdowns.
“It was a crazy game, crazy game,” Goff said. “It seemed like at the end, whoever had the ball last was going to win. That's what it felt like.”
The Chiefs finally broke through late in the first quarter with quarterback Patrick Mahomes connected on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill. But penalties hurt the Chiefs early, with flags stymieing their offense while digging their defense into holes repeatedly
The NFL switched out five officials on referee Clete Blackmore's crew for this game, purportedly building an all-start officiating crew similar to what the league does for playoff games. The Chiefs found themselves flagged eight times in the first quarter alone, finishing the game with 13 penalties for 135 yards. The Rams received eight flags for 60 yards.
The frequency and one-sided nature of the flags bothered Reid after the game.
“We had so many penalties in the first quarter,” Reid said. “I've never seen a crew throw quite that many penalties. Whether you like them or not, we had them.”
The teams reached halftime with the score knotted at 23-23, but that only offered a glimpse of the scoring explosion to come.
Rams linebacker Samson Ebukam, who scooped up a Mahomes fumble in the first half for an 11-yard touchdown return, made another big play in the second half. He made a juggling interception while engaged with Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, facing for a 25-yard touchdown return putting the Rams up 40-30 closing the third quarter.
But Mahomes and the Chiefs rallied again. Mahomes connected with Hill on a 73-yard touchdown play that cut the lead to three. Hill finished the game with career bess of 10 catches for 215 yards along with two touchdowns.
On the Rams' next drive, Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston sacked Goff and dislodged the football, which defensive line Allen Bailey snatched out of the air at the 2-yard line and returned for a touchdown putting the Chiefs on top 44-40.
Houston said the Chiefs showed heart throughout the game.
“We took several punches,” Houston said. “Everybody’s got a game plan until you get hit in the mouth. We got hit in the mouth several times, but for us to keep fighting as a whole, I think that shows what type of team we are and how much heart we have.”
The clubs continued trading scores with Goff connecting with backup tight end Gerald Everett for a 40-yard touchdown catch putting the Rams up 54-51 with 1 minute, 49 seconds remaining.
The Chiefs had a chance at a comeback, until an old friend snuff out their opportunity. Mahomes looked deep for Hill, but Ebukam hit Mahomes as he threw the ball. That caused the ball to fall well short of its target and into the waiting hands of Rams cornerback Marcus Peters, acquired from the Chiefs in an offseason trade.
“I feel like I didn't shoot it to him, and I got hit and the ball came out funny and Marcus made a great play on it. But I mean I thought if I could just – if I could give him a full throw I could get it to him. I’ve just got to learn from that, knowing that you’re almost in field goal range, you can’t take that chance sometimes.”
Peters appeared emotional after the game against his former team.
“The best things about this is I got to see my teammates, I got to see my old coaches and stuff,” Peters said. “I miss those guys, really honestly, I miss those guys. When you're a part of organization like that and you go in there and you be a part of a locker room, you understand how it feels.”
The Chiefs had one more chance after forcing the Rams to punt. But Mahomes tossed his third interception of the day, this time with Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner making the play.
Reid felt he didn't put Mahomes and the offense in the best situation late in the game on the final two drives.
“We had a chance there,” Reid said. “I could have started our guy a little bit faster than what I did. If I had to do it all over again, I'd give him a couple of different plays.”
Mahomes finished the game 33-of-46 passing for a career-high 478 yards and six touchdowns, the second time this season he's thrown six touchdowns. Reid feels that while this game slipped away, it should prove meaningful as the team makes its run for the postseason.
“We've got some young guys, they can learn from this and we'll be a better team for it,” Reid said.