INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Jared Goff was under immediate pressure from Aaron Donald when he dropped back late in a one-score game. He threw to the end zone while being dropped, and Jalen Ramsey picked it off.
Goff didn't need a homecoming game to remind him it's much easier to win when the Los Angeles Rams' stars are on your side.
And Matthew Stafford is still loving his spot on the other side of the current chasm between the Lions and the Rams.
Stafford passed for 334 yards and three touchdowns against his former team, and Ramsey made an end-zone interception with five minutes left in the Rams' 28-19 victory over Goff and winless Detroit on Sunday.
Stafford and Goff both acknowledged high emotions in the first game since they switched uniforms in a blockbuster trade last winter. Their postgame reunions with former teammates and coaches were uniformly warm, but their new teams stayed on the same season trajectories with the Rams' (6-1) narrow win.
“Am I happy it’s over with? Yeah,” said Stafford, who passed for 45,109 yards and never won a playoff game in his dozen years in Detroit. “Got a lot of great friends, got a lot of people that I care about that are on that team or from that city, and just just glad to have this one over with. Can put the storylines away and just go out and play football the rest of the year, and just enjoy it.”
Goff passed for 268 yards and led the Lions (0-7) within striking distance of an upset before falling heartbreakingly short. Afterward, Goff chatted with his former teammates and exchanged pleasantries with coach Sean McVay, who slapped his former quarterback's helmet after their hug.
“I didn’t think about it until after, but there’s a lot of guys I never saw after the trade,” Goff said. “Being able to see them and say hello and catch up for two minutes was good. It was healthy. And then once the game started, it was very as usual. It really felt like any other game.”
That was bad news for the struggling Lions and good news for the Rams, who hung on despite a litany of mistakes.
The Rams led 25-19 when Goff drove the Lions to the Los Angeles 12 while converting four third downs. But Ramsey came up with his latest game-changing play on his 27th birthday while Goff was being hit by Donald, the Rams’ other 2020 All-Pro.
“Those two guys are the best at their position for a reason, and made a great play on us,” Goff said.
Goff still hasn’t won an NFL start without McVay as his head coach, falling to 0-14. McVay declined to say much about his postgame conversation with Goff, but the coach praised his replacement.
“He was great in the clutch,” McVay said of Stafford. “And really, even when things weren’t going well, he just stays nice and even-keeled, and that’s what a great quarterback does. He’s our leader.”
Cooper Kupp had 10 catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns for the Rams, including the go-ahead score with 13:59 left. Van Jefferson also caught a scoring pass from Stafford, whose first TD pass to Kupp was the 300th of his NFL career.
“Detroit’s a tough out,” Stafford said. "Always have been, probably always will be. Just happy to get one.”
D’Andre Swift made a 63-yard catch-and-run TD on the opening possession for the Lions, who lost their 11th straight game despite jumping to a double-digit lead in a rare strong start. Kalif Raymond had six catches for 115 yards.
Austin Seibert kicked four field goals in a superb special teams game for the Lions, who also recovered an early onside kick and ran two successful fake punts.
But the Rams kept Goff's offense out of the end zone in the final 57 minutes as they rallied from an early double-digit deficit and improved to 42-0 with a halftime lead under McVay.
“This is a different caliber team,” Detroit coach Dan Campbell said of the Rams. “This is a team that’s been built over years, and they’ve got some weapons. We actually didn’t make as many errors as we’ve made. We gave ourselves a chance.”
The Lions' opening drive produced their first touchdown in the first half since Week 2. Goff read a blitz and threw a short screen pass to Swift, who scampered through the secondary.
Detroit then got to snap the ball with a lead for the first time all season when it embarrassed the Rams' special teams twice, recovering an onside kick three plays before punter Jack Fox completed a fourth-down pass.
Stafford eventually led three scoring drives in the first half, but Detroit led 19-17 late in the third quarter. Stafford converted two long third downs before finding Kupp for a TD early in the fourth.
Robert Woods, who had six catches for 70 yards, took in the 2-point conversion for a six-point lead.
Kupp's immediate connection with Stafford is becoming historic: He is the first player in the Super Bowl era to record more than 800 yards receiving and nine TDs in his team's first seven games.
Along with the numerous reunions for Goff and Stafford, stalwart defensive tackle Michael Brockers also had warm pregame meetings with several ex-teammates. He spent his first nine NFL seasons with the Rams.
Rams rookie CB Robert Rochell injured his knee in the first half.
Lions LB Trey Flowers injured his knee in the second half. ... DB AJ Parker injured his shoulder in the second half.
Lions: host Eagles on Sunday.
Rams: at Texans on Sunday.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL