The shiny flags that were sprinted onto the Coliseum field read “LA Together.”
The white towels flapped wildly by thousands in the Coliseum stands read, “LA Together.”
The final score, after the final gasp, screamed out that motto in numbers that glowed like a beacon of hope.
LA Together 54, Kansas City Chiefs 51.
Oh, what a night. It began with the honoring of a community’s perseverance, ended with an ode to the toughness of its football team, the Rams coming back to defeat the Chiefs in a breathless, bonding classic.
At least, I think the Rams won, right? At first they lost. Then they won. Then they lost again. Then, oh my god, that really happened, they finally won, right?
They finished it on Jared Goff’s 40-yard touchdown pass to Gerald Everett down the right sideline with 1 minute 49 seconds left
But, wait, didn’t the Chiefs get two more chances? Yeah, but the Rams stopped them both with interceptions of passes by wonder child Patrick Mahomes, the final one by Lamarcus Joyner at the Rams 28-yard line in the final seconds.
So, yeah, whew, in the highest-scoring game in “Monday Night Football” history, with an astonishing 1,001 yards of offense, the Rams won.
“There were times we thought we had all the momentum, we were going to put the knife in them and finish them,” Goff said. “Then there were times when it was the other way around.”
In the fourth quarter, the Chiefs scored twice, then the Rams scored, then the Chiefs scored, then Goff finally applied the dagger on a perfect, over-the-shoulder throw that completed a gritty night in which he threw for four touchdowns and ran for one.
It turns out, this game that was previously scheduled for Mexico City was actually moved to football heaven.
“It was a whirlwind,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “I might need a couple of beverages to relax.”
It was LA Together, all night, screams and groans and sweat and hugs and prayers and, finally, hoarse cheers and awkward dancing from everyone involved.
The Rams offense was relentless, resilient and, needing a touchdown in the final minutes to win, unstoppable, Goff leading them on that 75-yard touchdown drive in the final three minutes with no timeouts.
The Rams defense was bruising, battling and, needing to steal the ball to win, did it twice for touchdowns, both by linebacker Samson Ebukam.
The Rams’ special teams provided another punch, with Johnny Hekker unleashing a 68-yard punt to pin the Chiefs deep in their territory before their final, last-gasp drive.
The Rams fans were overwhelming, showering their team with the loudest cheers since football returned to L.A. three years ago, 77,000 tickets distributed with a week’s notice, a powerful endorsement of a team that has finally arrived.
“This took everybody,” receiver Robert Woods said. “Whatever it takes, we’re going to stick together.”
Among those fans, the first responders and victims of the recent local fires and shooting tragedy were the most incredible of all, brave folks who showed up to be honored by a community grateful for the chance.
From the national anthem singers to the torch lighters, from the water boys to the baseball caps worn by both teams, the Rams made sure nobody affected was forgotten, including giving them 5,000 tickets.
“When we had the opportunity to bring this game to Los Angeles, we wanted to make sure it was not just about two 9-1 teams,” said Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ chief operating officer. “We wanted to take advantage of the platform to strengthen the community. This is the ultimate platform to say thank you.”
Throughout the night, through timeout videos and various announcements, the community’s courage was consistently recognized, and the players responded.
“They wanted to use this game as a chance to try to get some relief to people who have gone through a lot of things,” McVay said. “Certainly, those things are a lot bigger than the game. We wanted to put a good product out, represent the community in the right way.”
What better recognition of the fans’ strength than to come back not just from one fourth-quarter deficit but two?
“It was an epic game,” Rams linebacker Cory Littleton said.
With 11:07 remaining, the Chiefs’ Allen Bailey tipped and grabbed a Goff fumble and carried it into the end zone to give the Chiefs a 44-40 lead.
Goff responded with a 75-yard drive in a blink, ending with a seven-yard touchdown dart to Everett.
The Chiefs answered with a lengthy drive, ending in Mahomes’ 10-yard touchdown pass to a lunging Chris Conley.
All this set up Goff’s game-winning drive, which was followed by two futile Chiefs drives that ended in consecutive Mahomes interceptions, staining his 478-yard, six-touchdown effort.
Asked whether he thought Mahomes had been rattled by the surging defense, Dante Fowler Jr. said, “Yeah, I felt like he was.”
It felt like the entire Rams world was rattled by this game-of-the-year victory. While the Chiefs return home 9-2 and wondering whether they are up to the task of surviving the postseason in similar conditions, the Rams enter their week off with a 10-1 record and feeling as if they can take this thing to February.
“Amazing,” Ebukam said. “Amazing.”
In the end, what was amazing was the Rams did as they promised. The moment this game was moved from field-challenged Mexico City, the Rams proclaimed it would be not only about football, but also about togetherness, the unifying of sports and landscape to create something that entertains, energizes and ultimately soothes.
“Good to get in front of our fans, for sure, in times like this,” Goff said. “Hopefully we can provide some joy, some normalcy in the last few hours.”
Normalcy, um, no.