LOS ANGELES (AP) — Several Los Angeles Rams lingered on the Coliseum field after the final whistle, gazing up at the flaming Olympic cauldron atop the Peristyle and savoring the atmosphere in the 96-year-old stadium.
Although the Coliseum isn’t going anywhere, the Rams are heading south to palatial SoFi Stadium in Inglewood next season.
With one last victory in a bittersweet season under the LA lights, they moved on from this historic venue and into their gleaming future.
Tyler Higbee and Robert Woods caught touchdown passes from Jared Goff in the fourth quarter, and the Rams secured their third straight winning season with a 31-24 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
Goff passed for 319 yards and hit Cooper Kupp for 99 yards and an early TD, while Los Angeles’ defense made four takeaways in the final NFL game at the stadium that hosted the first Super Bowl and 51 seasons of NFL play.
“I will miss playing in the Coliseum,” Goff said. “I’m really excited for SoFi. What Mr. (Stan) Kroenke has done there is going to be something that I don’t think the world has ever seen, honestly. It’ll be a lot of fun, but I will miss the Coliseum and will miss the history of it, the lighting of the torch, the fireworks, the whole thing. The fanbase we’ve built here, how much louder it was this year compared to my first year, and just seeing it grow, is really cool.”
The 2018 NFC champions were eliminated from playoff contention last week, but they improved to 6-0 against Arizona during coach Sean McVay’s tenure while securing this franchise’s first string of three straight winning seasons since 1999-2001.
“It means a lot looking toward the future,” Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman said. “Great things to come. It’s a gauge just to let everybody know we’re not down. We’re still on our way up.”
Rookie Taylor Rapp recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass for the Rams, while Cory Littleton also recovered a fumble and Darious Williams had his second career interception.
After jumping to an early 17-7 lead and then letting Arizona back into it in the third quarter, the Rams finished with a defensive stop. After Kenyan Drake rushed for a score with 3:53 to play, the Cards got the ball back at their 20 with 1 minute left, but couldn’t get past midfield with no timeouts.
Since the Rams first arrived from Cleveland in 1946, the Coliseum has hosted three NFL championship games, two Super Bowls and 23 Pro Bowls, along with the Rams and Raiders.
The Rams moved back into the Coliseum when they returned home from St. Louis in 2016. They ended their four-year tenure in style, with a special commemorative logo painted at midfield along with diamond-patterned end zones and colorful bunting on the Peristyle designed to evoke the stadium’s feel from a half-century ago.
Kyler Murray wrapped up his stellar rookie season with 327 yards passing for the Cardinals (5-10-1), who finished coach Kliff Kingsbury’s debut year with their fourth consecutive losing record.
“This group, we’ve been out of it for a while, and we’ve played some of our best football during that stretch,” Kingsbury said. “It’s a professional group. Great leadership. You’ve got a young quarterback, and they know it’s a process. All these reps are have been invaluable for him.”
After struggling with a strained hamstring for the past week, Murray had TD throws to Dan Arnold and Damiere Byrd, but also threw two interceptions.
“I really wanted to finish out the year with the guys and finish what I started as far as playing all 16 games,” Murray said. “I couldn’t really get out of the pocket and move like that, but for me, honestly, I think it helped me out just standing in there and going through reads, going through progressions. I think it’s a teaching lesson, learning lesson for me.”
Larry Fitzgerald had four catches for 45 yards in perhaps the final game of his stellar 16-year career. The 36-year-old receiver, second in NFL history in catches and yards behind Jerry Rice, hasn’t decided whether he will accept the Cardinals’ pleas to return next year.
“It’s been a great year,” Fitzgerald said. “For having a five-win season, I can’t remember having as much joy in the process. ... I’ve got to talk to (Cardinals owner) Michael (Bidwill) and make sure they want me back, if that’s even an option. You’ve got to go through the process, but I love this organization with all my heart. I’ve given everything I had for 16 years. I’ve just got to take a little time to figure it out.”
Chandler Jones was held without a sack of Goff, which means the star Arizona defensive lineman lost the NFL sacks title to Tampa Bay’s Shaquil Barrett, who had three sacks Sunday to finish with 19 1/2 this season, ahead of Jones’ 19.
“Very bummed,” Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “But we knew they were going to put everybody that had a Rams uniform in front of him to try to slow him down from getting to Jared.”
Littleton went to the locker room in the third quarter with a bruised chest. Defensive lineman Michael Brockers then had to be helped off the field to a cart, unable to put weight on his left ankle. Both are free agents this winter.
Cardinals: After a solid December, the future looks cautiously bright with Murray leading Kingsbury’s offense and another host of high draft picks, including No. 8 overall.
Rams: Numerous painful roster decisions loom, and McVay must clarify the status of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips after being noticeably vague about it recently. Their three-year partnership could be over despite another strong season by Phillips’ group.