For nearly eight minutes Sunday, Sean McVay answered questions seemingly without catching his breath.
The Rams coach fielded queries about his team’s tougher-than-expected 28-19 victory over the winless Detroit Lions at SoFi Stadium. Inquiries about still bumbling special teams.
And, of course, about Jared Goff.
It wasn’t until McVay exited the interview room that he finally was able to exhale.
A week of nonstop questions about his fractured relationship with Goff — and the trade that sent the former No. 1 pick to the Lions in exchange for Matthew Stafford — was finally, mercifully, over.
On Sunday, Stafford showed his abundant gifts while passing for 334 yards and three touchdowns. But Goff had the Lions on the brink of an upset until star cornerback Jalen Ramsey intercepted a pass in the final minutes. The play helped seal a victory that improved the Rams’ record to a 6-1.
Afterward, McVay sought out Goff and embraced him.
“I just said, ‘Great job, I’ll touch base with you a little bit later on,’ ” McVay said.
In the days leading to the game, McVay acknowledged mistakes in the detached way he communicated with Goff before the Rams unceremoniously exiled the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft to Detroit so they could upgrade with Stafford.
So, McVay wasn’t the only one relieved to move on. Goff and Stafford also had tired of being asked about the emotional toll of playing against their former teams for the first time.
Goff had led the Rams to the playoffs three times, including a run to the Super Bowl in the 2018 season.
“I’ve got a lot of memories with a lot of those guys,” Goff said after passing for 268 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. “A lot of lifelong friendships. We did some pretty special things in my five years here.”
When Goff came onto the field for pregame warmups, “Thank You” videos for him and former Rams defensive lineman Michael Brockers played on the mammoth video board. Goff continually stopped his routine to exchange hugs from former teammates and assistant coaches.
McVay hovered about 15 yards from Goff at one point but did not approach him.
“I didn’t think about it till after,” Goff said. “But there were a lot of guys I never saw after the trade. Being able to see them and say hello was good. It was healthy. Then, once the game started, it was very as-usual. It really felt like any other game.”
Stafford, the top pick in the 2009 draft, toiled for 12 years with the Lions before ownership agreed to trade him. As he drove to the stadium, Stafford saw fans wearing his Lions jersey — “Thought that was pretty cool,” he said — but quickly turned his attention to the task at hand.
He completed 28 of 41 passes, including 10 to Cooper Kupp for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
“Just glad to have this one over with,” Stafford said. “Can put the story lines away and just go out and play football the rest of the year and just enjoy it.”
McVay, Rams owner Stan Kroenke and general manager Les Snead could not have been enjoying the way the game began. There was no doubt that Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris would dial up blitzes to pressure Goff into mistakes. But the first time the Rams tried one, Goff coolly dumped a screen pass that running back D’Andre Swift turned into a 63-yard touchdown.
Lions coach Dan Campbell then called for an onside kick that the Lions recovered. Five plays later, they pulled off a fake-punt pass play — the first of two successful fake punts in the game — that kept alive a drive that ended with a field goal.
The Rams trailed, 10-0. Stafford had yet to take snap. The specter of another loss to a winless team — last year, the Rams lost to the 0-13 New York Jets — was real.
“That was not stuff we were surprised by, but we didn’t execute and they did,” McVay said. “That wasn’t good.”
Said Stafford: “As strange an opening part of a game that I’ve been a part of.”
Once he got onto the field, Stafford led a drive that ended with a field goal. He followed with touchdown passes to receiver Van Jefferson and Kupp for a 17-16 halftime lead.
The Lions regained the lead with a third-quarter field goal, but Stafford’s short touchdown pass to Kupp, and Robert Woods’ two-point conversion, put the Rams ahead, 25-19, early in the fourth quarter.
Goff drove the Lions to the Rams’ 12-yard line, but with less than five minutes left, Rams lineman Aaron Donald and Ramsey combined to make the play of the game.
Donald pressured Goff as he released a pass, and Ramsey extended his body to intercept it in the end zone.
“I play thinking that that I’ll make a play when my opportunity comes — just because I don’t get a lot of opportunities throughout the game all the time,” Ramsey said. “So, I try to maximize when I do get the opportunity and that’s what I did on that play.”
McVay breathed a sigh of relief. His team avoided losing to an opponent that fell to 0-7.
“There was a lot of reasons to kind of put your head down and not feel good based on the way that it started,” McVay said. “But that’s the last thing our guys did. And I thought our big-time players stepped up in crunch time.”
That was no surprise to Goff, who was teammates with Donald for five seasons and Ramsey for one and a half.
“Those two guys are the best at their position for a reason,” he said. “They made a great play on us. If I had to do it again, probably throw it out of the end zone, but that’s the look we wanted, a play we wanted, and unfortunately I got hit on it.”