In the days leading up to this, Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner said he would approach Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks like any other.
The six-time All-Pro linebacker’s unceremonious dismissal from a team he’d spent a decade with sparked no additional motivation.
His maturity allowed him not to hold on to hard feelings.
When the game got underway at SoFi Stadium, the noticeably emotional Wagner played like a future Hall of Famer. He intercepted a pass and twice sacked Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith.
But as so often in that losing season for the reigning Super Bowl champion Rams, it was part of a lost cause.
The Rams gave up a late touchdown pass in a 27-23 loss that extended their losing streak to six games, lowered their record to 3-9 and brought them to the brink of official elimination from the playoffs.
Wagner was stoic in his disappointment.
“I’m a master at controlling my emotions,” he said, adding, “I controlled them during the week and let them out during the game.”
Coaches and teammates were also visibly distraught that they couldn’t help Wagner defeat the Seahawks, a team he led to a Super Bowl title and back-to-back Super Bowl appearances.
“There was nothing more we wanted as a team, as a coaching staff and really everyone in that dressing room to try to achieve that and give him the ball that he deserved,” said coach Sean McVay. “But we fell short.”
The Rams remained understaffed in terms of star players.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford and receiver Cooper Kupp, both on injured reserve, stood on the touchline in tracksuits and white Rams ball caps. Lineman Aaron Donald, who is out with a sprained ankle, is believed to have been watching from home.
Before kick-off, the animated avatars of Stafford, Kupp and Donald were shown as part of an augmented reality experience on the stadium’s giant video screen.
The reality for the Rams is that none of these stars are likely to play another snap this season.
McVay said after the game that Stafford had a spinal cord contusion.
Is the 14th-year pro ready for the season?
“There’s a good chance that’s probably the case,” McVay said.
John Wolford started as quarterback against the Seahawks. He helped position the Rams for victory by engineering a drive that ended with running back Cam Akers rushing for his second touchdown and a 23-20 lead.
Now it was the Rams’ defense that had played well in a loss to the top-flight Kansas City Chiefs for the past week and much of Sunday in support of Wagner.
In April, after signing with the Rams, Wagner spoke of looking forward to playing the Seahawks.
“I will make sure [the Seahawks] see me every time we play them,” he said, “so they know where I am – and I’ll make sure I tell them.
“It won’t be a quiet game for me.”
During the warm-up, the Seahawks coaches and players greeted Wagner.
“A lot of people came up and said ‘Wassup,’ and I show love,” he said. “But you know, I’m reconnecting.”
Wagner fired Smith during the first series. Unfortunately for the Rams, Smith dodged edge rusher Leonard Floyd on the next game and fired a touchdown pass at Tyler Lockett.
After firing Smith in the second quarter, Wagner struck an emphatic pose, arms folded in front of him. The game forced the Seahawks to tie and the Rams used a field goal to go 14-13.
Wagner battled lively with receiver DK Metcalf and other Seahawks players in the third quarter.
“Your little brothers start talking trash to you,” he said, “so you start talking trash back.”
After his interception late in the third quarter — and during a review that confirmed the game — Wagner gestured on the Seahawks touchline. His interception led to another field goal drive that put the Rams 17-16 early in the fourth quarter.
Ram’s teammates felt Wagner’s intensity.
“You could just see the fire he had in his eyes,” said linebacker Michael Hoecht, who fired Smith and forced a fumble in the third quarter.
Rookie cornerback Derion Kendrick said, “He always has energy, but it was just a notch up.”
But the Rams couldn’t finish — not with Smith, who operated on an offense designed by former Rams assistant Shane Waldron, a plan reminiscent of the Rams of 2017 and 2018 when receivers seemed to be wide open on every game.
With less than three minutes left, Smith constructed a 10-play drive that included a 30-yard pass to Lockett and the dart for the crucial touchdown to Metcalf.
“It’s a game you could have won — a game you should have won,” Wagner said. “And you allowed a good team to make games and they did it.”
Afterward, the Seahawks players and coaches lined up on the field to hug Wagner.
“During the game we compete against each other,” he said. “After the game, regardless of the outcome, they’re still my brothers over there.”
Wagner gets another shot at the Seahawks when the Rams travel to Seattle for the regular-season finals. He is expected to receive a warm welcome from fans at Lumen Field.
On Sunday he was just disappointed.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. They want to try and get the win.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2022-12-04/bobby-wagner-inspires-rams-against-old-team-seattle-but-not-enough-as-skid-continues Bobby Wagner inspires Rams against Seattle but not enough to win