LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jared Goff hit Cooper Kupp in stride with a 70-yard touchdown pass that was just as gloriously wide-open as Rams coach Sean McVay had predicted when they drew it up this week.
While his teammates celebrated, Goff ran to the sideline and pointed at McVay, who accepted the challenge with a celebratory chest bump.
“I was fired up for him,” Goff said. “I told him after, ‘I didn’t mean to knock you over there.’”
Although the big quarterback knocked the headset off his smaller coach’s head, both men were left smiling. With that throw and several more of similar brilliance, Goff turned a phenomenal first half into the biggest game of his career.
And it was still just barely enough to beat Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings.
Goff passed for career highs of 465 yards and five touchdowns, winning a scintillating duel with his Minnesota counterpart and leading unbeaten Los Angeles to a 38-31 victory Thursday night.
Goff hit Kupp with two of his four TD throws during a 251-yard first half in which the third-year quarterback flawlessly executed the offense created by McVay. Goff finished 26 of 33 with a perfect 158.3 passer rating for the Rams (4-0), who won their third home game in 12 days.
“It was just great command by him,” McVay said. “I think he’s having fun. No moment is too big for him, and it gives you confidence when you see him playing like this.”
But McVay then had to watch apprehensively while his former prize pupil nearly executed a comeback for the Vikings (1-2-1). McVay was Cousins’ offensive coordinator in Washington before he became Goff’s head coach on the West Coast last season.
Cousins passed for 422 yards and three touchdowns, but the Vikings lost when Los Angeles rookie defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers strip-sacked Cousins near midfield with 1:18 to play.
“It’s fun for us, personally,” Goff said of his duel with Cousins. “I don’t know if it’s fun for the whole team, but it’s cool. Kirk is a guy we watched on film forever last year. Got a lot of respect for him and the way he plays, and I just think he’s such a great quarterback. To get a chance to go against him like that and kind of duke it out, I told him after the game how much I appreciated the battle with him.”
Todd Gurley finished with 83 yards rushing and 73 yards receiving for the Rams. Gurley and Brandin Cooks had first-half TD catches, but the Vikings trimmed LA’s lead to 31-28 late in the third quarter with Adam Thielen’s 45-yard TD catch and a 2-point conversion.
Goff promptly surpassed his previous career highs for yards passing during a swift drive ending in Robert Woods’ 31-yard TD catch, and the Rams’ defense hung on while the offense went scoreless in the fourth quarter.
One week after giving up 27 points in the first half and getting blown out as 16 1/2-point favorites in Buffalo, the Vikings gave up 28 before halftime against LA.
“We did not play well defensively,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “Offensively we moved the ball well, but we had too many missed tackles, and too many people were left wide open. I’ve not ever had a team that’s been this poor in pass coverage. We are going to have to look at everything.”
A healthy throng of purple-clad fans turned out for the Vikings’ first game in Los Angeles since 1993. They saw a show from Cousins, who hit Aldrick Robinson for two first-half scores.
Goff found Kupp with two beautiful TD throws in the first half, the first hitting Kupp in stride on that 70-yard sprint , and the second eluding two Vikings and dropping into Kupp’s hands deep in the end zone.
“Jared put it in about a 6-inch box that only he could fit it into,” McVay said.
Less than 2 1/2 minutes later, Goff hit Cooks down the middle for a 47-yard score. Goff’s four TD passes were the most in a first half by a Rams quarterback since Kurt Warner did it in 1999.
Minnesota defensive end Everson Griffen posted a message on Instagram expressing his gratitude for support from his team and family. Griffen has been away from the Vikings while undergoing a mental health evaluation, and he didn’t get to return to the Coliseum, where he starred for USC. Griffen said he doesn’t know exactly when he’ll be back in uniform, but he plans to “return as a much-improved person and player.”
Vikings: RB Dalvin Cook had 20 yards on 10 carries after missing last week’s game with a hamstring injury. … Goff’s third and fourth TD throws beat CB Trae Waynes, who missed the second half with a concussion.
Rams: TE Tyler Higbee injured his knee early on. He returned later in the first half. … CB Marcus Peters played after injuring his calf last week.
Vikings: At the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Oct. 7.
Rams: At the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Oct. 7.