Column: Rams quarterback Jared Goff will be tested after back-to-back poor performances
Jared Goff has the act down. Then again, he always did.
He was well-versed in football-speak from the time he was drafted No. 1 overall by the Rams, that form of verbal communication in which words are spoken but nothing is said.
So when Goff talked at the Rams’ practice facility Wednesday about the upcoming home game against the Philadelphia Eagles, his demeanor offered little indication of how he really felt about how he played last week or the week before that.
“Looking forward to getting into a rhythm these last three weeks heading into the playoffs,” he said.
His monotone delivery didn’t convey the importance of what was at stake, and that was almost certainly by design.
Coach Sean McVay might be calling the plays from the sidelines, but Goff is the one throwing the football or handing it off to Todd Gurley. The on-field leader can’t appear concerned in a time like this.
Goff had a nightmare of a game last week in a 15-6 defeat to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
The performance could be dismissed as the kind of one-off that is bound to strike even the best quarterbacks during a 16-game season, only Goff didn’t play well during extended stretches of the game before that either.
It’s hard to be overly critical of an 11-2 team. But 11-2 teams have their sights set on Super Bowls and they have to be examined through that prism.
And as upgraded as the Rams are on offense and defense from last season, one of the primary reasons they have transformed into legitimate championship contenders is because of Goff’s progress.
As a second-year quarterback last season, Goff evolved into the caliber of quarterback who at least wouldn’t lose games. This season, he has looked like one who could win them, enough to where he was once considered an MVP candidate.
That is why his recent troubles were disconcerting. During the last two weeks, the Rams were back to an earlier stage of Goff’s development, where they couldn’t move the ball unless they had Gurley going.
Against the Bears, Gurley rushed for only 28 yards in 11 carries, or 28 yards in only 11 carries, depending on the perspective.
The containment of their ground game reduced the effectiveness of their trademark play-action plays. That kept Goff more in the pocket, which subjected him to pressure from the Bears’ standout defensive line.
Goff had four passes intercepted, a career high.
“I need to take care of the ball better,” Goff said.
He completed 20 of 44 passes for 180 yards. His completion percentage of 45.5% was his lowest of the season.
The previous week in Detroit, in a victory that secured the Rams’ second consecutive division championship, Goff was nearly as inaccurate. He completed 17 of 33 for 207 yards.
McVay fell on the proverbial sword for his quarterback for what happened in Chicago, blaming his play-calling for the offense’s lack of production.
But when Gurley has nowhere to run, doesn’t the quarterback have to make plays that force the defense to worry about the pass?
Goff credited the opposition.
“I think almost every game we’re able to get Gurley going and able to get our offense going,” Goff said. “For multiple reasons, they did a good job of preventing that last week.”
McVay again shouldered the responsibility.
“I look at it as it’s up to me to have a better feel for the flow of the game and not put us in positions where some of those things occur,” McVay said.
The coach went as far as to mention Goff’s rare successes against the Bears.
“He made a couple of throws with some people in his face that were pretty impressive,” McVay said.
The next step for Goff is to make a couple more.
“He’s still young,” veteran guard Rodger Saffold said. “That’s what it is.”
But watching Goff respond from various setbacks over the last three seasons had Saffold convinced he would emerge from this mini-slump.
“His resilience and the way he’s been able to continue fighting through adversity just shows you he’s going to be able to come out of it in a big way,” Saffold said.
McVay also cited Goff’s character.
“The best part about Jared is he does a great job of learning from it,” McVay said. “He doesn’t let it affect his ability to move forward. I thought his demeanor throughout the course of the game, as frustrating as the other night was, was exactly what we love about him — even-keeled, wasn’t flustered.”
Goff was equally calm Wednesday, continuing to act the part of franchise quarterback. But for the Rams to win a Super Bowl, more will be required of him.
He will have to play the part.
Follow Dylan Hernandez on Twitter @dylanohernandez
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