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Rams

Going with Goff makes sense — except to the Rams

The Rams’ dropped to 3-5 after losing to the Panthers, 13-10. They’ve lost four in a row, so why isn’t Jared Goff, their top pick in the NFL draft, playing?

The Rams fell in love with Jared Goff last spring when they went to Berkeley to work him out at Cal. Even though it was raining, and he was given a chance to postpone, Goff wanted to throw. The foul weather didn’t scare him.

Well, this is a downpour now.

After four losses in a row and the season slipping away, the Rams need to budge off their stubborn stance and give the No. 1 overall pick a chance.

At 3-5, what have they got to lose? Keenum will be a free agent after this season; Goff is the future of the franchise.

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The Coliseum crowd was itching to see the rookie Sunday as the Rams’ offense sputtered with Case Keenum at the helm, generating 191 yards in the first three quarters of a 13-10 loss to Carolina. The Rams, showered with boos and chants of “We want Goff,” didn’t even reach the red zone until the fourth quarter.

Coach Jeff Fisher said he heard the boos but not the chants for Goff. He said Keenum was not the reason the Rams lost. In his news conference after the London loss, Fisher announced he was sticking with Keenum even before reporters asked. Sunday, when twice asked directly whether he would consider making a quarterback switch for the Week 10 game at the New York Jets, he sidestepped a definitive answer.

“We’ll circle the wagons with the coaches and look at the tape,” he said. “But I’m pleased with the way Case has fought.”

For seven weeks in a row, their games have been within reach in the fourth quarter. In the last month of games, they’ve lost to Buffalo, Detroit, the New York Giants and Carolina.

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The Rams defense is holding up its end of the bargain. That unit yielded 244 yards to the Panthers, a week after giving up 232 to the Giants. Those type of gold-plated efforts should translate into victories. Not so.

This team was built to win with its defense, and by putting the ball in the hands of running back Todd Gurley, last season’s offensive rookie of the year. He ran for 48 yards in 12 carries Sunday, falling short of 100 yards for the 14th time in 15 games.

Granted, they do not have a good offensive line, but the Rams are ultraquick to abandon the run. Only once Sunday did they stick the ball in Gurley’s gut on consecutive plays, and that was on the second and third snaps of the game.

If Goff were at quarterback, the Rams would almost certainly lean more on the run than they do now. If he is who the coaches believe he is, he would also stretch the defense with some down-the-field completions.

The maddening thing about Keenum is he has made enough plays to muddy the waters. Even when he had four interceptions in the loss to the Giants, at least half of those could be blamed on his receivers. Every time it starts looking crystal clear that Goff should start warming up on the sideline, Keenum comes through with a key play or big drive.

On the Rams’ final possession Sunday, Keenum put together a 15-play scoring drive that culminated with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Britt. That march included a highlight-reel play in which the right-handed Keenum, under heavy pressure, instinctively switched the ball to his left hand and completed a pass to Benny Cunningham. He even surprised himself with that.

“I’ve never done that before,” he said. “I don’t know what happened. … It was an interesting play.”

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Earlier in the fourth quarter, Keenum hit Lance Kendricks with a seven-yard pass at the goal line, but the ball — albeit rocketed — fell incomplete. Kendricks said he should have made the catch even though the ball “had a lot of mustard on it.” The Rams kicked a field goal.

Asked about the cheers for Goff, Keenum shrugged and said, “They have a right to feel however they want to feel. I’m always the type of person that, I’m glad the fans are there and the stadium is full. We’re frustrated, too, that we’re not scoring points.”

Goff sat at his locker after the game and scrolled through messages on his phone. He acknowledged hearing the chants but didn’t have anything to say about them. Clearly, he and Keenum have forged a friendship, and they had a brief conversation at their side-by-side lockers. They understand the nature of the business.

“It’s upsetting that we’ve been within a score multiple times and not coming away with a victory,” Keenum said. “I’m never going to let it get me down. I’ve got tough skin, and I’m going to keep fighting, keep battling.”

Goff’s battles are confined to running the No. 2 offense in practice.

“As I say consistently, repeatedly, week after week, I’m pleased with Jared’s progress,” Fisher said.

The problem is, the Rams are playing the same game, consistently, repeatedly, week after week. It’s time for a change.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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