The noise blasting from the vast, dark reaches of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome didn’t rattle Jared Goff, not even when fans erupted in roars in an effort to distract the Rams and their rookie quarterback on third-down plays.
“It was loud,” Goff said Sunday, but he managed to block out the tumult and keep himself and his teammates focused.
“I think we were good with the noise,” tight end Lance Kendricks said. “He was clear.”
If any sound they heard continues to ring in the Rams’ ears for the next few days, it will be the jaunty notes of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” the New Orleans Saints’ touchdown song. Those Saints marched in seven times Sunday. Seven.
Talk of Goff and his undeniable progress and increasing poise couldn’t and shouldn’t outweigh all that the Rams did wrong in their 49-21 loss, their sixth defeat in their last seven games and a surprisingly weak defensive performance by a team whose defense had been its great strength.
Goff, seemingly restricted last week against the Miami Dolphins in his regular-season NFL debut, was allowed to let it rip. He did, completing 20 of 32 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns, though all three were in the first half. Too bad the Rams’ defense was ripped to shreds by the Saints, a week after it faltered in the final minutes against Miami.
Goff recorded a number of firsts on Sunday in his second regular-season NFL game and start. He threw his first touchdown, a 24-yard pass to Tavon Austin on the Rams’ first drive of the game, and hit Kenny Britt on a six-yard pass to put them ahead, 14-7, early in the second quarter. His performance in a two-minute drive late in the second quarter ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Kendricks, cutting New Orleans’ lead to 28-21 and giving his teammates confidence in him.
“He came out spitting it that first half,” running back Todd Gurley said. “But as far as running backs, line, everybody, we didn’t do our part to make him have a successful second half. We have to look back at this game and make sure that we correct what we need to correct to give him an opportunity to do what he did in the first half.”
Goff recorded a few other firsts that were less pleasant. There was his first fumble, which resulted when he was sacked by Sheldon Rankins at the Rams’ 17-yard line and put the Saints in position for a short touchdown drive that ended with a one-yard leap by Drew Brees. Then there was Goff’s first interception, a pass that was picked off by Kenny Vaccaro at the Rams’ 49 early in the third quarter but didn’t lead to a Saints score … for once.
He’s still looking for another first — his first win — but did win praise from teammates who saw him growing more assured and commanding as a starter. Given his current rate of progress, imagine how much further along Goff might have been if the Rams had made him the starter sooner, for instance after their loss to the New York Giants at London on Oct. 23. The Rams had a week off before their next game against Carolina on Nov. 6.
“He doesn’t seem like a rookie,” said Andrew Donnal, who entered the game as a substitute left tackle late in the first half. “He’s confident, he demands everyone’s attention, and everyone respects him, so he’s doing a great job. He’s really leading the offense.”
Saints receiver Michael Thomas and Rams cornerback Lamarcus Joyner get tangeled on a pass play during the third quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Rams quarterback Jared Goff is sacked by Saints linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (59) and defensive end Cameron Jordan during the fourth quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Rams receiver Tavon Austin catches the ball for Jared Goff’s first career touchdown pass against Saints defensive back B.W. Webb in the first quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Saints quarterback Drew Brees dives over the pile for a on-yard touchdown on fourth down against the Rams during the second quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Rams safety T.J. McDonald breaks up a pass intended for Saints receiver Willis Snead in the end zone during the first quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Saints runing back Mark Ingram sprints past the Rams defense for a 10-yard touchdown in the second quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Rams quarterback Jared Goff walks off the field after losing a fumble to the Saints during the second quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Saints receiver Michael Thomas carries Rams cornerback E.J. Gaines into the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Rams offensive lineman Rodger Saffold grimaces in pain after hurting his arm.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Saints running back Tim Hightower evades Rams defensive back Maurice Alexander to finish off a 50-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Willie Snead during the fourth quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Saints receiver Michael Thomas catches a six-yard touchdown pass in front of Rams defenders T.J. McDonald, center, and E.J. Gaines during the second quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Saints receiver Michael Thomas catches a six-yard touchdown pass against Rams defenders T.J. McDonald, center, and E.J. Gaines in the second quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald forces Saints quarterback Drew Brees to fumble during a sack in the first quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Rams defensive coodinator Gregg Williams calls for a player during the game against his former team.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Saints receiver Michael Thomas picks up big yards against the Rams defense.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Rams quarterback Jared Goff is forced into an incomplete pass awhile being pressured by Saints linebacker Kasim Edebali during the first quarter.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree brings down Saints receiver Willie Snead after a reception during the first half.(Butch Dill / Associated Press)
Rams quarterback Jared Goff loses a fumble during the first half of a game against the Saints on Nov. 27.(Bill Feig / Associated Press)
Rams Coach Jeff Fisher reacts on the sideline during the first half.(Butch Dill / Associated Press)
Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) is sacked by Saints free safety Vonn Bell during the second half.(Bill Feig / Associated Press)
Saints running back Mark Ingram is congratulated by quarterback Drew Brees after the two connected for a touchdown pass against the Rams in the second half.(Sean Gardner / Getty Images)
Rams quarterback Jared Goff is sacked by Saints linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and defensive end Cameron Jordan during the second half.(Sean Gardner / Getty Images)
Saints wide receiver Willie Snead (83) throws a touchdown pass to running back Tim Hightower during the second half.(Butch Dill / Associated Press)
Saints running back Travaris Cadet is introduced before a game with the Rams.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Kendricks saw the same leadership potential in Goff.
“I thought he did good managing the offense. I think he’s improving,” Kendricks said. “I think he did really good, especially in the first half. We were able to put up three touchdown passes so I think he’s getting better. That’s all you can ask from a young quarterback.”
Goff, though, is asking more of himself.
“I don’t think there are any moral victories,” he said. “For me, I felt a lot more comfortable in my second game. From my experience, I just felt better out there and was able to see it a lot better. The game slowed down for me a lot more today.
“But at the same time, I want to win. I don’t want to be out here saying I’m happy with what we did, or what I did, or anything in between, because I’m really not if we don’t win. And that’s the bottom line.”
The real bottom line was that the Saints marched in and all over the Rams on Sunday, pushing them closer to another lost season.