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Rams' Jared Goff doesn't want to be zoned out

Rams' Jared Goff doesn't want to be zoned out
Rams quarterback Jared Goff wants to improve his red-zone execution. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Through four games, Jared Goff made it look easy.

The Rams quarterback leads the NFL’s most productive offense, ranks third in yards passing and has delivered touchdowns with short, midrange and long throws.

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But he’s still seeing red.

Or, more precisely, he’s seeing opportunity for personal improvement in the so-called “red zone,” the area between an opponent’s 20-yard line and the goal line.

Goff has had two passes intercepted. One came on a play from the fringe of the red zone, the other from deep inside it.

“When you have points on the board, you never want to turn the ball over,” he said. “Those two were ones that I'd like to have back.”

Neither miscue prevented the Rams from bolting to a 4-0 start and the forefront of Super Bowl discussion.

But when asked whether there was a part of his game that he would like to improve over the next quarter of the season, Goff cited red-zone execution. He gets his first opportunity Sunday when the Rams play the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.

“Hopefully, don't do that again this year,” he said of interceptions inside the 20.

Goff has completed 72.4% of his passes, connecting on 11 for touchdowns. So two mistakes — Arizona’s Patrick Peterson and Chargers safety Derwin James picked off passes — hardly are cause for concern.

Coach Sean McVay said Goff was “fearless,” dating to last season, when he demonstrated the ability to put negative plays behind and remain aggressive.

“You want your quarterback to be a fearless competitor that isn't afraid to fail, that will let things go, let it ride,” McVay said. “But then you also learn from those experiences.”

Last week against the Minnesota Vikings, Goff played nearly without error. He passed for a career-best 465 yards and five touchdowns. Cooper Kupp, Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods each amassed more than 100 yards receiving.

“He's been ripping,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Goff. “He looks great. It's been a really nice improvement, even from last year, which was a great season for him.”

Goff made the Pro Bowl in 2017. In a Week 15 game against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, he completed 14 of 21 passes for a season-low 120 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception, in a 42-7 rout that appeared to shift the power in the NFC West.

So Goff knows what to expect, especially from one of the NFL’s loudest crowds.

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“You need to try to quiet them early,” he said. “That’s the best way to do it, but you never know.”

While Goff works to pick apart a defense that will be without injured safety Earl Thomas, the Rams defense will try to control elusive Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

Last season, the Rams sacked Wilson seven times at CenturyLink Field.

But defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and Rams players acknowledge the challenge.

“He makes plays out of nothing,” Phillips said. “He makes plays that nobody else makes. … He can beat you himself. Not many quarterbacks can do that.”

Wilson has passed for seven touchdowns, with three interceptions. But he has been sacked 16 times, third most in the NFL.

Neutralizing Wilson requires a coordinated effort, Rams defensive lineman Michael Brockers said.

“Just getting everybody, all the D-line, to just almost collapse like a box around him,” Brockers said. “That’s the only way you’ll be able to really get him down.”

If Goff flourishes and the defense controls Wilson, the Rams again could leave Seattle with a convincing victory.

The Rams’ fast start has made them the talk of the NFL.

But Goff, who was part of a 4-12 Rams team as a rookie, is blocking out noise about this team being the NFL’s best.

“A lot of people on this team, being part of that team two years ago, understand how easy it is to be on the other side of it and you don't ever want to go back there,” he said. “You understand the work that needs to be put in to stay where you're at, and I think we all understand that.”

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