The star-struck phase ended early in Jared Goff’s first game against the New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady.
Goff, the first pick in the 2016 NFL draft, was a rookie quarterback. It was his third start for the Rams.
A week from Sunday, Goff will be on the field again with Brady.
He won’t be starry-eyed, even if it is Super Bowl LIII.
“I was probably 7 or 8 years old when he was winning Super Bowls to begin with,” Goff said Thursday, “and now I get a chance to play in one with him.”
When the Rams play the Patriots on Feb. 3 at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Brady, 41, will be chasing his sixth Super Bowl title in his ninth appearance with 66-year-old coach Bill Belichick.
Goff is 24. Rams coach Sean McVay turned 33 on Thursday. They are making their first Super Bowl appearances, the Rams’ first since the 2001 season, when Brady led the Patriots past the St. Louis Rams for his first Super Bowl victory.
Goff said he was ready for the challenge.
“You don't have a choice — you better get ready,” Goff said, chuckling. “It’ll be fun. I’m excited.”
Brady, a four-time Super Bowl most valuable player, built his reputation with clutch postseason performances. Two years ago, he led the Patriots back from a 25-point deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl. Last Sunday, he led a drive to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime in the AFC championship game.
Goff is establishing clutch credentials. He led the Rams back from a 13-0 deficit in their NFC championship game victory over the New Orleans Saints. He completed numerous pressure-packed passes near the end of regulation and in overtime.
McVay said Goff’s ability to “weather the storm” personified the mental toughness of the entire Rams team.
Goff was “at his best when his best was required,” McVay said. “The competitive greatness showed up in a big way.”
Said Goff: “It gives you some confidence and gives you something to look back on as a way that you handled some stuff correctly.”
Now Goff must prove he can do it on the sport’s biggest stage. Brady, of course, has done it repeatedly. In victory and defeat.
In eight Super Bowls, he has passed for 2,576 yards and 18 touchdowns, with five interceptions.
“Getting to this game nine times is unbelievable,” Goff said. “You can’t put into words how remarkable it is and everything he’s done.”
Goff’s ascent from winless rookie to Super Bowl starter in three seasons also has been impressive. And he will be ready to step into the Super Bowl spotlight, McVay said.
“We’re very confident in his ability to lead us,” he said. “Jared will be himself, which is exactly what we want him to be.”
The last few days were hectic for Goff. He tried to “organize everything” so that family and friends can be at the game. But that is done now.
“We’re on to football,” he said.
There are more potential distractions to come. Goff said a few unnamed people reached out to offer advice about what to expect during the buildup to the game.
“With a little bit of a circus out there, how to keep it as normal as possible,” he said.
In 2016 Goff passed for 161 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions, in a 26-10 loss to the Patriots. He met Brady on the field afterward for a brief exchange.
That was a different era. A Super Bowl appearance for the Rams was only a dream.
“Now we have a chance to be world champions,” Goff said.
Kicker Greg Zuerlein suffered a left foot strain when he stepped on a metal plate beneath the Mercedes-Benz Superdome turf, special teams coordinator John Fassel said. Zuerlein, who kicks with his right foot, kicked four field goals against the Saints, including one that tied the score near the end of regulation and another from 57 yards to win in overtime. “Didn't seem like it affected him, did it?” McVay joked. Zuerlein did not participate in Thursday’s walk-throughs but is expected to practice this week and play next Sunday against the Patriots. ... McVay on celebrating his birthday: “I’ve never really been a big birthday guy. … A good birthday present would be, ‘Let's take care of business over the next couple weeks, put ourselves in a position to compete to the best of our ability.’ ”