Rams hope youngsters can keep offense in line against aggressive Bears defense
It’s not an ideal situation for Jared Goff.
Last season, the Rams quarterback was under enormous pressure from the Chicago Bears in a 15-6 defeat at Soldier Field. Goff had four passes intercepted and was sacked for a safety by one of the NFL’s most aggressive defenses.
That happened while playing behind one of the league’s steadiest and most synchronized offensive lines.
On Sunday, Goff and the Rams will go up against the Bears and edge rusher Khalil Mack with an injury-depleted offensive line that features veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth and four players with little or no game pro experience at their positions.
“It’s not always going to be perfect back there,” Goff said Wednesday, “and if it’s not, I’ll be just fine. If it is, as I do expect them to play well, it’ll be great as well.”
The Rams are 5-4 and coming off a defeat to the similarly aggressive Pittsburgh Steelers, a loss that put coach Sean McVay’s team on the brink of falling out of playoff contention.
Center Brian Allen suffered a season-ending left knee injury during the loss. Right tackle Rob Havenstein suffered a right knee injury that will sideline him for Sunday’s game and possibly longer.
The Rams will have to further shuffle their offensive line with Brian Allen being ruled out for the season and right tackle Rob Havenstein out at least a week.
Whitworth, a 14th-year pro, will anchor a line that will include center Austin Blythe, Austin Corbett at one guard spot, and rookies David Edwards and Bobby Evans at guard or tackle.
That’s about as far as the Rams can get from the continuity they enjoyed along the offensive line the previous two seasons.
“When you play quarterback, at times, it’s not always going to be like we had the last couple years,” Goff said. “This is more closer to reality.”
The Bears last season presented a 6-1 defensive scheme that confused and stymied Goff and play-caller McVay. The offense produced only two first-half field goals in the Dec. 9 loss that was played in 29-degree weather.
“I don’t run away from the fact that I didn’t handle that night well at all,” McVay said.
Other Rams opponents adopted the Bears’ approach. The New England Patriots utilized the scheme in their 13-3 Super Bowl victory over the Rams. And several opponents this season presented a similar look.
Through three quarters vs. Steelers, Todd Gurley had 12 carries for 73 yards, an average of 6.1 yards per carry. Yet the Ram didn’t have a touch in the fourth.
“I wouldn’t say what they did has shown up a lot,” Goff said. “It’s something that teams have tried and we’ve beat it at times and we haven’t at times.
“It’s definitely part of a scheme that people have played not only to us, but across the league. Nothing too crazy, pretty simple. We’ll be ready if they … do it again.”
Before the season, Goff signed an extension that guarantees him $110 million. But he has not consistently played at the level that earned him Pro Bowl selections the last two seasons.
Goff has passed for 11 touchdowns, with nine interceptions. In Sunday’s 17-12 defeat at Pittsburgh, the Rams offense did not score a touchdown. Goff had two passes intercepted and lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
Asked Wednesday what he needed to do better, Goff did not lack for specifics.
“Throw more completions,” he said. “Get the ball in our guys’ hands and get rid of the ball, get rid of the ball. Be accurate, be on time, everything.”
Usually explosive Rams produce a field goal on offense, and squander a defensive effort that included a fumble return for a TD and a safety in loss to Steelers.
A reshuffled and inexperienced line is not the only challenge for Goff. Receiver Brandin Cooks will not play for the second game in a row as he recovers from his second concussion of the season.
Goff cannot worry about what is not in his control, McVay said.
“You’ve got to trust your teammates, you’ve got to trust your coaches are going to try to put you in the best positions and then execute your role within the framework of each individual play,” McVay said. “That’s the challenge and that’s the thing that we’ll echo and articulate to him.”
Tight end Tyler Higbee (knee) did not practice and Gerald Everett (wrist) was limited, per the Rams injury report. ... McVay on whether the Rams would have a representative on free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s workout in Atlanta on Saturday: “We feel good about our quarterback situation right now. Haven’t had a chance to really go into a deep dialogue with [general manager] Les [Snead] but we do keep our workouts and those things in house, which is the standard operating procedure.” A Rams spokesperson said the team declined to comment. ... The Rams signed defensive back Dont’e Deayon and offensive lineman Chandler Brewer to the roster from the practice squad. They signed center Nate Trewyn to the practice squad.
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