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Jared Goff’s turnover-free performance helps lift Rams over Cardinals

Rams quarterback Jared Goff throws in front of Arizona Cardinals cornerback Johnathan Joseph during the Rams' win.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff throws in front of Arizona Cardinals cornerback Johnathan Joseph during the first half of the Rams’ win Sunday.
(Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)

The call by coach Sean McVay for a quarterback sneak came into Jared Goff’s helmet earpiece, and he reacted the way he always does when the Rams are at the one-yard line.

“I get a little extra adrenaline,” Goff said.

It showed in the way Goff pushed over the goal line for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals.

That was perhaps the one time Goff was solely in the spotlight Sunday during a 38-28 victory at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. And it proved a good thing for a Rams team that scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns en route to improving to 8-4 and returning to first place in the NFC West.

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After several turnover-plagued games — and being called out publicly by McVay — Goff delivered a performance devoid of major errors. That might not sound like a major achievement for a player earning a guaranteed $110 million through 2024, but similar performances will be absolutely necessary for the Rams to earn a postseason bid and make a playoff run.

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“I responded exactly how I expected to,” Goff said after completing 37 of 47 passes for 351 yards and a touchdown. “I’ve been through a lot of bad things in my football career before and I’ve consistently responded, and this was no different.”

Running backs Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson rushed for touchdowns, tight end Tyler Higbee caught a touchdown pass and cornerback Troy Hill returned an interception for a touchdown as the Rams defeated the Cardinals for the seventh time in row under McVay.

Along with Hill’s touchdown, linebacker Justin Hollins got a sack and forced a fumble and Aaron Donald had a sack as the Rams neutralized Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray.

It marked the seventh time under McVay that the Rams scored at least 31 points against the Cardinals (6-6).

After last week’s 23-20 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers, which featured three Goff turnovers, McVay abandoned his typical modus operandi of self-blame and said, “our quarterback’s got to take better care of the football.”

Rams running back Cam Akers runs the ball past Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker during the first half Sunday.
(Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)

In their three-plus seasons together, that’s about as blunt as McVay has been in criticizing the No. 1 pick of the 2016 draft.

On Sunday, Goff did “exactly what we expected him to do,” McVay said.

“I really wasn’t worried about Jared,” McVay said. “I mean this guy’s responded from different adversities. ... The one thing I wasn’t worried about was him being overwhelmed by having a tough outing and then being able to respond.

“That was the least of my concerns.”

Goff completed 21 of 27 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown in the first half as the Rams took a 14-7 lead on Akers’ touchdown run and Goff’s short touchdown pass to Higbee.

After Rams punt returner Nsimba Webster fumbled, the Cardinals pulled to within three points on Kenyan Drake’s short touchdown run.

Breaking down the notable numbers behind the Rams’ 38-28 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday.

But Goff’s third-down pass to tight end Gerald Everett and completions to Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp set the stage for Henderson’s 38-yard touchdown run.

“You can tell when QB1 is starting to feel it,” said Akers, who rushed for 72 yards in 21 carries. “It’s just a motivator and makes you want to go out and play hard for your QB and for the team. And [Sunday’s game] was a direct correlation to that.”

When Goff is in rhythm the Rams offense starts rolling, said Woods, who caught 10 passes for 85 yards.

“Just making the throw under pressure, not under the pressure,” Woods said. “Nothing could get to him.”

Hill’s interception return with less than five minutes left all but sealed the victory. It was the second time in as many games Hill made a huge play. Against the 49ers, he returned a fumble for a touchdown.

“Two for two, he said, “so I’m excited, thank God for it, and just keep on going.”

The 28 points were the most given up by the defense since a 35-32 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 27, but the NFL’s second-ranked defense forced Murray into two costly turnovers. Murray completed 21 of 39 passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns. He rushed for only 15 yards in five carries.

Jared Goff might not be the franchise quarterback the Rams want, but he’s fully capable of helping a talented team achieve its Super Bowl aspirations.

The victory, coupled with the New York Giants’ 17-12 victory over the Seattle Seahawks (8-4), put the Rams in prime position in the NFC West heading into their final four games.

On Thursday night at SoFi Stadium, the Rams play the New England Patriots (6-6), a 45-0 winner Sunday over the Chargers. The Rams then play the New York Jets (0-12) at home before finishing the season with a division games against the Seahawks in Seattle and at home against the Cardinals.

McVay does not put much importance on his team’s currents status as the division leader.

“Unless you can tell me that they’re going to end the season with four games to go, we don’t really care,” he said. “I’m interested in playing really well on Thursday night.”

And getting another error-free performance from Goff.


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