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Column: Rams can find plenty of value in Jared Goff being a $110-million game manager

Rams coach Sean McVay celebrates with quarterback Jared Goff after a 38-28 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
Rams coach Sean McVay celebrates with quarterback Jared Goff after a 38-28 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

The theory gained traction with every short pass that was completed. By the time the Rams were officially back in first place, it was an undeniable truth.

The Rams don’t need Jared Goff to be a $110-million franchise quarterback. They need him to be the NFL’s most expensive game manager.

In the 22 months since they were shut down in the Super Bowl by the New England Patriots, the Rams have been searching for how they could become contenders again.

Their 38-28 victory on Sunday over the Arizona Cardinals was as close as they have come to rediscovering their identity.

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With Aaron Donald mauling the opposing quarterback. With Jalen Ramsey blanketing the other team’s most lethal weapon.

And with Goff protecting the football.

Seven days after having two passes intercepted and losing a fumble in a final-second loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Goff didn’t commit a turnover.

“Just Jared putting us in position to keep the drive going,” receiver Robert Woods said.

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Goff passed for 351 yards, but the figure was misleading. His performance was characterized by an abundance of caution.

His 37 completions traveled in the air an average of only 2.6 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. That was the lowest average of any quarterback in Week 13.

Only two of his 47 attempts were thrown into what is considered tight coverage — basically, when a defender is within a yard of the receiver at the time of a completion or incompletion. The 4.3% rate also was the lowest of the week.

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On average, he targeted receivers who were 5.2 yards behind the first-down markers, an indication he was counting on their legs as much as he was on his arm.

“Just dumping it off to his playmakers,” Woods said.

Which was really all that was required.

The 28 points scored by the Cardinals were the most allowed by the Rams in nine weeks, but the game wasn’t as close as the score indicated. After miscommunication resulted in a 59-yard touchdown pass by Kyler Murray to tight end Dan Arnold for a 7-0 lead, the Rams defense had the game under control.

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Not counting his heave to a wide-open Arnold, Murray passed for 114 yards. The Rams contained him as a running threat as well, limiting him to 15 yards.

Rams quarterback Jared Goff throws in front of Arizona Cardinals linebacker Markus Golden.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff throws in front of Arizona Cardinals linebacker Markus Golden during the Rams’ win on Sunday.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Donald had another sack and a stopped a run in the first half, both plays resulting in three-and-outs. Ramsey thoroughly frustrated All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who didn’t catch a pass in the half.

The defense was helped by the Rams’ considerable edge in time of possession — 38 minutes 53 seconds to 21:07.

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The Rams’ only turnover was a fumble by Nsimba Webster on a fourth-quarter punt return.

Goff never was asked to do too much, with coach Sean McVay ensuring the quarterback was comfortable with a steady stream of play-action calls.

Goff’s most important pass was a 22-yard completion to tight end Gerald Everett on a third and 11 from the Rams’ 23-yard line.

As important as Goff’s pass to Everett proved to be, the throw wasn’t particularly demanding. Everett was wide open on the right side of the field, about five or six yards in front of the line of scrimmage.

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The drive culminated with a 38-yard touchdown run by Darrell Henderson.

What Goff’s performance lacked in excitement was made up for with variety. He completed passes to nine receivers. Five receivers caught four or more passes, including Woods with 10, Cooper Kupp with eight and Everett with six.

This isn’t the kind of quarterback performance associated with a record-breaking contract.

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So $110 million doesn’t buy what it used to, but who cares? The money is spent.

The reality is that Goff’s name will remain synonymous with the deal until it expires. That doesn’t mean Goff or the Rams should let it dictate play.

Pride will have to be swallowed, not only by Goff, but also by McVay, who came to Los Angeles with a reputation of a quarterback kingmaker.

Twelve games into his fifth season, it’s become clear Goff is bound to make mistakes when he extends himself. But just because he isn’t a franchise quarterback doesn’t mean he can’t be a Super Bowl champion. On this team, he doesn’t necessarily have to win games. He has to make sure he doesn’t lose them.

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


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