Which Jared Goff will show up in Rams’ showdown against Seahawks?
The situation is not new for Jared Goff.
Since being chosen with the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL draft, the Rams’ quarterback has led his team into games with a playoff berth on the line several times.
In 2017 and 2018, Goff came through.
Last season, after receiving a $134-million extension, Goff and the Rams fell short.
On Sunday, Goff gets another opportunity when the Rams (9-5) play the first-place Seattle Seahawks (10-4) in an NFC West game at Seattle.
A victory would put the Rams in the playoffs for the third time in four seasons under coach Sean McVay and keep alive their chances for a division title. The Seahawks can clinch the division championship with a victory, and possibly force the Rams to win their finale against the Arizona Cardinals to make the playoffs.
Goff said Wednesday that he approaches all games the same.
“I don’t try to make it any more than it is,” he said.
In six of the Rams’ nine victories, they ran the ball at least 30 times. But coach Sean McVay’s team has struggled when it fails to consistently run in the first half.
He acknowledged that there are implications Sunday.
“But it’s all the same,” he said.
Goff has passed for 20 touchdowns, with 12 interceptions. In the 23-20 loss to the previously winless New York Jets, Goff completed 22 of 34 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception, as the Rams blew a chance to clinch a playoff berth.
McVay said this week that the Rams’ failure to execute in critical situations, “have kind of caught up with us.”
The Rams will need an efficient, if not spectacular, performance by Goff to defeat a Seahawks team that has won four of its last five games and has fortified its offense and defense since a 23-16 loss to the Rams on Nov. 15.
In that game, Goff completed 27 of 37 passes for 302 yards, and lost a fumble, in a victory that improved the Rams’ record to 6-3.
They won three of their next four games before losing to the Jets. That puts added pressure on Goff in the showdown against the Seahawks, who are coming off a 20-15 victory over Washington.
“Our group has just played better,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of his team’s defense. “We were banged up quite a bit in the middle and we just didn’t have the continuity that we needed to get going. Now, we feel it and we got a chance to play some pretty good ball.”
Goff is 5-3 as a starter against the Seahawks. He has passed for eight touchdowns, with eight interceptions, and has been sacked 14 times.
Last season in an October game in Seattle, Goff passed for 395 yards and a touchdown, with an interception, in a 30-29 defeat. Goff had engineered a fourth-quarter drive to set up a potential game-winning field goal, but former Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein missed, sending the Rams to a loss that ultimately helped doom their playoff chances.
On Sunday, they return for another game with a postseason berth in play.
Tight end Tyler Higbee has played with Goff for five seasons. He said he did not “notice anything too much different” in the way Goff approaches games with playoff implications.
“I don’t think he approaches a certain game any less, any more than he does the previous,” Higbee said, “but it’s the next one, so it’s the most important and I think he’s going to attack it well.”
After going 0-7 as a starter during his rookie season under former coach Jeff Fisher’s staff, Goff in 2017 got his first taste of playing with a postseason berth on the line.
In the second-to-last game of the season, Goff completed 22 of 38 passes for 307 yards and four touchdowns in a 27-23 victory over the Tennessee Titans in Nashville. His fourth-quarter touchdown pass to receiver Cooper Kupp put the Rams ahead to stay in a win that clinched the Rams’ first NFC West title since the 2003 season, and put them in the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
The next season against the Detroit Lions, Goff completed 17 of 33 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown, with an interception, as the Rams clinched their second division title with a 30-16 victory at Detroit.
The win, in the 12th game of the season, provided the Rams plenty of time to gear up for what became a run to the Super Bowl, which included a clutch performance by Goff in the NFC championship game victory over the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Rams rookie running back Cam Akers won’t be available to play Sunday against the Seahawks because of a high ankle sprain he suffered against the Jets.
But last season, Goff struggled in games with playoff implications. And both were on the road.
The Rams were 8-5 when they traveled to play the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Goff completed 33 of 51 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception, in a 44-21 loss that put the Rams on the brink of elimination from playoff contention. Much of the yardage Goff posted, and one of the touchdowns, came after that outcome was decided.
Six days later, the Rams played the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Goff completed 27 of 46 passes for 323 yards and two touchdowns, but one of his passes was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. The 49ers kicked a field goal as time expired to win, 34-31, and ensure that the Rams would miss the playoffs for the first time under McVay.
“He’s done really well,” McVay said of Goff’s performances in playoff-clinching situations. “Last year was a little bit different because we were kind of behind the 8-ball with the way that season went.
“He gave us a chance. I thought he did a lot of really good things in the Saturday night game [against the 49ers] where we just came up short.”
Goff welcomes the opportunity to complete the task this season.
“I enjoy playing in meaningful games in December,” he said. “That’s always the goal, is to be playing games that matter, and right now we are.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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