The Rams may have beaten the Bears 17-7 last Sunday night, but it was yet another underwhelming performance by the offense. That starts with the quarterback.
Since throwing for 413 yards and 4 touchdown passes in a 54-point win against the Chiefs last season, Jared Goff has fallen off a cliff. The Rams have played 18 games since then (including the playoffs). Goff’s numbers during that span are not pretty:
Comp % 59.2%
Yds Per Att 7.03
QB Rating 78.4
That’s not what you want. In fact, it’s downright concerning for a passing game that has gone from explosive to average overnight. Goff looks like he is caught in between right now, sometimes inexplicably forcing passes, other times becoming too gun-shy. This was on display against the Bears on Sunday Night.
The below drive-killing interception was inexcusable really. This was 2nd down and Goff was out of the pocket. He could have easily thrown the ball away. Instead he forced it into a window that wasn’t actually there.
Later in the game, Goff had a wide-open Cooper Kupp (#18) right in front of him off of play-action. He didn’t attempt this throw, though, and instead fired the ball out of bounds.
Yes, the backside corner was starting to break on Kupp. Goff saw that and got spooked. But that’s a large enough window to complete the pass if he puts the ball on Kupp’s right shoulder, making the throw to beat the coverage.
At very least, Kupp had more separation on the above play than Mike Thomas did on the below near-interception just two snaps later.
Goff is not playing with confidence right now. When that happens, quarterbacks see things that aren’t there. They predetermine throws. Good things generally don’t happen in either of those instances.
Sean McVay’s play-calling reflects this, as he seemingly has looked to hide Goff at times. This 3rd-and-10 from the Bears’ 46-yard line is a great example.
Maybe McVay was planning to go for it on 4th down here, but then backed off after the play didn’t gain as many yards as he expected. The Bears are a very good tackling team, so it’s hard to imagine what exactly McVay was hoping for on this play. Maybe he just wanted to play the field-position game given the far worse quarterback situation on the opposing sidelines. Whatever the reason, that’s not the type of play-call you make if you currently trust your quarterback.
Recently, the play-calling has been that of a coach trying to guide or even hold the hand of his quarterback. We’ve seen an abundance of screens, play-action, and boots. All of these are plays that simplify the reads, create safe throws, and remove much of the decision making on the fly from the quarterback. These play concepts used to be components of the Rams’ passing game. Big components, sure, but not to such the dominating degree that we’ve seen recently. This will have to change against the Ravens on Monday Night. Jared Goff will have to consistently make throws in obvious passing situations.
That said, we know Goff is capable. He showed that last season in guiding the Rams to the Super Bowl. He also showed it in flashes against the Bears.
On the biggest gain of the night for the Rams, a 50-yard completion to Cooper Kupp, Goff saw through what the Bears were trying to do in a key 3rd-and-5 situation and delivered an accurate ball downfield.
Focus on Cooper Kupp in the slot to Goff’s left. The Bears had cornerback Buster Skrine and safety Eddie Jackson stacked over him.
This could have meant Skrine was blitzing to force a quick throw and Jackson would replace him. It could have meant that Skrine would sit initially on any short routes and then use a trail technique if Kupp released vertically, playing to his safety help in Jackson over the top.
As it turned out, Skrine and Jackson were bracketing Kupp, playing inside and out to take away any lateral-breaking routes.
Goff read the defense, recognized the coverage, reacted quickly and delivered a good ball.
Goff also showed that he is capable in obvious passing situations and formations on the Rams’ other touchdown drive of the game, which helped seal the win in the 4th quarter.
This completion came on 3rd-and-7 against tight man coverage.
Below, out of an empty set, Goff read the cover-2 cornerback, saw him jump the route in the flat, and quickly reacted. He made an accurate throw downfield into the cover-2 hole on the sideline, putting the ball on his receiver’s back shoulder away from the closing safety.
This is exactly what Goff will need to do for 60 minutes to keep up with the hottest team in football. 17 points won’t get the job done against Lamar Jackson and the explosive Ravens Offense. The good news for Goff is that he’ll get Brandin Cooks back on Monday with Robert Woods possibly returning as well.
Handling the Ravens Defense won’t be an easy task, though. They have played much better after an awful start to the season that saw poor communication and tons of blown coverages for big plays.
The Ravens are also the most aggressive blitzing defense in the league, which is something Goff has struggled against throughout his career. Play-action, condensed formations, and a steady running game will help limit how exotic Baltimore can get with some of their blitzes. But Goff will need to make lots of throws in obvious passing situations for the Rams to keep their playoff hopes alive.
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