Jared Goff was able to check off a box on his resume last Saturday by earning his first playoff victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Yet the narrative of Goff’s inability to perform under pressure persists and will continue to unless he and the Rams are able to knock off the Saints in New Orleans in the NFC Championship on Sunday.
The statistics from the Divisional round performance were less than stellar from the third-year signal caller. Just 186 yards on 15-of-28 passing and no touchdowns won’t keep the hot take pundits quiet leading up to the biggest game in Goff’s career. However, 238 yards rushing and three touchdowns combined from Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson made the lack of a passing attack a moot point. At least in the Divisional round.
Patrick Mahomes did not throw a touchdown pass in his team’s Divisional matchup with the Indianapolis Colts and both he and Goff averaged just 6.8 and 6.6 yards per passing attempt respectively. Neither matchup required their quarterbacks to lead their teams with heroic passing efforts and both teams had relatively dominant wins. But the perceptions about both quarterbacks and their abilities to lead their team’s to the Super Bowl are completely different.
The Rams defeated the Chiefs in Week 11 in one of the regular season’s marquee matchups that certainly lived up to the billing. Mahomes threw six TD’s but added three interceptions, while Goff tossed for four scores and no picks. At the time, the Rams were rolling but faced adversity later in the season.
The two games that Goff’s reputation can’t yet overcome are the back-to-back defeats in Week 14 on the road to the Chicago Bears and then to the Philadelphia Eagles in Los Angeles in Week 15.
Against the stout Bears defense on a chilly night at Soldier Field, Goff had the worst game of his career. He threw four interceptions and was sacked three times. Goff’s total quarterback rating of 12.0 was among the handful of the most pitiful this season.
The latter defeat to the Eagles was much less egregious. Goff passed for 339 yards and threw just one interception, but the Rams fell victim to the resurgent Eagles and last year’s Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. Still, the criticisms of Goff and his performances in high-pressure situations landed flush after consecutive losses.
Drew Brees and Jared Goff have exactly the same number of touchdown passes on the same number of completions this season. That’s 32 TD in 364 completions. But Brees accomplished it on 72 fewer pass attempts and with seven fewer interceptions.
— Ed Werder (@EdwerderRFA) January 15, 2019
Sunday’s game with the Saints is a rematch of Week 9’s regular season tilt also in New Orleans. Drew Brees and that potent offense raced to a 35-14 lead in the first half. This was an important test for Goff and he proved to be up to the challenge.
He led four consecutive scoring drives and the Rams tied the game in the third quarter. The Saints ultimately went on to win the game but Goff showed he could face adversity and still put his team in position to compete in the game.
The Saints ranked fifth in the NFL in sacks but did not record one in their regular season meeting with the Rams. With Gurley another week healthier and the emergence of Anderson as a complementary back, establishing a run game early will be essential. If Goff can sit in the pocket with some time utilizing the play action, he can certainly do some damage against the Saints secondary. It would be hard to fathom a Rams victory without either of those two things.
The three biggest age differences between starting QBs in NFL postseason history:
18 years, 1 month: Tom Brady (41) vs. Patrick Mahomes (23)
16 years, 2 months: Tom Brady (40) vs. Marcus Mariota (24)
15 years, 9 months: Drew Brees (40) vs. Jared Goff (24)
— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) January 14, 2019
The other essential for Goff’s success this postseason is the better draw in the NFC. Both AFC finalists, the New England Patriots, and Kansas City Chiefs, have already played cold weather playoff games and are due for another frigid battle in their matchup at Arrowhead on Sunday.
Goff has not shown an ability to play well in the elements yet but fortunately, he doesn’t have to. A beautiful night in L.A. for the Divisional game and temperature controlled indoor stadiums on the carpet in New Orleans then Atlanta should the Rams advance to Super Bowl LIII prove favorable for the young field general and his quest for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Jared Goff and the Rams will play for a trip to the Super Bowl. pic.twitter.com/gMHeuSLuRm
— Lindsey Thiry (@LindseyThiry) January 13, 2019
This is a golden opportunity for Goff to silence his critics and add a huge notch to his young career. He can prove his worth as the former number one overall pick from three years ago and begin to cement his legacy as one of the great quarterbacks in the NFL. Or he can play poorly, the team can lose and the negative commentary over the offseason will become deafening.