THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Although Jared Goff had the most prolific passing performance of his young career last weekend, nothing about it was more impressive to Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay than his quarterback’s first touchdown throw.
Goff took a third-down snap in the red zone and coolly remained focused and upright in the moving pocket. He sidestepped, moved up and whipped an 8-yard TD pass to tight end Tyler Higbee while getting tackled by the New York Giants.
”That’s all him creating,” McVay said Wednesday. ”Good protection buys time, and Higbee is his fourth option in that progression right there. So I think there’s plays that start to demonstrate, week in and week out, why he’s taking steps in the right direction.”
Goff is maturing at an impressive pace for the Rams (6-2), who hit the halfway point of their season with a legitimate chance for their first playoff berth since 2004. McVay’s new coaching staff has done impressive work, and a solid defense deserves plenty of credit, but Goff’s eight-game transformation from a tentative rookie into a confident star has propelled the Rams to new heights.
While Goff’s NFL-caliber arm and body got him into the league as the No. 1 overall pick last year, he didn’t pick up most of the sophisticated skills necessary in this job until this season. Goff is now the talk of the league, but he hasn’t forgotten the feelings of frustration and helplessness he had late last season when he endured hometown boos as the Rams’ 0-7 rookie starter.
”I think in this league, it’s so week-to-week,” Goff said Wednesday. ”You’re good one week, and then you’re bad another week. We were the worst team ever last year, and now everyone loves us. So no, it doesn’t make any difference to us. We’re 6-2 at the halfway point, and happy about a lot of things we’ve done so far, but a lot of work to do.”
Goff is the NFC’s reigning offensive player of the week after the Rams’ 51-17 rout of the Giants. He passed for 311 yards and four touchdowns – both career highs – on a mere 14 completions, including a 67-yard beauty of a TD to Sammy Watkins on a pass that traveled 60 yards in the air to the sprinting receiver.
Goff is pretty sure that pass was the longest he has ever thrown a ball in a game. He’s accomplishing new feats with each passing week for the Rams, who finally get their first home game in five weeks on Sunday against Houston.
Goff constantly reminds his admirers that his supporting cast has markedly improved this season, particularly on the offensive line. With left tackle Andrew Whitworth leading the way, the Rams have a running game again, and Goff has the time to do the little things that make the difference.
”I didn’t get hit at all (by the Giants) on Sunday, and we had a couple of screens go a long way,” Goff said. ”It makes my job easy when you have such good players around you.”
Goff has completed 60 percent of his 244 passes this season for 2,030 yards and 13 touchdowns against just four interceptions. After finishing last season at the bottom of the NFL with a 63.6 passer rating, he is eighth in the league this year at 97.9.
The Rams had the NFL’s worst offense in each of the past two seasons, managing a meager 224 points last season – 40 points fewer than 31st-place Cleveland. Under McVay and Goff, they’ve already scored 263 points in the first half of this season.
Los Angeles is the highest-scoring team in the league (32.9 points per game) through the first half of McVay’s debut season, posting 18.9 more points per game compared to 2016 – the biggest such improvement in the NFL in decades. Goff’s success also benefits the defense, which had a solid 2016 season until weeks of overuse wore it down.
”We cut down probably over half of the snaps that we took last year with our offense playing much better,” linebacker Alec Ogletree said. ”So for the guys that were here last year, you just clap your hands and you just thank God that they’re on your team, and that things are going the way they’re going.”
NOTES: Backup RB Malcolm Brown is out for Sunday’s game with a knee injury. McVay said Brown ”got his MCL pretty good.” Rookie Justin Davis or Lance Dunbar could get more playing time in Brown’s absence, which could be lengthy. … LB Robert Quinn missed practice with an illness.
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