Jared Goff’s first game of the 2020 season was a win. He had quality throws and mostly avoided mistakes while playing through three dropped passes, all of which would have improved an otherwise “mixed” performance by Goff to start his run as the first Rams quarterback to start at SoFi Stadium.
A single game is not enough to make determinations for how Sean McVay and Goff and the addition of Kevin O’Connell has changed LA’s offense from last year to this year, but it is important to mark all the data points along the way and to see how the Rams change from then to now and from now to the end of 2020.
One extreme that stands out is Goff’s 4.5 intended air yards per attempt, tied with Jacksonville’s Gardner Minshew as the lowest of Week 1, essentially meaning that Goff was rarely throwing downfield. This is not inherently a bad sign: Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes both averaged 4.6 intended air yards per attempt and the bottom six QBs in this category all won their games in Week 1.
How Goff averaged an NFL-low 4.5 IAY/A but an NFL-best 13.8 yards per completion is as simple as remembering that Robert Woods had a couple of catch-and-runs to start the game and finished with 87 yards after the catch; Woods is tied for second in yards after catch and third in yards after catch per reception at 14.5.
Malcolm Brown is second in YAC/R with 15, having caught three passes for 31 yards and gaining 45 yards after the catch.
These plays helped influence Goff’s final stat line:
20-of-31 for 275 yards, no touchdowns, one interception, 8.9 Y/A, 7.4 adjusted Y/A, one sack and a passer rating of 79.4.
Two things that could have really helped Goff’s night would have been flipping the results on those three drops (one of which was that Van Jefferson high jump in which he barely got his fingertips on the ball, so the degree of difficulty is different than the drop by Gerald Everett) and a better red zone performance.
The Rams had five trips in the red zone but only came away with two touchdowns, two field goals and a missed field goal.
LA had the ball with 1st-and-10 at the Dallas 16 but after a Darrell Henderson run went for no gain, Goff and Woods could only manage five yards on the ensuing play. Eventually, the Rams attempted a field goal and Sam Sloman hit the left upright from 29 yards out.
On LA’s next drive, they had 1st-and-10 at the DAL 12 but while Goff was trying to avoid making a massive mistake by getting rid of the ball before he was sacked, he instead found a merely “large” mistake by getting called for intentional grounding. There was nobody he was throwing to and that was obvious to everybody in the stadium. All 200 of them.
Two incomplete passes later, the Rams settled for a 35-yard field goal by Sloman.
On the drive after that one, Goff was setup with 2nd-and-4 at the DAL 15 after a six-yard run by Cam Akers, but his next pass fell incomplete and then Brown only gained two on 3rd-and-4. Sloman was good from 31 this time.
Can we appreciate how great of a throw this was from Jared Goff? Probably the best ball placement I saw in the NFL’s Week 1 action. pic.twitter.com/9hp5HglHYn— Alex Gilstrap (@AlexGilstrap) September 15, 2020
The Rams trailed 14-13 at halftime but if they had made their first attempt and scored a touchdown on their second, they could have been going into the locker room at halftime with a considerable advantage. I’m not going to speculate on alternate timelines if a team does “X” or “apple” but undeniably McVay and Goff won’t be satisfied with their first half performance in the red zone and that’s ultimately what sank Goff’s final stat line.
Goff was much better on the first drive of the second half, helping the offense convert 3rd-and-5, 3rd-and-4 and 3rd-and-3 to setup Brown’s second touchdown run and giving the Rams the lead back.
That positive drive was countered on the following drive when Goff was picked off by Chidobe Awuzie on 3rd-and-7.
Jared Goff with his first INT of the season— Pickswise (@Pickswise) September 14, 2020
Clearly though, pressure on Goff and a nice grab by Awuzie contributed to the turnover.
wow, what could have made Jared Goff throw such a bad pi-— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) September 14, 2020
More damning may be the plays he missed and improvement here could also transfer to improvement in the red zone
a reminder Jared Goff decided to run for ~4 yards instead of throw the ball to a wide open Cooper Kupp with a shot to ice this game pic.twitter.com/3CMlaCZO8D— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) September 14, 2020
Should Jared Goff have cut this loose to Cooper Kupp to ice the game... or was keeping it and sliding in bounds the right play?— J.B. Long (@JB_Long) September 15, 2020
You'll want to listen to Sean McVay's answer at 26:30: https://t.co/6xyd0mYFlI
(Coach McVay Show podcast is now available on Apple and Spotify.) pic.twitter.com/0BG3ZIg7o3
Jared Goff’s stats are just stats. They tell a story but not necessarily one that will match your judgment from watching the game. Carson Wentz, who the Rams will face this week in Philadelphia, led the NFL with 12.4 intended air yards per attempt, most in the NFL.
Wentz has also been heavily criticized for his play in the Eagles’ loss to Football Team this week, so “air yards” is not necessarily indicative of poor or good play.
Wentz was credited with an NFL-high 13 “bad throws” by Pro-Football-Reference and Goff had two “bad throws,” tied for the fewest. Despite Goff throwing an interception after totaling a career-high 16 picks in 2019, I would be more encouraged by his performance this week, at least in regards to turnovers and avoiding mistakes. However, the two key causes for concern here for me would be:
- The Cowboys have one of the least experienced secondaries in the NFL and therefore are projected to have one of the weakest secondaries with rookie Trevon Diggs and journeyman role player Anthony Brown starting at corner alongside Awuzie, a former second round pick who has underwhelmed in his career. As seen by Goff’s pick, Dallas could need every ounce of pass rush in order to create turnovers on defense.
- Not finishing the job in the red zone against this defense and finishing with no touchdowns.
In a way, Goff finished with the two touchdown runs by Brown. Woods really paved the way on the first drive, but Goff did his part to setup Sloman for missed and made field goals on three drives immediately after, then did enough to get them to the end zone to start the second half.
In the future, he’ll need to be more responsible for finishing drives and not letting his fear of a turnover influence the Rams’ need for him to get six points as often as any quarterback in the league.
How do you grade Jared Goff’s Week 1 performance?
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