After a 4-12 finish last year, the Los Angeles Rams are in the midst of an eye-popping turnaround with a 7-2 this season. One big reason for that is quarterback Jared Goff’s rebound from an abysmal rookie campaign.
He’s revived his career this season — throwing for 2,385 yards to go along with 16 touchdown and only four interceptions in nine games.
He posted a 63.6 passer rating in seven games last season. That’s up to a 101.5 rating this year, the second-largest improvement over two seasons in NFL history, according to NFL research.
Those numbers are no accident. The 23-year-old is playing with confidence and authority under new head coach Sean McVay — traits you didn't see when Jeff Fisher was in Goff's ear. He's playing the best football of his career so far, and spurring the Rams' playoff push.
Goff has reinvigorated Los Angeles' offense by successfully taking shots down field, spreading the ball around to a newly loaded group of playmakers, and by avoiding back-breaking turnovers.
The deep pass is working for Goff
Last season, Goff only completed four deep passes (20 yards or more) on 205 total attempts in his seven starts. This season, prior to the Rams' Week 10 matchup against the Houston Texans, Goff held a 104.7 deep passer rating, which is 10th-best among quarterbacks —according to Pro Football Focus. He was 2-for-3 on deep shots last week against the Texans.
He's completed nine passes this season that traveled 40 yards or more through the air, which is tied for a league-high. The Rams' offensive line, anchored by left tackle Andrew Whitworth, a free agent addition last spring, has done a great job of providing clean pockets. Whitworth has five games this season where he hasn’t allowed a single pressure to get to his quarterback, including the last two weeks. Goff has only been sacked 13 times in nine games.
When the Rams' offensive line gives Goff ample time to survey the field and make throws, he'll take shots down the field. Just watch this 94-yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods last week.
Woods ran a post route and made cornerback Johnathan Joseph look silly.
Woods told ESPN's Alden Gonzalez that "it's probably my longest play in NFL, college, high school -- 'Madden,'" Woods said. "It was a big play."
Goff is willing to target any player who runs a deep route. If that player is able to create separation, Goff will rifle a pass in his direction. Just ask Sammy Watkins, who burned the New York Giants with this 67-yard touchdown pass in Week 9.
Goff launched this pretty pass, which traveled 60 yards through the air, to Watkins — who galloped past Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Landon Collins with ease.
The Rams have players who can make big plays at any moment. And what makes Goff's play impressive this season is that he wants to get everyone involved on splash plays.
Spreading the ball around
Los Angeles' offense ranks in the top 10 in nearly every statical category. This team averages a league-high 32.9 points per game. What's fascinating about this passing attack is everyone gets in on the action.
Back in October, McVay told Rich Hammond of The Orange County Register that they do not focus on targeting one player on offense.
“When you do have the variety of skill players that we have, you don’t want to just force-feed a guy,” McVay said. “So I think that enables us to be able to spread the field and use everybody."
In nine games this season, Goff completed at least one pass to an average of 7.3 different players a game. If you're not convinced, look at how well he spread the ball around in the Rams' blowout victory against the Giants in Week 9.
Look at this gumbo of a passing offense. pic.twitter.com/ktWt0zM2sz— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) November 5, 2017
You never know who will make a big play on this offense. It could be veteran players like Watkins, Woods, or ... Tavon Austin.
Woods told Gonzalez that "this offense has so many weapons."
"A lot of people are touching the ball," Woods said. Austin agreed with Woods, saying "that's the good thing about this offense."
But opposing defenses also have to keep eyes on rookie tight end Gerald Everett and rookie receiver Cooper Kupp. In fact, New York underestimated Everett — and Goff made them pay with this 44-yard throw.
rams are really creative with their personnel. bench concept with gerald everett running the 9 and robert woods running the out route. pic.twitter.com/cpg4owo9vi— charles mcdonald (@FourVerts) November 6, 2017
McVay has done a masterful job of surrounding Goff with talent. Goff no longer has to stare down one target and risk the possibly turning the ball over — something he hasn't done a lot this season.
Cutting back on the mistakes
When Goff was under center for the Rams in his rookie season, every drive was a disaster waiting to happen. He committed nine turnovers in 2016, including seven interceptions in seven games.
However, Goff only amassed five turnovers so far this season, only four of those being interceptions. He has fewer turnovers than quarterbacks like Matt Ryan (11), Ben Roethlisberger (11), Carson Wentz (7), and Dak Prescott (6). Goff played mostly mistake-free football in six games and hasn't committed a turnover over the past two games.
After the Rams defeated Houston in Week 10, McVay praised Goff's decision making during the post-game press conference.
"He continues to gain a grasp of exactly what we're trying to get done — the intent of the playcalls, being that extension of the coaching staff," McVay said.
"We threw it a lot today. And when he didn't turn over the football over at all, that's big-time. And you feel very comfortable and confident to be able to put the game in his hands, and he's shown why."
Thanks to Goff's tour de force performances this season, the Rams sit atop of the NFC West at 7-2. Los Angeles won six of its last seven matchups and the last three games by a combined score of 117-24. They own the league’s best point differential at +134 this season.
The Rams are in great position to clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2004, and Goff is steering the team in the right direction.