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Plaschke: Rams quarterback Jared Goff plays well in loss, but starting job uncertain

·6 min read
GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN JANUARY 16, 2021-Rams quarterback Jared off gets a pass off against the Packers.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff gets a pass off against the Packers amid snow flurries at Lambeau Field. Goff threw for 174 yards and a touchdown with no turnovers. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Don’t let his white gloves fool you.

Jared Goff showed he can do the dirty work.

At snow-sprinkled Lambeau Field on Saturday, Goff raged against his injured thumb, fought without his favorite receiver, battled a relentless pass rush and slapped hard at weeks’ worth of doubts.

The Rams lost, but Goff won.

The Green Bay Packers’ unstoppable offense triumphed, but the Rams’ embattled quarterback shined.

At least for the moment.

The final score in the NFC divisional playoff game was Packers 32, Rams 18, but the real intriguing outcome was elsewhere.

It was Jared Goff 1, John Wolford and any other potential Rams starting quarterback 0.

For right now, anyway.

Those were coach Sean McVay’s words afterward when I asked whether Goff was his quarterback.

“Yeah, he’s the quarterback,” McVay said, his voice trailing off. “Right now.”

It’s that close. There’s that much uncertainty. This offseason, the Rams surely will bring in a veteran backup to challenge Goff. They’re guaranteed to continue nurturing Wolford as a potential backup. For the long term, Goff is still on the hot seat. Saturday didn’t change that.

But with the odds stacked against him in a chilly stadium filled with 7,000 hearty fans, Goff played well enough to at least go into the spring as the Rams’ starter.

At least, as we speak.

McVay was otherwise generally complimentary of his bruised leader, saying all the right things even if few of them contained exclamation points.

“I thought Jared did a nice job,” he said.

On this day, anyway, Goff was a pretty darn good quarterback, missing on only six of 27 passes that included a drop and a couple of tips. He threw for only 174 yards because of McVay’s conservative thumb-related play-calling, but he threw for a touchdown and didn’t make any big mistakes, no turnovers, no horrendously missed passes, and twice he had the Rams in position to at least tie the score. Both times, a top-ranked Rams defense without the full services of injured Aaron Donald failed them.

“There were a couple of opportunities where he got us into a rhythm,” McVay said of Goff. “I thought he saw the field really well. ... I thought he was good and efficient with his decisions. ... Overall, I thought he did a nice job.”

Late in the first half, Goff led them on a 75-yard touchdown drive in which he was four for four, finding wide receiver Josh Reynolds across the middle in traffic for 21 yards, then finishing it with a four-yard dink to Van Jefferson between two Packers defenders to pull the Rams within a touchdown.

Yet the Packers scored on their next two possessions.

Then in the third quarter, Goff pulled them within a touchdown again by going seven for seven on a 79-yard touchdown drive that included a six-yard scramble. The two-point conversion closed the gap to 25-18.

But, with the ball in the fourth quarter and a chance to tie, the Rams’ offense sputtered to a stop. Reynolds dropped a pass, Goff was sacked, then on third and 16, Goff was forced out of the pocket and into a safety throw to Jefferson that was far short of the first down.

The Packers scored in five plays on a 58-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Allen Lazard ahead of chasing Rams defensive backs Troy Hill and Jordan Fuller to clinch it.

The Rams' Jared Goff is sacked as Packers defensive lineman Kenny Clark, left, closes.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff is sacked as Packers defensive lineman Kenny Clark, left, and linebacker Rashan Gary, right, close. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

“It’s always tough, it’s extremely disappointing,” Goff said. “You come so far, play against the top seed, feel good most of the game. Feel like you have a chance to win. Obviously come up short. It’s a tough feeling.”

Goff bemoaned the missed opportunities while refusing to revel in his personal success. If nothing else, he talked like a secure starting quarterback.

For today, at least.

Listen to his answer when asked whether he took any solace in perhaps showing the Rams that he’s capable of remaining their starting quarterback.

“No,” he said. “I mean, we didn’t win the game. My job is to win the game. I thought I was able to do some good things out there today, but no, my job is to win the game. There’s absolutely no moral victories, especially in the playoffs.”

Yeah, but for once, the Rams can’t blame the quarterback. He might not have been spectacular, but he was good enough.

It wasn’t Goff’s fault that, on their second possession, guard Austin Corbett jumped early for a penalty that cost them a chance at converting a fourth and one deep in Packers territory. They had to settle for a 37-yard field goal by Matt Gay.

It wasn’t Goff’s fault that Donald grabbed offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins’ facemask on the Packers’ ensuing drive, leading to a penalty that was the key play on Green Bay’s first touchdown march.

It wasn’t Goff’s fault that both safety John Johnson and Hill dropped potential interceptions in the end zone, allowing the Packers to tack on a 39-yard field goal by Mason Crosby to end the first half with a 19-10 lead.

But, again, Goff takes no solace in any of that.

“I was proud of myself to be able to get back out there, absolutely,” he said. “But I’m not proud of losing this game.”

The Rams also should take no solace in finishing in football’s final eight. They play in a championship town, they have the resources to be a championship team, and anything less is failure.

“Love this football team,” McVay said. “Love the scars that we were able to respond from.”

Then let the healing begin, and quickly. In the offseason, Rams officials need to find a legitimate deep threat and a stronger offensive line, and McVay needs to devise a more consistent playbook that will capitalize more frequently on the team’s quick-strike ability.

Oh yeah, and they are clearly looking for a championship quarterback.

Above the rubble of Saturday night, at least one person screamed that it’s still Jared Goff.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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