THOUSAND OAKS, CA – Jared Goff had never played three straight football games in his adult life without throwing a touchdown pass before he got blanked in November with the Los Angeles Rams.
The quarterback with the biggest contract in NFL history didn’t throw a scoring pass against Pittsburgh, Chicago or Baltimore while the Rams (6-5) went 1-2. He did throw five interceptions, and Los Angeles’ struggles in the passing game contributed greatly to a month in which the Rams scored only two offensive touchdowns and saw their playoff chances whittled to a sliver.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow, and definitely something that made you sick,” Goff said Wednesday of the Rams’ 45-6 home loss to the Ravens in which he passed for 212 yards — 111 in the fourth quarter of the blowout. “Something you never want to relive or have to go through.”
The Rams’ franchise quarterback and the coach responsible for his rise insist the former No. 1 pick’s drought is just a blip. They’re publicly confident the Rams can recover from the 39-point pasting they took from the Ravens on Monday night, which damaged their postseason hopes and increased the unflattering nature of the spotlight on Goff when he plays alongside an elite quarterback like Lamar Jackson.
“As we’ve now gone into our third year working together, there’s a lot of things that both he and I ... can continue to learn from and make sure that we use,” coach Sean McVay said Wednesday.
So the 25-year-old quarterback who got the most guaranteed money in NFL history — $110 million — earlier this year when he signed an extension that doesn’t even kick in until 2021 is still learning, the Rams say.
But no amount of study has changed the fact Goff isn’t producing at the elite level mandated by his contract and pedigree — or even the solid levels of the last two seasons, in which he threw 60 touchdown passes and led Los Angeles to two NFC West titles and a Super Bowl.
Goff claims he feels no additional pressure from his massive contract and the accompanying responsibilities.
“I need to make sure that is never the case,” he said. “I always want to play like I’ve always had since I was a little kid, always having fun, enjoying it. Never let the business side of it creep in, as far as the way you approach every day or every game. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that. There are times where you do think of it, but no, I don’t feel any differently.”
Goff has 11 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions through 11 games this season after throwing 32 TD passes with 12 interceptions last season. His passer rating is 80.3 — a paltry 27th among current NFL starters — and his completion percentage (61.2%, or 29th among quarterbacks with at least 100 passes this season) is down from the last two seasons while his attempts per game are up.
Goff sees “a bunch of things” responsible for his personal-record TD pass drought.
“I think we’ve ran into some good defenses,” he said. “And then on our side, it’s been just lack of execution. Not only from (other) guys, but mainly from myself. Need to be better. Need to be better at everything. I know I’ve said this the last couple of weeks, and I will be. I know these guys trust in me, and (I) just need to do my job.”
During his first three seasons after the Rams chose him first overall, Goff played two straight games without a TD pass just twice — once as a rookie on the Rams’ historically terrible offense of 2016, and once late last season on the Rams’ historically prolific offense.
He also went two games without a TD pass only once in three collegiate seasons at California, doing it as a freshman in the Golden Bears’ games before and after his 18th birthday.
The totality of the numbers is damning, or at least eye-catching.
“He is the quarterback, so a lot of the weight of the team and the weight of the production does fall on the position,” said Shane Waldron, the Rams’ passing game coordinator. “That’s the nature of the beast right there. I think like (anyone) else, there is stuff that he knows he can focus on and continue to improve upon.”
When asked for specifics, Waldron mentioned Goff’s ball security. Goff is fifth in the NFL with 10 fumbles, and his five lost fumbles are tied for third most in the league.
Waldron also agreed with the outside perception that Goff is strong on plays in which everything goes according to plan, but can’t consistently improvise or anticipate problems like the NFL’s best quarterbacks.
Some of Goff’s fumbles came after unexpected hits allowed by an offensive line with three inexperienced starters and a fourth playing out of position due to injuries and questionable offseason planning.
Goff made several strong throws against the Ravens when given time and space to pass, but the offense’s overall struggles were insurmountable for Goff, Todd Gurley or anyone else. The Rams only have a few more chances to get it right before their season is lost.
“I think through the ups and the downs, I’ve always been myself,” Goff said. “I don’t think anything like that will ever change the way I approach every day, the way I approach every game. Obviously, there is a little bit more responsibility, I think. But I don’t think it’s more pressure.”
NOTES: The Rams didn’t practice on Thanksgiving Eve while resting up from their Monday night game. ... S Marqui Christian has a previously undisclosed knee injury, but McVay didn’t indicate it was serious. ... TE Gerald Everett also has a knee injury that would have kept him out of practice. Everett has 37 catches for 408 yards and two touchdowns.