At 7-4, the Los Angeles Rams are in good shape to make the playoffs, even after their 23-20 loss to a completely beat-up San Francisco team on Sunday.
One troublesome play stood out in the loss, and it was similar to an interception the Rams’ Jared Goff threw in a defeat to the Miami Dolphins about a month ago. It made me think that Goff, the Rams’ $100 million man, will see more defensive wrinkles the Dolphins threw out.
And in this week’s edition of the original Yahoo Sports web series “Check the Tape,” I’m here to talk about that wrinkle, in which the defensive linemen drop into short coverage to make plays on the ball.
In the video atop the page — which is expertly stitched together by Ron Schiltz and the Yahoo Sports video team — I explained how the tactic has twice resulted in Goff interceptions this season, and why defenses might employ it more against him.
Goff is in his fifth NFL season, so the book is already out on him. Not only is he someone defenses need to get after — according to Pro Football Focus, his 39.5 passer rating under pressure is 35th in the NFL — they also want to play man coverage against him, since Goff and Rams coach Sean McVay typically rip up zone coverage.
“All of them happened to be versus a man-coverage type of situation, the three turnovers that he had,” McVay said, referring to Goff’s play on Sunday.
While McVay was critical of Goff’s play after the game, he also expressed confidence in Goff’s ability to get the ship righted.
“Jared knows that I support him,” McVay said. “Jared knows that our staff, our players, and our coaches are going to work as hard as we can to be able to respond, and I think we all know he's wired the right way to be able to handle it and move on as well.”
Goff will likely be OK the rest of the way. He has led the Rams to a Super Bowl before, and he’s still on pace to throw for over 4,000 yards and 23 touchdowns.
But Goff is also on track to throw 15 interceptions — just one fewer than last year — and statistically, he’s certainly not on pace to match his career year in 2018, when he boasted a 32-12 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
So for the Rams to win big, they ultimately need him to be better. And they need him to do it pronto. The Rams’ next opponent is the Arizona Cardinals, who enter the contest only one game behind the Rams in the NFC West with a 6-5 record.
What’s more, Arizona boasts a solid defense that ranks 11th in defensive DVOA, according to Football Outsiders, and 11th in sacks.
That means Goff figures to see a decent amount of pressure this week … and perhaps, some d-linemen dropping into coverage in certain situations. Even if the latter part doesn’t come to be this weekend, it’s safe to say that if the Rams want to win, Goff will have to do a better job protecting the football when under fire.
“That's where I know we're capable of making better decisions and handling some of those plays,” McVay said. “Sometimes the best play is to take a sack and not feel like you have to get it out of your hand and force it when there's not a lot of options there.”
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