Though head coach Sean McVay held many starters out of Saturday night's matchup against the Chargers — including running back Todd Gurley — second-year quarterback Jared Goff played the Rams' first three drives.
The opening possession started well. Goff hit wide receiver Robert Woods with a 16-yard pass on the right side. Then Goff maneuvered well in the pocket, evading a few defenders before making an outlet pass to Malcolm Brown in the flat, which the running back took 22 yards down the field. A defensive pass interference foul put the Rams in the red zone, where the club looked poised to tie the game at seven.
But the Rams wouldn't cash in. On 3rd-and-2 from the visitors' eight-yard line, Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa came in from Goff's right and strip-sacked the quarterback. Outside linebacker Melvin Ingram picked up the loose ball and returned it 76 yards for a touchdown.
"We have to do a good job of protecting, but we also have to be ready to step up, hold on to the football," McVay said. "And certainly we talk about the importance of turnovers, and we have to do a better job, collectively, taking care of it."
Check out photos from the Rams' preseason game against the Chargers.
Then on the third play of the Rams' ensuing drive, Goff attempted a deep ball to wide receiver Sammy Watkins on the left. But the quarterback overshot the wideout and the pass landed in the hands of cornerback Jason Verrett for an interception.
"I just came off it a little bit. I can't do that. I can't make that throw. Just a bad throw," Goff said. "I felt someone coming down my throat a little bit and I have to stand in there and throw it."
Goff played one more another series that ended in a field goal — a possession where he mostly handed off and attempted only two passes. He ended his night 5-of-8 passing for 56 yards with the two turnovers.
"I think when you look at the sample size, those are the two plays that everybody will talk about," McVay said. "Over the course of a full game, you get a chance to really redeem yourself a little bit more than he did, just based on the amount of plays that he played. But there were some good things. He made a great off-schedule play where he finds Malcolm Brown on the wide route and ends up going for a big gain, so there are some positives."
"It's all good stuff to learn from," Goff said. "I think at the end of the day, it's good to have this stuff happen in the preseason and hopefully it can be avoided in the regular season."
Even though there were so many starters who either did not dress or did not play, Goff said the first drive was evidence that the mood was no different to start.
"We moved the ball right down the field on them on that first drive, just like we had the previous couple of games on the first drives, moved it down the field," Goff said. "Felt good and then ultimately snowballed there on us early — but no, I don't think so."
McVay said no final decisions have been made regarding playing time for Thursday's game at Green Bay. But it appears more likely than not Goff will not appear against the Packers, particularly given how many starters did not dress on Saturday. If that's the case, Goff said he feels like he got what he needed out of his preseason appearances.
"I would've like to have finished the day on a little bit of a better note, but I think in all three games as a whole I feel like I did a good job and feel like I got a lot out of it — got some good work and some good situational stuff," he said.
"He got a chance to play 35 snaps against Oakland where you can really get into a real rhythm," McVay said. "It's going to be very important for us to maximize practice if that's the direction where we go, where he doesn't play against Green Bay next week."
Goff felt similarly when asked if he feels the offense as a unit is ready to go heading into the regular season.
"No doubt, I think so," Goff said. "I know it's not the same as a game, but we do so much situational stuff in practice and so much replicating game stuff, that we are in that rhythm and that feel. Especially with Todd, and me being in my second year now, I [have] a great feel with him. All the receivers I've been able to work with all the way [from] OTAs up until now — we feel good."