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Goff Keeping Same Approach for First Postseason Start

Like almost all of the Rams' roster, quarterback Jared Goff has no NFL playoff experience.

He's been involved in postseason games before at lower levels. He played in a bowl game at Cal. He helped bring Marin Catholic High School to three NCS playoff appearances and three MCAL championships.

But more than that, Goff sees the significant games the Rams have played in this season as good experience for what L.A. is about to face on Saturday night.

"I think that's what it boils down to and I think we do have experience that stuff," Goff said Tuesday. "We played a big game in Seattle a couple weeks ago. We played a big game two weeks ago against Tennessee. We played a big game against the Eagles. We played a big game against Minnesota, against New Orleans.

"We had a bunch of big games against top teams this year and so I think that experience will translate mostly to this game."

Goff added part of what the club gained from those matchups is learning how to handle the atmosphere.

"Every play has a little bit more meaning to it," Goff said. "Just having that experience and understanding it's still the same game, it's still the same as every week throughout the season, but there is a little bit more of a heightened meaning to each play."

But even with the raised level of intensity, head coach Sean McVay said he's not really concerned about how Goff will perform. McVay has mentioned many times this season how impressed he's been with the quarterback's even-keeled demeanor, and did so again on Tuesday.

"Jared is fearless and I think he looks at it as a great opportunity and we trust that he's going to make good decisions," McVay said. "[I]in terms of worrying about, is the moment too big or the playoffs? That is the least of your concerns, just from having experienced what we have with Jared and kind of the way that he's wired and that's why we feel like he's special."

With Goff having thrown for 3,804 yards with 28 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in the 2017 regular season, McVay said the quarterback will "have an ownership on the game plan and what we're trying to get accomplished." That's in large part because of the time McVay and Goff have spent getting on the same page throughout the season.

"[H]e can almost kind of predict some of the calls that are coming in based on the situation that he's got so much ownership on, here's our priority third down calls in this area, red zone, some of our priority first and second down calls — that's kind of what I mean," McVay said. "In a lot of instances, he'd probably be able to tell you guys that before the play has come in, he's able to kind of predict that because we are so much on the same page and I think that's only going to continue to grow as we get more experienced together with our coaches and with Jared."

Still, the Falcons will present a number of challenges with their defense. According to McVay, the unit has gotten noticeably more comfortable in its third season under Dan Quinn. The numbers show that, too, as Atlanta has gone from No. 25 in total defense last year to No. 9 in 2017.

But one way the Rams may have a bit of an edge is in that they've faced similar defenses throughout the course of the year. Quinn was hired as the Falcons' head coach after a pair of stints working under head coach Pete Carroll in Seattle, and as such Atlanta employs a base Cover 3 defense much like the Seahawks. San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and Jacksonville defensive coordinator Todd Wash also come from that coaching tree and use similar defensive systems. Plus, as Goff pointed out, Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is also a former Seahawks defensive coordinator.

Put it together and that's seven times the Rams have faced a defense similar to the Falcons over the course of the pre- and regular season.

"With that being said, they're all different," Goff said. "Similar principles, but they all are different. The Falcons are much different than previous teams we've played in the scheme and do their own little wrinkles to it. So yeah it does help, but at the same time you're prepping for a completely different team as well."

While the teams are all different, the approach to preparation stays the same. And while Goff's demeanor is likely to be as calm and even-keel as ever once the 5:15 kickoff is away, the quarterback admitted he'll probably have some butterflies during pregame.

"Of course, yeah, you always get nervous. But I think it's more excitement and more anxiety and you want to get out there than true nervousness," Goff said. "You may have that little pit in your stomach at the beginning of the game, but it's no different than any other game for me, honestly. I feel the same way every week and going to approach this one the same way."

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