Goff Shows Out on Thursday Night

Maybe it's something about Thursday night games. 

In last year's Thursday Night Football matchup with San Francisco, quarterback Jared Goff was outstanding in a shootout, completing 79 percent of his 28 passes for 292 yards with three touchdowns in Los Angeles' 41-39 victory. 

Coincidentally, the Rams played a similar kind of shootout on Thursday, defeating the Vikings 38-31. The offenses once again went back and forth, sometimes seeming to score at will. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald recorded a key sack on the opponent's final possession. And Goff once again completed 79 percent of his passes.

But this game was different. 

This was undoubtedly the best game of Goff's young career. 

The 23-year-old signal-caller was completing passes on-and-off schedule, dropping passes with pinpoint accuracy into the hands of his receivers all over the field. 

Goff's final numbers: 26-of-33 passing for 465 yards with five touchdowns, zero interceptions, and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. All of those marked career highs for Goff, but his 465 yards are also No. 3 on the Rams' all-time list in a single game. 

"Can't say enough about the performance of Jared Goff tonight," head coach Sean McVay said. "It was just great command by him." 

The young quarterback has essentially been as good as it gets to start the 2018 campaign, becoming the first quarterback in league history to pass for at least 350 yards and complete at least 75 percent of his passes in three consecutive games. Quarterback Trent Green had two such games in 2004 with Kansas City and Ryan Fitzpatrick had two with the Buccaneers earlier this season.

But if you ask Goff if he feels like he's taken his game to another level this year, he says…

"No." 

What? 

"I feel like I'm playing well in the last couple games," Goff said, "but it can flip like that if you don't stay on top of it." 

So, OK, he feels that way. And it's true — things can certainly change. But if you ask Goff's teammates, they recognize just how special the quarterback has been playing through the season's first quarter. 

He's completed 72.4 percent of his passes for 1,406 yards with 11 touchdowns and one interception, averaging an outrageous 10.5 yards per attempt. 

McVay is drawing up great plays, to be sure. But Goff has still been executing at the highest level. 

"Lights out — lights out," running back Todd Gurley said. "He's been playing like one of the best quarterbacks in this league." 

"Did you see that guy Goff today, man? He was making some throws — it was crazy," defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. 

Take for instance Goff's third touchdown of the night — a 19-yard pass to wide receiver Cooper Kupp. Goff faked a handoff to Gurley but then felt pressure coming from his left. So he rolled to his right, launched a deep pass off his back foot, and hit Kupp perfectly in stride in a tight window at the back-right corner of the end zone for six.

"I think the one throw to Kupp in the back of the end zone was unbelievable," McVay said. "It's almost like you're throwing it away and Cooper did a great job saving them a little bit of room, and Jared put it in about a six-inch box that he could only fit it into."

"It was one of those ones that I knew they had played it very well," Kupp said. "Jared just kept running to the sidelines and was trying to keep it alive a little bit. I thought I'd try to get to that back corner. I thought he was just going to throw it away, but where he put that — it couldn't have been thrown any better than it was."

"You know, kind of taking a little bit of a chance there and got away with it," Goff said, "but that's what happens when you've got good players. I trust Cooper and he ran right through it. Wasn't sure if he was in bounds or not, but he made a good catch on it. I think that just shows kind of my trust in him."

McVay has often complimented Goff's California cool, calm, even-keel demeanor on the sidelines during games. But even Goff got pretty excited earlier in the second quarter, when he connected on a 70-yard pass to Kupp for a touchdown.

The quarterback ran off the field and somewhat uncharacteristically signaled to McVay to go up, the two meeting midair in celebration — though McVay probably did feel the brunt of the hit, with Goff knocking the head coach's headset off.

"I was fired up about that one because that was one we kind of had tweaked with during the week and it came out again kind of just how we pictured it and wanted it to," Goff said. "So I was fired up for him as far as getting that thing off.

"Told him after, "I didn't mean to knock you over there,'" Goff added with a laugh.

"Yeah, he drilled me. He got me pretty good right there," McVay said with a laugh. "We were both excited. We had talked about that play, and when things work out the way you hope, that's always a fun, exciting moment for the players and coaches." 

As good as the play design was, the throw hit Kupp in stride and allowed him to glide into the end zone untouched as he was covered by Minnesota linebacker Anthony Barr. 

"That's another one that Jared was just able to put it out there perfectly," Kupp said. "If that's one where you do have to slow down, Barr is probably making that tackle. The way that he was able to put that out there, just kept me in stride — it's huge. He was doing that all night. Jared was able to put the ball exactly where he wanted and made it really easy on us as receivers."

It's true — if you look at replays of Goff's five touchdown passes, each of them hit Gurley, Kupp, Brandin Cooks, and Robert Woods in stride. 

So what's it like to be in that kind of zone as a quarterback, where everything you throw seems to connect? 

"It feels good. It feels really good," Goff said. "I think you work for that. It's what you strive for. When we got into that rhythm, into that zone early on in that first half it felt really good. Then, I think in the second half it took us a minute to get back into it, but we're really clicking right now. And I feel good about where we're at, and we have a lot of season ahead of us." 

And that goes back to what Goff said about how he feels about his game improving. He knows that if he lets up at all, things can change in a blink. But for now, he's glad to end the first quarter of the season with a 4-0 record. 

"[W]e have a nice, little 10-day break right here coming up. But, you can't forecast all of that," Goff said. "I think [I have to] just try to keep working and be the best I can be at practice and just continue to improve and hope for the best."

"No moment is too big for him," McVay said, "and I think when your quarterback demonstrates that, you feel like you're in good hands. Certainly, he has done an outstanding job, really, this first quarter of the season."

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