The Rams have played in the raucous atmosphere of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. They've dealt with some significant adversity throughout the course of the season — some on the field, perhaps more off. And after last week, they've won a playoff game.
It's not just all about the quarterback. But with that kind of experience, it makes sense why head coach Sean McVay is so confident in 24-year-old Jared Goff as the signal-caller prepares for his first road playoff game.
"I don't think any moment's too big for him," McVay said. "I think he's just going to go about his normal weekly rhythm this week. Certainly, we don't shy away from what is at stake in terms of what we can accomplish, but we also know what a great challenge it is.
"But I just think that, like you've heard us say over and over, he really doesn't allow himself to get too high or too low," McVay continued. "And that's why you feel confident that — you know it's a great challenge, but you do feel confident in his ability to perform and lead our offense at a high level on Sunday."
Goff was efficient during his first playoff victory, completing 15-of-28 passes for 186 yards. While he made some key throws — including three completions in a row during a touchdown drive in the second quarter — Goff realistically had more to do when it comes to conducting a run game that reached a franchise playoff record 273 yards against Dallas.
Nevertheless, the quarterback said in his Wednesday press conference that he had some important takeaways from his first playoff victory.
"They're always big games, they're always good teams, and there's always big moments that require poise, and being there for your teammates, and making the play when it matters," Goff said. "And I felt like on offense, defense, and special teams, we just kept doing that over and over — making those plays when it mattered. The fourth-down stop by our defense, various open-field tackles they made on some of the runs that we had on offense, some of the third-down conversions we had — we were good on third down. I think all that's stuff so important to sustaining drives, and winning games — especially in the playoffs when you know the other team is likely to capitalize on whatever mistakes you will make."
With Los Angeles averaging 232.3 yards rushing over their last three games, there has perhaps been less focus, or perhaps even less pressure, on the quarterback. With Goff and the offense in general staying away from turnovers — the last one was on the opening drive against Arizona in Week 16 — L.A. has clearly been more effective on offense.
A reporter began a question in Goff's Wednesday press conference by pointing out the bounce-back in the QB's play, to which Goff jokingly replied, "Thanks." But in answering the question, Goff noted that he feels like those issues were corrected before the postseason began.
"Every once in a while, you have a bad game or two. And I think that was the situation there," Goff said. "There was various reasons why we weren't doing well offensively, and why I wasn't my sharpest. And I feel like we fixed those four weeks ago and I feel pretty good now."
While the Rams are anticipating a particularly noisy crowd at the Superdome this weekend, the club does at least have the experience of playing there before. But the crowd will have an impact on how L.A. can communicate and what the offense can do at the line of scrimmage.
"Whenever you're in a place like that and it is loud, you obviously can't hear very well and have to use a lot of visual signals, visual communication, and just be on the screws just that much more — because you can't really communicate at the line of scrimmage, you can't change much at the line of scrimmage," Goff said. "So in the huddle, just making sure everyone's on the screws and knows what they're doing."
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But even with all the challenges the environment will present, as Goff prepares for what will be the biggest postseason game of his young career, he agrees with McVay — the moment likely won't be too big.
"Yeah, I feel the same. Just going to approach it like any other game," Goff said. "Obviously, there's a lot on the line — going to the Super Bowl and everything. But you've got to approach it the same way. Have to treat every game the same way, and throughout the week be the same guy and prepare the same way you have. I think I rely on a lot of the success that I've had and understand that I didn't do that on accident — it's part of my process, and part of what I do routinely."
And while the young QB is attempting to keep it out of the front of his mind, Goff knows a win this week would mean he'll get to play on one of the biggest stages in sports.
"It'd be great. Try not to think about it too much, because you have to focus on this game and get this one and then you can focus on that," Goff said. "But even playing in the NFC Championship is a dream come true, and we're excited for it. It's an opportunity you work for, and we see it as something that we've earned. We've been through a long season here and — just like the Saints — we've earned this spot. And we have a chance to go play for a world title."