Well, it’s the week that everyone has been waiting for since the schedule released. The Los Angeles Rams host the Detroit Lions and Jared Goff returns to SoFi stadium.
It’s hard to find something about Jared Goff that hasn’t been written at this point, however, it is the story of the game. Goff was seen two years ago as the team’s franchise quarterback. The situation changed very quickly and within two years of signing a $100M extension, he was traded.
Everyone has their opinions on Goff and it’s a topic that is split among Rams fans. On one side you have a group who doesn’t think he’s a very good quarterback and the Rams were right to upgrade. While they might be rooting for his overall success, his struggles this season are just proving what they thought.
On the other side, you have a group that thinks that the Rams failed Goff with a poor offensive line and bad play-calling. Trading Goff and using him a scapegoat was a way to cover for head coach Sean McVay. That same group cheers for his overall success and knows there is a capable top-15 quarterback there, but he’s been given an impossible hand in Detroit.
In reality, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. While the topic can be argued all day, and earlier this week I wrote about how Stafford was a huge upgrade over Goff, I thought it best to remember Goff for the good times in the first part of this article and the road to Jared Goff.
Before Goff, the Rams went through some dark times. Between Marc Bulger starting his last game and Jared Goff starting his first game, nine different quarterbacks started games for the Rams. Bulger played his last game in a 21-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Kyle Boller and Keith Null wrapped up the 2009 season that ended 1-15 with Steve Spagnuolo in his first season as a head coach.
Sam Bradford was drafted first overall in 2010 and was expected to turn things around – an impossible task at the time. Still, the rookie out of Oklahoma gave Rams fans hope in 2010, coming one win away from the playoffs. However, a loss against the Seahawks in Week 17 kept the Rams out. That was the high point of the Bradford era.
Bradford dealt with injuries in 2011 and AJ Feeley and Kellen Clemens started games in his place. Spagnuolo was fired at the end of the season and in came Jeff Fisher. The Rams could have drafted Robert Griffin III in 2012, but opted to stick with Bradford which seemed to pay off. Bradford had a career year in 2012, throwing for 3700 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. The Rams went 7-8-1 and again, Bradford gave the Rams hope.
Then, after starting 3-4 and throwing for 14 touchdowns to just four interceptions to start 2013, disaster struck and continued to strike. Bradford tore his ACL for the first time against the Carolina Panthers, playing the best football of his career to that point. Clemens finished the season for the Rams.
In 2014, Bradford tore his ACL again which led to Austin Davis and Shaun Hill splitting starts. Les Snead traded for Nick Foles in 2015 after his 27 touchdown and two interception season with the Eagles. Foles didn’t last the full season due to insufficient play and Case Keenum took over, finishing 3-1 to end 2015.
Finally, in 2016, Snead made the biggest move of his career to that point. Snead traded multiple first round picks to move up to number one overall. With Jared Goff and Carson Wentz at the top, the Rams would get their quarterback of the future. The Rams opted for Goff and the rest is history.
Goff made his first start against the Miami Dolphins and should have came out with a win. The Rams took a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter, but gave up two touchdowns to lose 14-10. While Goff went 0-7 as a rookie, he showed promise. Fisher was fired and Jared Goff made a promise to the Los Angeles fan base, saying” “I promise you guys it will get fixed. (I’ll give) everything in my heart and soul to get it all fixed.”
Despite putting together one of the worst rookie seasons in NFL history, Goff kept his promise. The Rams hired Sean McVay in 2017 and Goff executed the offense to perfection. The Goff-McVay pairing looked like a match made in heaven. NFL defenses didn’t know what to do. Goff started the season throwing seven touchdowns to just one interceptions. Despite starting 0-7 as a rookie, the Rams finished 11-5 and Goff ended his sophomore season with an 11-11 career record.
The Rams lost in the playoffs, but Goff picked up where he left off in 2017 to start 2018 and looked to take the next step. There were moments when he seemed almost elite. Rams fans will never forget his 465-yard , five touchdown performance against the Minnesota Vikings. HIs best performance came against the best quarterback in the NFL. Goff put up 413 yards and four touchdowns in a 54-51 victory over the Chiefs.
There were times when Goff looked like Warner and the Rams offense was the Greatest Show on Turf.
In the NFC Championship Game, Goff led the Rams back from 13-0 in the Super Dome against the Saints and his throws to Tyler Higbee set up game-tying and game-winning field goals. He made plays that franchise quarterbacks make.
Where it went wrong in the two years after, we don’t know for sure. Goff never took that next step and became a turnover machine. While recency bias will have some fans remembering the last two seasons, Goff should be applauded and remembered for the two seasons prior.
The quarterback from Cal helped make football relevant in Los Angeles and his impact in the community won’t be forgotten. When all is said and done, Goff will be remembered as one of the great Rams quarterbacks. However, on Sunday, he’ll come into SoFi against the Lions to try and pull off the upset of the season. You can bet, the Rams are going to get his best.
Five Los Angeles Rams Players to Watch
1. QB Matthew Stafford
While Jared Goff will be going up against his old team, so will Matthew Stafford. While this game won’t be at Ford Field in Detroit, Stafford still knows a lot of the guys on that roster. It will still be an emotional game for him. Not playing at Ford Field should help, but there will be some butterflies as this will be the first time Stafford will go up against the Detroit Lions instead of putting on the uniform.
2. DL Aaron Donald
Aaron Donald had some fun this week with Jared Goff coming to town. Donald texted with Goff this week. “I told him, ‘Get ready.’ I told him I’m going to be coming after him, so he knows what it is,” said Donald. Donald will be ready for this game and with the current shape of the Lions offensive line, he’ll have opportunities to make plays.
3. EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
Okoronkwo arguably had his best game with the Los Angeles Rams last week against the New York Giants. The Rams edge rusher had a sack in which he also forced a fumble. This week, he goes up against the quarterback who has lost the most fumbles this season. We’ll see if Okoronkwo picks up where he left off.
4. S Taylor Rapp
Speaking of building on performances, Taylor Rapp had a very memorable game last week. Rapp won the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week after intercepting Daniel Jones twice. Goff is susceptible to turnovers and has a 6.6 average intended air yards per throw. That’ll be right in Rapp’s wheelhouse to make plays.
5. RB Darrell Henderson
Darrell Henderson is still searching for his first 100-yard game this season. He’s come very close the last three weeks, accumulating 75 or more yards in the last three games. He’s averaged 83 yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry during the month of October. Against the NFL’s worst run defense, Henderson should get over the hump.
Five Keys to Victory for the Los Angeles Rams
1. Play Within Themselves
This is going to be an emotional game to start with a lot of players having reunions. The Rams need to play within themselves. They are clearly the better team and should run away with a win. However, the Lions are a team that if you let stick around, they’ll be there right until the end. Play smart and stick to the gameplan and the Rams should win.
2. Don’t Let Up
The Lions have yet to win a game, but they’ve been right there until the end against the San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, and Minnesota Vikings. It took a 66-yard field goal for the Ravens to win and a blown coverage for the Vikings to kick another game-winning field goal. In games against the Ravens and Vikings, the Lions went into the fourth quarter trailing by two scores. This is a team that will fight until the end. The Rams will need to play until the end.
3. Don’t Overlook the Opponent
Last season, the Rams overlooked the New York Jets and ended up paying the price for it. The Lions aren’t good and their -63 point differential ranks towards the bottom. However, they are still a NFL team. The Rams will need to come in and take care of business much like they did last week against the New York Giants.
4. Run the Football
As mentioned, this will be a big game for Matthew Stafford. While he should have a good game, early on, he might need some help and for other players to lift him up. The best way to take the pressure off of the quarterback is in the run game. Darrell Henderson has been running the ball extremely well as of late. If the Rams can put together a methodical drive out of the gate, that will help Stafford.
5. Get to Jared Goff
As Rams fans know, the best way to force Goff into mistakes is to knock him off of his spot and get him to panic. That’s when the turnovers happen. Three of Goff’s four interceptions this season have come under pressure and he’s completing just 50% of his passes in those situations. The Rams defense is one of the best at getting to the quarterbacks. They’ll need to do that on Sunday.
Five Matchups To Watch
1. Leonard Floyd vs. Penei Sewell
Sewell has had his good and bad moments, but he should be playing on the right side on Sunday. That means he’ll be going up against Leonard Floyd who should be able to take advantage. Floyd leads the Rams with 4.5 sacks this season and is showing why the Rams gave him an extension in the offseason.
2. Cooper Kupp vs. Jerry Jacobs
‘You know it’s bad when Jake Ellenbogen doesn’t know who Jerry Jacobs is. Jacobs was an undrafted free agent out of Arkansas State and is a starting cornerback for the Lions. On the other side is Cooper Kupp who has been one of the NFL’s best wide receivers this season. Kupp should be able to put Jacobs in a blender and have another good game on Sunday.
3. Jalen Ramsey vs. TJ Hockenson
It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Rams play Ramsey primarily in the star position on Sunday. With Ramsey in the slot, he’ll be able to focus on TJ Hockenson. Outside of Hockenson, the Lions don’t have a lot of options at receiver. Amon-Ra St. Brown and Khalif Raymond are the top two options at the moment. The Rams will look to eliminate Hockenson and Ramsey is the best way to do that.
4. Jared Goff vs. The Rams Secondary
Jared Goff has struggled this season and contrary to popular belief, the Rams secondary has played well this season. The Rams secondary is one of just two groups in the NFL to have more interceptions that touchdowns and have allowed a passer rating of just 81.6 which ranks third in the NFL. The Rams do a good job of disguising their looks which could confuse Goff and lead to turnovers.
5. Tyler Higbee vs. Alex Anzalone
Mark Andrews had five receptions for 109 yards three weeks ago against the Lions with the Ravens. Robert Tonyan of the Packers also had three receptions for 52 yards. This could be a big Tyler Higbee game. Higbee has five receptions in three games this year, but hasn’t had over 50 yards since Week 1. The Lions linebackers are struggling, especially in coverage. Higbee could be a Stafford-favorite on Sunday.
Five Bold Predictions for the Los Angeles Rams
1. Darrell Henderson Eclipses 100 Yards
Like DeSean Jackson early in the year, this is one that I’ll likely put here until I speak it into existence. While fans don’t love Henderson for some odd reason, he’s actually playing very well this season. His 74.4 yards per game ranks ninth in the NFL and his four touchdowns are tied for the third most. He’s due for a breakout game.
2. Matthew Stafford Throws for 400 Yards
Aside from the game against the Arizona Cardinals, we’ve seen Matthew Stafford show up for the big games. Against the Seahawks he threw for 365 yards in a road win on Thursday Night Football. In a win against the Buccaneers, he threw for 343 yards and four touchdowns. Making his debut for the Rams, he had 321 yards and three touchdowns against the Bears. While the Lions aren’t necessarily a big game, it’s a big game for him. I expect him to take advantage of the Lions secondary.
3. Aaron Donald Has Three Sacks
We haven’t gotten that classic Aaron Donald performance yet this season. Going up against a Lions offensive line and quarterback in Goff who have given up 15 sacks this season, the Rams defensive line should have success. Among that Rams defensive line is Donald who will be looking to make plays against his former quarterback.
4. The Rams Score 40
The Los Angeles Rams haven’t eclipsed the 40 mark yet this season on the scoreboard. After last week’s loss against the Bengals, the Lions looked defeated. At 0-6 and suffering the losses that they have, it’s going to feel like they’re never going to get a win. That’s tough mentally for any team. Meanwhile, the Rams were firing on all cylinders last week and will be ready to roll.
5. The Defense Scores a Touchdown
The Los Angeles Rams defense has yet to find the end zone this season, whether it be on a fumble recovery or an interception. With Leonard Floyd and co. coming off the edge and Aaron Donald coming inside, the Rams will have a chance for a fumble recovery. In the secondary, Robert Rochell, Jalen Ramsey, and Jordan Fuller could come up with an interception and take it to the house.
Five Storylines to Follow
1. The Returns
While the focus is on Jared Goff’s return to Los Angeles, Michael Brockers will be coming back to SoFi as well. Brockers was the first draft pick of the Jeff Fisher era and was apart of the some good defensive lines. Brockers might be one of the more underrated players of the last 10 years. Matthew Stafford will be going up against the Lions as well as A’Shawn Robinson. Brad Holmes will put his team against his former as well. There are a lot of past connections in this game.
2. Rams Going For 6-1
The Los Angeles Rams are looking to keep pace in the NFC and with Arizona undefeated, Dallas and Tampa Bay playing well, and Green Bay in the mix, the Rams need to keep pace. If the Rams go 6-1, it will mark the second-best seven game start under Sean McVay.
3. Goff 0-13 Without McVay
Jared Goff lost his first seven games with Jeff Fisher and John Fassell as his coach as a rookie. He went 42-20 in the regular season with McVay from 2017-2020. He is now 0-6 with Dan Cambell. If Goff goes 0-7 with the Lions, he’ll have 0-7 records sandwiched between his time with McVay and the Rams. I’m not sure a situation has ever happened like that in the NFL.
4. Blue on Bone Uniforms
The Rams will be going with their blue uniforms on their bone pants against the Lions. With this combination, the Rams are an undefeated 3-0. Sorry, Jared Goff. You stand no chance on Sunday!
5. Overcoming Slow Starts
Sean McVay seemed displeased after the Giants game, despite winning 38-11. McVay was most displeased from the slow starts and lack of early success on third downs. The Rams will likely be looking to come right out and get on the scoreboard. That will likely have been a point emphasis this week. We’ll see if the offense responds.
Downtown Rams Mailbag
Rams just restructured Havenstein’s contract to free up another 3.2 million. You think Les will bolster the defense with it ?
— Malo5523 (@malo5523) October 23, 2021
Early on Saturday, the Los Angeles Rams restructured Rob Havenstein’s contract. The timing of it comes within one week of the trade deadline on November 2. The Rams don’t have a lot of assets to be dealing with and a move seems unlikely. This seems more like a move that keeps options open if something does come up and also clears space for practice squad players and potential free agent signings midseason if they need it.
Who will be primarily on Hockenson in this Sunday game against lions
— Dareel Sutton (@Pacoblack75) October 23, 2021
As mentioned earlier, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rams go with Jalen Ramsey on Hockenson. Hockenson is head and shoulders the team’s best receiver and the Rams have been playing Ramsey in the slot this season. The focus will be to remove Hockenson from the passing game and have Goff rely on his sub-par receivers to win their matchups. The best way to do that is to put Ramsey on Hockenson. We may see Kenny Young and Taylor Rapp on him at times, but for the most part, it should be Ramsey.
The Los Angeles Rams are without a doubt the better team in this game. There’s a reason Vegas has them as 15.5 point favorites. However, the Lions are a feisty team and are playing for Dan Campbell despite being 0-6. The Rams should be able to move the ball at will on offense. The Lions could have early success, but they won’t be able to keep up.
The Lions have scored 20 points just once this season on offense. The majority of those points came in the final five minutes against the San Francisco 49ers in which they scored 33. Meanwhile, the Rams have only allowed 20 or more points once this season, excluding garbage time points against Tampa Bay.
This could be a close game in the first half. It’s possible that the Rams lead 13-10 or 17-14 at the half. However, I see the Rams pulling away in the second half and the score won’t be close.
Prediction: Rams 35, Lions 13