Any lingering questions about Jared Goff's ability t
Posted: Thu Jul 18, 2019 12:08 pm
o be the next standout quarterback in a horned helmet are withering while he destroys defenses this season.The Vikings were his latest victims Thursday night when Goff threw for 465 yards and five touchdowns of increasing brilliance. Yet Minnesota still had a chance until the Los Angeles Rams' defense kept them unbeaten.Goff set career highs while winning a scintillating duel with Minnesota's Kirk Cousins and leading the Rams to a 38-31 victory.Goff and Cousins got together at midfield afterward Tyler Higbee Jersey , exchanging compliments about their eye-catching performances and their bright futures ahead."We're really clicking right now," Goff said. "I feel good about where we're at, and we have a lot of season ahead of us."Goff was perfect, at least according to his passer rating of 158.3 in his third consecutive 300-yard game. He went 26 of 33 in the Rams' most prolific passing performance since 1982.Yet the raw numbers don't describe the series of high-difficulty, high-reward throws that he completed in a brilliant four-touchdown first half.He threw a 70-yard beauty of a TD pass to Cooper Kupp, who then caught a perfectly thrown 19-yard scoring pass later in the second quarter on his way to a monster 162-yard receiving game. Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods also hauled in scoring throws designed by Sean McVay and executed flawlessly by his quarterback.The Rams (4-0) are off to their best start since 2001, when Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and their fleet-footed receivers made the franchise's last appearance in the Super Bowl."It can't get much better than how we're playing right now," Gurley said. "I mean, it can. But it can't."For all of the Rams' offensive brilliance, Cousins and the Vikings (1-2-1) were within a touchdown with the ball at midfield and 2 minutes to play. Cousins passed for 422 yards and three touchdowns, but Minnesota lost when Rams rookie defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers strip-sacked Cousins near midfield with 1:18 to play."If you don't bounce back, if you don't have an answer Jared Goff Jersey , you won't be in the league very long," said Cousins, who went 36 for 50. "This league will chew you up and spit you out if you don't show up every week. We felt like there was a huge sense of urgency, and we played that way."Cousins also got a moment to chat with McVay, his former offensive coordinator in Washington. Cousins credits McVay for a major role in his development into an $84 million quarterback, and Goff has spent untold hours watching film of Cousins' progress with McVay."It's fun for us, personally," Goff said of his duel with Cousins, who hit Aldrick Robinson for two scores."I don't know if it's fun for the whole team, but it's cool," Goff said. "Got a lot of respect for him and the way he plays, and I just think he's such a great quarterback. To get a chance to go against him like that and kind of duke it out, I told him after the game how much I appreciated the battle with him."A healthy throng of purple-clad fans turned out for the Vikings' first game in Los Angeles since 1993 — but one week after giving up 27 points in the first half and getting blown out as 16 1/2-point favorites in Buffalo, the Vikings gave up 28 before halftime against LA."We did not play well defensively Samson Ebukam Jersey ," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "Offensively we moved the ball well, but we had too many missed tackles, and too many people were left wide open. I've not ever had a team that's been this poor in pass coverage. We are going to have to look at everything."The Vikings trimmed LA's lead to 31-28 late in the third quarter with Adam Thielen's 45-yard TD catch and a 2-point conversion.Goff promptly surpassed his previous career highs for yards passing during a swift drive ending in Robert Woods' 31-yard TD catch, and the Rams' defense hung on while the offense went scoreless in the fourth quarter, partly thanks to a missed 28-yard field goal by Sam Ficken.Goff found Kupp with two beautiful TD throws in the first half, the first hitting Kupp in stride on that 70-yard sprint , and the second eluding two Vikings and dropping into Kupp's hands deep in the end zone."Jared put it in about a 6-inch box that only he could fit it into," McVay said.Less than 2 1/2 minutes later, Goff hit Cooks down the middle for a 47-yard score. Goff's four TD passes were the most in a first half by a Rams quarterback since Warner did it in 1999. Jared Goff realizes the Los Angeles Rams won't surprise anybody this fall.Not with their stunning one-season transformation still fresh in the NFL's collective mind, and certainly not after adding several stars to their roster in the offseason.The Rams are headed into the new season as a legitimate Super Bowl contender, with all of the accompanying baggage and scrutiny. For a 23-year-old leader of a franchise that has very little recent experience with positive expectations, Goff appears to be handling it well."There's not one change to the approach at all," the third-year quarterback said. "I think you see every year, there are teams that get that type of label and often fall short Josh Reynolds Jersey , and you wonder why. I think that's something we can't really focus on. Take every day like we have the past year."That past year was nothing short of outstanding. Coach Sean McVay's debut team ended the Rams' streaks of 13 consecutive non-winning seasons and 12 straight non-playoff seasons with an 11-5 run to the team's first NFC West title since 2003.The league is ready to be challenged by McVay's potent offensive schemes, Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley's relentless running and Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald's disruptive play in the middle of the defense.The Rams must figure out how to adjust to their opponents' anticipation with new twists and a renewed focus.McVay seems confident his veteran players will be ready for the pitfalls of being a favorite this fall."Going into Year Two, there's a comfort level of at least feeling like you know your players," McVay said. "We feel really good about the core group of leaders, and about some of the younger players we're going to expect to grow into leadership roles. It's a great group of guys."The Rams kept intact much of last season's roster, but their offseason additions are an eye-catching bunch: defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. All four have established themselves as elite NFL contributors, and their addition to an 11-win team shows why the Rams are getting Super Bowl talk.But Talib realizes the Rams have to prove they know how to use all of that talent over the next five months before they can think about February."We aren't talking about what's going to happen down the road," Talib said. "We take care of the little things, and then some time later we can talk about the playoffs."Here are some other things to know about the Rams:BIG NUMBERSThe Rams probably won't double the number of points they scored last season, which is a feat they actually accomplished in 2017. But McVay's offense kept its entire line intact and added the speedy Cooks to replace Sammy Watkins. Almost everybody else returns, including Gurley, the scheme's centerpiece. How McVay plans to use all this talent is partly a secret, since the coach decided to keep his entire starting offense out of the Rams' four preseason games. The league must wait to see what innovations McVay has produced until the season opener in Oakland.CORNER POCKETSPeters and Talib have similar reputations as risk-taking John Johnson Jersey , playmaking cornerbacks capable of shutting down a top receiver or changing a game with a big interception. The Rams haven't had that swagger at the position for a long time, and their presence will allow coordinator Wade Phillips to be more aggressive against passers. Peters and Talib have also brought a confident attitude to a Los Angeles defense that relied on Donald's brute brilliance inside to set up much of its success.SUH AND DONALDSuh looks very comfortable already in the Rams' scheme, where he will be asked to play primarily at nose tackle for the first time in his career. Yet he still must learn how to play alongside Donald, whose second consecutive contract holdout has stretched to the brink of the regular season again. The Rams have a potentially fearsome combination in these two dominant defensive linemen, but Donald's absence creates a large unknown.IN THE MIDDLEThe front and back of the Rams' defense appears solid, but the linebackers are under scrutiny. The Rams couldn't fit their new defensive stars under the cap without trading Alec Ogletree, their leading tackler last season. Untested Cory Littleton is starting on the inside alongside Mark Barron, who has barely touched the field during camp and the preseason. Matt Longacre and Samson Ebukam also are expected to start in challenging roles. Phillips' biggest task is making sure his linebackers don't let down the rest of his roster.THEY'RE SPECIALThe Rams had four Pro Bowlers on special teams last year, and all four are returning: kick returner Pharoh Cooper, kicker Greg Zuerlein, punter Johnny Hekker and long snapper Jake McQuaide.