THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Jared Goff hadn’t even been in the NFL for a full year when he stood at a podium in the Coliseum and took responsibility for the latest in the Rams’ long line of miserable seasons.
”I promise you guys it will get fixed,” the 22-year-old quarterback said after Los Angeles blew a late lead against the woeful 49ers and dropped to 4-11 on Christmas Eve 2016 . ”(I’ll do) everything in my heart and soul to get it all fixed.”
Just look at him now. One year later, Goff has already made good on his word in spectacular fashion – albeit with the help of a new coaching staff, a new left tackle and a bunch of new receivers.
The Rams (11-5) are a team transformed as they head into the first playoff game in 13 years on Saturday night against Atlanta (10-6). Goff is leading the way after putting up 3,804 yards and 28 TD passes, but he claims to be only one part of a remarkable machine built by first-year coach Sean McVay.
With the defending NFC champions visiting the Coliseum on a short week of preparation, Goff and the Rams aren’t wasting time deciding who’s responsible for one of the most remarkable single-season resurgences in recent NFL history.
”We want to go out there and operate the same way we would weekly,” Goff said Tuesday. ”It makes no difference that we’re in the playoffs now. It is a little bit more meaning to it, but we want to treat it the same.”
The Rams already have secured their first winning season and division title since 2003. They’ve matched the franchise’s best record in LA since 1978 and improved by a whopping seven wins on last year’s total. They did it all even while resting their starters and essentially conceding a loss in last weekend’s regular season finale against San Francisco.
This franchise hasn’t hosted a playoff game in the Los Angeles area since Jan. 4, 1986 – nearly nine years before Goff was born, and 20 days before the 31-year-old McVay was born.
”Until you take a step back (to see) what this team has done such a nice job with, you can’t fully appreciate the journey,” McVay said. ”You try to, every now and then, enjoy it and not get so caught up in the moment that you can’t enjoy the experiences as you’re going on that journey.”
Goff is getting his first postseason experience this weekend when he faces Matt Ryan, the former MVP making his sixth postseason appearance in 10 years. After everything Goff has accomplished in the year since he vowed to fix the Rams, this latest challenge doesn’t appear to intimidate him.
”I think more than anything, it’s a big game,” Goff said. ”What’s what it boils down to, and I think we do have experience in that stuff. We played a big game in Seattle a couple of 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. … Every play has a little bit more meaning to it.”
Just six Rams have playoff experience, including left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who went six times with the Cincinnati Bengals. When asked about the importance of playoff experience, Whitworth only laughed, saying he is ”0-fer” – or 0-6 in postseason games.
”Even when I was in Cincinnati, the big games throughout the season were what prepared us to go to the playoffs,” Whitworth said. ”As crazy an amount as this team has traveled, and the schedule we’ve gone through, I don’t see a scenario where I would in any way give us (excuses). Everywhere we have to go, we’ve gone and played well. We just need to go out and execute and play well.”
NOTES: Pro Bowl kick returner Pharoh Cooper missed practice after injuring his shoulder during last weekend’s loss to San Francisco. McVay isn’t overly worried: ”I think it’s going to take a lot to keep him out of this game. I anticipate him being able to go, unless there are some setbacks throughout the course of the week. … Backup DB Blake Countess also missed practice with a concussion, while LB Mark Barron was limited by his Achilles’ tendon injury.
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