They’re still distinguishable, mostly because of height.
Jared Goff and Sean McVay. The quarterback and coach, also known as the arm and the brains, which seem to be joined together in spirit. It’s the most important relationship on any team, and this one is tight. Ten months in, Goff already even has started to adopt some of McVay’s verbal crutches in interviews.
So there they stood at Goff’s locker Sunday evening, long after the Rams overcame a dreadful start and beat Houston 33-7 at the Coliseum. Goff gestured and mimicked a route, and McVay nodded. McVay gestured and Goff nodded. They both grinned, and there’s a lot of that going on these days.
The Rams are 7-2, atop the NFC West and remain the highest-scoring team in the NFL. It’s not always perfect, and it times Sunday it looked downright ugly, but the Rams still managed a blowout victory, and that’s a testament to the trust between McVay and Goff, and the trust the rest of the Rams have in both.
“We were able to put the game in his hands,” McVay said of Goff, “and he has shown why.”
The Rams had a total of 6 yards in the first quarter. Six. They held a narrow lead for most of the first half, mostly because Houston was forced to play backup quarterback Tom Savage, and every Texans pass seemed perilous. Up 9-7 at halftime, the Rams looked like they’d have to grind out an ugly win.
Then, boom, the third quarter. Goff threw for 204 yards and three touchdowns. A dominant Rams defense, which forced a total of four turnovers, helped, but Goff awakened after a slow start and finished 25 of 37 for a career-high 355 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
So, what went wrong early? McVay blamed himself, and the play-calling. Goff blamed himself, and said he couldn’t get in a rhythm. It’s one of the few things upon which they don’t agree these days.
“He’s got a really good demeanor,” Goff said of McVay. “He tells us there are going to be times when it’s not going our way, and of course he’s not happy about the mistakes, but he understands that they happen sometimes. That was his message in the locker room, that we were fine. ‘It was just a little adversity and let’s see if we can figure it out in the second half.’ And we did.”
From the beginning, their fates have been tied together: Goff, the hotshot college quarterback whom the Rams traded up to draft in 2016, and McVay, the hotshot young coach the Rams hired a year later.
If Goff fails, McVay fails and vice versa. They’re both young enough to get second (or third) chances in the NFL, but why risk it? So, this season, one that started with such low expectations, is into its second half, with McVay as the Coach of the Year favorite and Goff in the conversation for several NFL awards.
According to the NFL, Goff has become the first quarterback in Rams history to top 300 passing yards and throw at least three touchdowns and zero interceptions in consecutive games. Goff has nine touchdowns and one interception in his past four games, all of which the Rams won.
“Any time you come into a next level of any sport,” Goff said, “it does take some games to build some experience. I’m continuing to do that and continuing to see some things, and see more, and be able to understand more and be an extension of the coaching staff.”
Goff was the first to acknowledge that the Rams’ defense provided a major boost Sunday.
Since halftime of the Oct. 1 game at Dallas, the Rams have allowed a total of 63 points in 22 quarters, and they have forced seven turnovers in the last two games. Not surprisingly, Aaron Donald set the tone Sunday with a strip-sack of Houston quarterback Tom Savage on the game’s first series.
It was a miserable afternoon for Savage, who completed 18 of 37 attempts for 221 yards and threw two interceptions, and for a Houston offense that gained only 89 rushing yards.
The Rams couldn’t do much on the ground either, as Todd Gurley gained only 68 yards on 11 attempts (although Gurley did add 68 yards on six catches). For a while, it looked as though the Rams’ offense would get exposed and stopped, but things turned around after halftime and the Rams exhaled.
“We were just trying to get (punter) Johnny (Hekker) back in the Pro Bowl,” Gurley said with a grin.