Rams, Goff try to keep ball rolling against Texans
Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay likely considers it a weekly exercise by this juncture of the season, the incessant poking and prodding for answers to the question of how a 31-year-old, first-time coach earned enough cachet to author such a remarkable turnaround.
But one secret behind Los Angeles' high-octane offense -- the Rams (6-2) lead the NFL in scoring at 32.9 points per game after ranking dead last in 2016 at 14 points per game -- hinges as much on the faith that McVay invested in second-year quarterback Jared Goff and the trust he cultivated in the locker room. If McVay is the architect, Goff is clinching the Rams' floor plans.
"I had not met Jared before, but you just look at some of the physical traits and characteristics that you're looking for from the position and you see that show up on his Cal tape and even in the seven games when things didn't go the way that we wanted, you could still see the traits and the characteristics that you're looking for," said McVay, whose Rams host the Houston Texans on Sunday at the Coliseum.
"That's the toughness to stand in there, that's the ability to be able to make all the throws, change your arm angle, throw from different platforms, not watch the rush. I think he demonstrated those things in the seven games that he did play.
"Now what I didn't know is how he would process things, how he had processed the way that his first season had gone. I got a chance to spend a little bit of time with him when I was actually interviewing for the job and you come away confident just with his demeanor, his disposition, the fact that he doesn't make any excuses for what happened that rookie year, takes full accountability. I think those are good traits that you're looking for from your leader.
"Most importantly, I think just being with him now through eight games, the mental toughness that he displays, both through the good and the bad, is a really valuable trait that I think he possesses and that serves you well, especially coming from that quarterback position."
During a miserable rookie season that included Goff throwing more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (five) while completing just 54.6 percent of his attempts and posting a 63.6 passer rating in seven games, the Rams fired longtime coach Jeff Fisher and subsequently replaced him with McVay.
Significantly, the team provided Goff additional offensive weapons, adding receivers Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins from Buffalo plus rookie Cooper Kupp to an arsenal that also featured underutilized running back Todd Gurley.
That mix has proved to be combustible for opposing defenses. The Rams' 263 points are the second-most for a coach in his first eight games in the Super Bowl era.
Their run-pass balance has enabled Goff to not only lead the NFL in yards per pass attempt (8.3) and per completion (13.8) but features Gurley to the point that he is fourth in rushing attempts (161).
Goff, who is tied for 10th with a 1.6 interception percentage, deserves the raves. But credit McVay for entrusting him with the keys to an offense versatile enough to showcase his skills.
"Sean's doing a good job with him," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said of Goff. "He can make all the throws, which you knew that coming out of college. That's why he was drafted No. 1 (overall). But he's in a good rhythm. He's got a good mix of three-step and intermediate routes, down the field routes, short routes.
"The running game, they're averaging 132 yards per game rushing the ball with Gurley. They've got a great offense so it's a big challenge for us."
The Texans (3-5) were sitting as pretty as the Rams at the quarterback position before losing rookie sensation Deshaun Watson to a season-ending knee injury late last week. Houston turned to backup Tom Savage, its Week 1 starter, and he stumbled for three-plus quarters before mounting a late but fruitless rally in a 20-14 loss to the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday.
In the week since losing Watson, the Texans added Matt McGloin and T.J. Yates, who spent three-plus seasons in Houston, and flirted with the idea of signing pariah Colin Kaepernick.
The Texans jettisoned McGloin and bypassed Kaepernick this week in favor of signing veteran Josh Johnson off the street, yet their immediate future rests with Savage and his ability to improve.
"I'm really confident in myself," Savage said. "I really do believe that I'm a starting quarterback in this league and I do believe that I can throw the ball really well and accurate, and that's never been an issue for me. I know that I just got to go out there and do it."
Updated November 8, 2017