ATLANTA -- Calm. Cool. Collected.
Throughout the Los Angeles Rams’ season, that is how coach Sean McVay and teammates routinely described quarterback Jared Goff.
Goff’s ability to remain even keeled helped the Rams to a 13-3 regular season, a second consecutive division title and a come-from-behind victory over the New Orleans Saints to clinch the NFC Championship.
Last Sunday in Super Bowl LIII, it appeared Goff’s poise would play an integral role as the Rams needed to overcome a disastrous offensive effort in the first half to rally against the New England Patriots.
But Goff appeared shaken early in the third quarter, and when the television broadcast found him for an isolated shot late in the fourth after he threw an interception in Patriots’ territory, he appeared visibly upset.
“It is the toughest loss I have ever had,” said Goff, who completed 19 of 38 passes for 229 yards and took four sacks in the 13-3 defeat. “It kills. It is terrible. There are some good things you can take from it, but right now, there is nothing. I wish I would have played better. I wish we would have played better on offense and offensively as a whole. I wish I could have had a million plays back, but there is nothing you can do about it. You just have to learn and move forward.”
The Rams are expected to pick up the fifth-year option on Goff’s rookie contract this spring, and the two sides also can begin to negotiate a long-term extension. Goff and McVay are expected to be a coach and quarterback duo into the foreseeable future.
But the question becomes, how will the 24-year-old recover from a disappointing loss, and performance, in the Super Bowl?
“Without Goff, none of this would have been possible,” running back Todd Gurley II said. “Make sure his head is high. Try to keep him in good spirits as possible. It's disappointing, but you gotta look at the good and the bad and move on.”
Goff completed 64.9 percent (364 of 561) of his passes for 4,688 yards and 32 touchdowns, with 12 interceptions, in the regular season. In three playoff games, including the Super Bowl, his completion percentage dipped to 55.7 percent (59 of 106). He passed for 712 yards and a touchdown, with an interception.
Goff is no stranger at bouncing back. He’s done it before, dating to his college career at California. The Golden Bears went 1-11 Goff’s freshman season before he led them to 8-5 record as a junior.
More recently, Goff overcame a demoralizing rookie season after he was selected as the top overall pick in the 2016 draft. Under former coach Jeff Fisher, Goff made seven winless starts as a rookie and was labeled a bust as Fisher was fired in a season that resulted in a 4-12 finish.
But in McVay’s first season, Goff demonstrated notable improvement as he was selected to the Pro Bowl and helped the team reach an 11-win season, including its first playoff berth in 13 seasons.
This season, Goff posted a perfect-passer rating in a Week 4 victory over the Minnesota Vikings and was named to a second consecutive Pro Bowl. He became the first quarterback to be selected with the top overall pick to appear in Super Bowl within three seasons, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
After the loss to the Patriots, McVay shouldered the blame for a lack of offense and Goff’s performance.
“The biggest thing is that the play selection didn’t really give him much of a chance,” McVay said. “It starts with me, and that is where you have to look back and see what are the things that we can do to be better for our players and then what can the players do better to execute.”
The Rams’ averaged 32.9 points per game this season, but their three points produced in the Super Bowl tie the record for the fewest points ever in a Super Bowl, matching the 1971 Miami Dolphins who lost 24-3 to the Cowboys in Super Bowl VI, per ESPN Stats & Information.
Also according to ESPN Stats & Info, 27 of the Rams’ 60 plays (45 percent) went for zero or negative yards, and Goff finished 3-of-10 on third down, his worst career completion percentage in such situation.
“You are numb in a way where like you're trying to process it all, but we know what happened. We got outplayed. We got completely outplayed,” Goff said. “For an offense like we know we're capable of being, for them to do what they did to us is so impressive. You tip your cap to them, but at the same time, we left so much out there on the field. That's so hard to take right now. I'm mad at myself. I wish I would have done things differently. I wish I could have went back and made extra plays.”