Despite the fact that the result sent them to the Super Bowl, the NFC Championship game was rough for the Los Angeles Rams. The adversity that the Rams’ offense and quarterback Jared Goff had to face in that game gave us a glimpse of who they really are. It also says a lot about head coach Sean McVay and should give Bengals fans good feelings about hiring Zac Taylor.
Home field advantage played a major role in this game. Domes are loud and when whistles brought in by fans aren’t confiscated, that makes things even more complicated. While home crowds are always encouraged to make noise when the opposing offense is on the field, this caused a unique problem for the Rams.
Crowd noise makes it hard for offenses to communicate and make changes at the line of scrimmage. The offensive linemen have trouble calling out their double teams and even hearing the snap count. As it’s been well documented, McVay talks to his quarterback until the radio cuts out with 15 seconds on the play clock. After the Rams first drive (a three-and-out that resulted in an interception) Goff immediately took his helmet off to the get the receiver looked at. It was so loud in that stadium, that Goff literally couldn’t hear the voice in his helmet.
Not only did Goff not have his McVay crutch to lean on, he didn’t have his most potent weapon offensively. Something was not right with Todd Gurley. They say the running back is healthy, but he looked off. He had four carries that resulted in just 10 yards, he was sloppy in pass protection and dropped the pass that resulted in Goff’s only interception. Goff was on his own.
The offense struggled throughout the first half, but they adapted. The Rams offense came alive at the end of the half. After getting the ball back inside of the two-minute warning. Goff completed four of his next six passes and made a clutch throw on third down in the midst of a seven-play drive that resulted in a touchdown after taking up just 84 seconds of the game clock. This meant that despite struggling offensively through the half, the Rams would go into halftime down by only a field goal.
The second half started with a three-and-out for the Rams. On the second drive the Rams were able to get the run game going with C.J. Anderson and Goff found his rhythm. This allowed them to match the Saints score, remaining down a field goal.
A pair of field goals in the fourth quarter, and one in overtime would be all the Rams needed to pull this one off.
Goff showed a lot of guts and that he could handle himself when things weren’t going exactly as planned. He did not have Gurley’s run game or McVay’s last second audibles to rely on. He faced a lot of pressure from the Saints’ pass rush as well.
Goff’s ability to be effective in this environment shows that he is getting good coaching on the sideline, which in turn, bodes well for Zac Taylor. McVay as the head coach can’t do much with his offensive unit when the defense is on the field. It was likely Taylor who was talking to Goff and getting his head screwed on right, so he could make the plays that he needed to make down the stretch.
Whether it’s Andy Dalton, Ryan Tannehill, or a rookie that Taylor is guiding in 2019, the Bengals’ starting quarterback figures to be in good hands.