I recently tried to make sense of last week’s confusing loss to the Maimi Dolphins.
So I caved and decided to get NFL Game Pass and breakdown the game through the service’s extensive access to game film.
After my extensive research obsessing over every play in that game, I learned a few things. First, the Rams linemen on both sides of the ball got outplayed. After dissecting the defense, the line was not able to get pressure on the Dolphins rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Aaron Donald was our most productive defensive player with four tackles, two for a loss, a sack, and a QB hit.
I honestly don’t believe four touchdowns game is a behemoth outing considering one was a fumble recovery, and the other was a punt return. So I figured Rams’ offense underperformed; in fact, the opposite happened. They were on par with 41% third-down conversion percentage (the season average in 44%), Jared Goff out threw Tagovailoa 340 yards to 90 yards, and outran the Dolphins 131 yards to 55 yards. The Miami Dolphin’s game was our second-best offensive outing behind the Buffalo Bills game and second-best defensive effort behind the Washington game.
The obvious outlier on the stat sheet was Jared Goff’s four turnovers — two interceptions and two fumbles. I watched those four plays and noticed a pattern. I continued to dig deeper and look at other interceptions and fumbles this season, and they continued the pattern. Then I added in sacks, and the pattern was confirmed and continued to last season and saw the same pattern. Goff needs to work on his pocket awareness if he wants to deliver Los Angeles its first Super Bowl since 1999 and get inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Let’s look at his first interception in the Dolphins game. Goff lines up with an empty backfield, no tight end on the line, in the shotgun, and the Dolphins show six on the line. First off, I don’t know why the line decided to shift right opposite of Goff’s blindside. I think he should have seen Emmanuel Ogbah blitzing off the edge or at least known there was a good possibility he comes in unblocked with the line shifting right. Granted, I’m watching in slow motion, but that’s not a hard read to make with six on the line.
There are two options hope Rob Heavenstein picks up the block to run right because Darrell Henderson and Robert Woods did a great job clearing out both defenders on go routes or chuck it immediately to Henderson, hoping the ball sails out of bounds. The latter would be the best option because it’s 2nd & 2; there was no need to try and squeeze it to Cooper Kupp. It was a poor decision under pressure and terrible awareness of a potential no pocket situation.
Let’s go two drives later to the fumble; the same formation on both except the Rams shift to Goff’s backside, and Ogbah comes in unblocked again on the opposite side. It comes to the second skill Goff and Henderson need to work on fake handoffs. Sean McVay loves the jet sweep, it’s a great play, but Goff needs to sell it more. Henderson flies in and does nothing. He should have picked up Ogbah, but again seem to not account for the possibility of Ogbah coming in unblocked.
The play could have been a touchdown if Goff had the pocket awareness to quickly dump it to Henderson. The Dolphins were in coverage trying to prevent a shot to the end zone and left Henderson 1 on 1 with a cornerback in the end zone. Meanwhile, Goff is looking at the tight end in a 1-on-1 matchup or waiting for Kupp to turn his head back to him. Kupp would have been a great option because the other two receivers on the right caused enough confusion with the defensive back coming across with Henderson for a wide-open touchdown too.
Here is why both the skills would have come in handy. If Goff and Henderson sell the handoff better than Ogbah has to take Henderson instead of the free strip-sack, it eventually lets the play develop log enough for Goff to get it to Kupp for a walk-in-touchdown. If Goff recognizes and considers the possibility of an unblocked defensive end right in his face, then maybe a quick dump to Henderson is in order.
The problem is that Goff isn’t thinking on his feet or seeing the whole picture. Playing quarterback is like playing chess — you need to think of every possible move your opponent can make. And in near-identical coverage, Goff turns the ball over twice, leading to Dolphins touchdowns. It’s a skill I hope Goff worked on during the bye week and something I hope he continues to work on in the offseason. I believe Goff is a hall of farmer one day. He’s shown his ability to throw, run, and make plays, but he will never be enshrined in Canton until he can improve those weak points.
Also, to show I’m not a Goff hater, the third interception is not Goff’s fault. Kupp comes in motion to attach to the line on the Dolphin’s loaded side. It should have been Gerald Everett or Higbee in that spot. Two defensive players come in unblocked; this time, Cam Akers is there to block one, but he can’t get both. Ultimately Akers choose the guy Everett or Higbee would have blocked if they were in Kupp’s spot. Instead, Everett is lined up outside 1-on-1 with a cornerback where Kupp should have been. If the Rams switch Everett and Kupp every one is blocked.
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