Rams welcome back Goff to Sofi Stadium
October 21, 2021
This weekend at SoFi Stadium will be notable because of the circumstances involving the starting quarterbacks. Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff will be making his first appearance against his former team, the Los Angeles Rams, and Matthew Stafford will be playing against his former team, the Lions. The teams traded quarterbacks at the beginning of the year. After a six-game sample size, Stafford's value to the Rams is undeniable. As for the Detroit Lions, Goff is already on the hot seat.
"It was more about the opportunity to acquire Matthew and what we felt like that meant for our football team," responded Rams head coach Sean McVay when asked about the trade. "And that was why that decision was made. And that's why things came together as quickly as they did, because we felt like it was a rare opportunity to acquire a player of Matthew's caliber, that those opportunities just don't come up often."
At 5-1, the Rams are tied for the second-best record in the NFL with five other teams after having rolled over the New York Giants last Sunday, 38-11. Only the undefeated Arizona Cardinals at 6-0 are better, the NFC West opponent that stung the Rams at SoFi just two weeks ago. Ironically, that loss seems to have given Los Angeles some breathing room with less pressure to deal with early in the season. On the other hand, the Lions are the only winless team in the NFL with an 0-6 record.
Goff and the Lions are coming off their worse performance of the season, a 34-11 beating at home to the Cincinnati Bengals. Once again, the Lions offense put up most of its points and yards late in the game when the outcome was already decided. Yet, Goff threw for only 202 yards on 42 attempts, throwing one interception and no touchdowns. Statistically, he is ranked 23rd among starting quarterbacks but has reduced his turnover ratio compared to previous seasons.
"We've got to find a way to win a game," said Goff following the loss to the Bengals. "I got to be better. We all have to be better. I think it starts tomorrow. It starts in practice. We can say all we want that we want to start fast, that we want to do things on game day, but until we change habits and do things the right way consistently, really can't expect anything else."
Lions head coach Dan Campbell was direct about his expectations. "I feel like (Goff) needs to step up more than he has. And I think he needs to help us just like everybody else. I think he's going to need to put a little bit of weight on his shoulders here and it's time to step up, make some throws and do some things."
The Lions present the Rams with a "trap" game for the second consecutive week. Against the Giants that hidden plot never materialized. And with all the attention the game is receiving, that is likely not to happen this Sunday. The odds of the Lions beating the Rams are set at 14%, with the reality that it's probably only half of that.
The Rams offense sputtered initially at New York and even trailed 3-0 after one quarter. They finally woke up as Stafford drove them 66 yards in six plays, capping it off with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods and a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter. Three more touchdowns followed before the end of the first half with the Rams defense providing the opportunities.
On Defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo strip-sacked Giants quarterback Daniel Jones while linebacker Leonard Floyd recovered the fumble at the New York 12-yard line. Four plays later wide receiver Cooper Kupp caught a one-yard pass and slipped inside the right endzone pylon for the touchdown. Two possessions later safety Taylor Rapp intercepted a Jones' pass and returned it to the Giants 14-yard line. Running back Darrell Henderson scored on a two-yard punch four plays later.
The Rams made it 28-3 just before halftime on a 73-yard drive with Henderson scoring his second touchdown on a 25-yard pass. "I'm proud of the way we just stuck to it and when we had our opportunities, our defense did a great job in the second quarter giving us some short fields, we were able to score points and take a big lead," said Stafford.
"Complimentary football is something that we want to play" said Stafford. "We want to play great offense. We want to control the ball. We want to be explosive. We want to score touchdowns. We want our defense to come out, shut them down, turn the ball over, do all those things."
Matt Gay converted a 32-yard field goal for the game's only score in the third quarter. Kupp caught a 13-yard reception for his second touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter to round out the Rams scoring. Kupp finished with a game-high nine receptions for 130 yards. He made NFL history and joined Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison as the only player with at least 45 catches, 650 receiving yards and seven touchdown receptions in their team's first six games of the season.
Stafford set an NFL record with 16 touchdown passes in his first six games with a new team. The previous record was 15, held by four quarterbacks: Justin Herbert, Chargers, 2020; Deshaun Watson, Texans, 2017; Kurt Warner, Rams, 1998-99; and Mark Rypien, Washington Football Team in 1988. This Sunday, Stafford also has a chance to become the eighth player in NFL history to throw for 300 touchdowns in 175 or fewer games. He currently has 298 career touchdown passes in 171 games.
But most of the lights will be shining on Goff's return this weekend, who has only thrown seven touchdown passes so far this season. His main target has been tight end T.J. Hockenson, who has caught 32 passes on 44 targets for 311 total yards and two touchdowns. Detroit wide receivers Kalif Raymond and Quintez Cephus have also caught two touchdowns each. Running back D'Andre Swift caught the only other touchdown pass. Swift and Jamaal Williams have been sharing the running back duties with 214 and 255 yards gained respectively.
"I think there's going to be a lot made of it because he's (Goff) the quarterback and it's such a significant position," said McVay. "And all the good things that he had done for us and for this team and the success that he had. But it's about the Lions versus the Rams. And we're going to try to put together a great game plan to be successful in all three phases, try to go get our sixth win."
Stafford: "Just like every other game. It's an NFL opponent. Coming into our building, do I have a ton of history with them, absolutely. In pregame am I going to be saying 'hey' to some old teammates, friends and the Ford family hopefully if they make the trip. Absolutely. I've got nothing but great relations with people there. So, I have a lot of respect for the organization, the team and the ownership."