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Super Bowl 53: Rams quarterback Jared Goff’s 2018 is essentially a tale of two seasons

Los Angeles’ passer has been rather mediocre since the bye week.

NFL: NFC Championship Game-Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

One week after squaring off against the Kansas City ChiefsPatrick Mahomes, the New England Patriots defense will face another one of the NFL’s impressive young quarterbacks: Los Angeles Rams passer Jared Goff, who is entering the Super Bowl coming off the best season of his career. The 24-year old has completed 64.2% of his pass attempts this year (404 of 629) for 5,171 yards, 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

As impressive as Goff’s numbers are, they do not tell the full story of his 2018 campaign — one that can essentially be divided into two separate seasons, with the Rams’ week 12 bye as the dividing point. Over his team’s first 11 games, the quarterback played lights-out and was a serious contender for the NFL’s MVP award (one that will now likely go to the aforementioned Patrick Mahomes):

Jared Goff weeks 1–11

Weeks 1-11 Attempts Completions Completion % Yards Yards/Attempt Touchdowns Interceptions Rating Sacks
Weeks 1-11 Attempts Completions Completion % Yards Yards/Attempt Touchdowns Interceptions Rating Sacks
Totals 381 258 67.72 3,547 9.3 26 6 113.5 24
Averages 34.6 23.5 67.72 322.5 9.3 2.4 0.5 113.5 2.2

As can be seen, Goff was not only an accurate passer — completing 67.7% of his attempts — but he also took care of the football and was efficient targeting all areas of the field. The Rams’ coaching staff gave him plenty of opportunities to prove himself and Goff generally fared well. The only outlier was a week six game in which the former first overall draft pick completed just half of his passes as the Denver Broncos were able to put consistent pressure on him. Other than that game, Goff was outstanding.

He failed to keep up his pace and after Los Angeles’ bye week, however, and his numbers dropped significantly after his team’s bye week:

Jared Goff weeks 12-20

Week 12-20 Attempts Completions Completion % Yards Yards/Attempt Touchdowns Interceptions Rating Sacks
Week 12-20 Attempts Completions Completion % Yards Yards/Attempt Touchdowns Interceptions Rating Sacks
Totals 248 146 58.87 1,624 6.5 7 7 76.1 10
Averages 35.4 20.9 58.87 232.0 6.5 1.0 1.0 76.1 1.4

While Goff attempted more passes per game and was sacked less, his overall performance took a noticeable step back when compared to his first half of the season: he has a lower completion percentage, a higher touchdown-to-interception ratio and throws for less yards on a total and per-attempt basis. Something has to give but what is it? Let’s add a little context to find out why the quarterback’s second half of the year has looked comparatively bad.

First, we need to start at the competition: Goff’s worst performances came against two of the NFL’s better defenses. He completed not even half of his passing attempts against the Chicago Bears in week 14 while also throwing four interceptions against no touchdowns. One week later, he was back above the 50% completion mark but again had a no-touchdown game compared to one interception thrown.

Goff’s numbers also did not stand out when going against other playoff teams. In the divisional round against the Dallas Cowboys, he went 15 of 28 for 186 yards. One week later versus the New Orleans Saints, he completed 25 of 40 pass attempts for 297 yards with one touchdown and in interception. Solid numbers, especially considering the environment but still nothing that can be qualified as “eye-popping.”

What also might have hurt Goff was the loss of wide receiver Cooper Kupp, a player that averaged 5.0 catches per game before tearing his ACL late during the Rams’ week 10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Kupp, who averaged 14.2 yards per catch and scored six touchdowns, was a core offensive playmaker for L.A. and one of Goff’s most trusted targets.

That all being said, statistics tell only one part of the story. While yes, they show that Goff has been comparatively pedestrian against playoff-bound teams and over the second half of the season in general , they do not properly reflect what he still brings to the table. Just look at last week’s victory over the aforementioned Saints: Goff was mediocre from a stats-based perspective but still impressive when the pressure to perform was on him as he led his team back from an early 13-point deficit to ultimately win in overtime.

Goff will therefore still present a challenge for a Patriots defense that initially performed well against Patrick Mahomes but still had to give up plenty of big plays. If the unit does not bring its A-game yet again, the same might happen against the Rams’ quarterback and the creative offensive mind — Sean McVay — supporting him from the sidelines.