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GLENDALE, Ariz. — The phrase developed into a familiar refrain from Rams quarterback Jared Goff.
Each week of the last month seemed to begin and end with Goff repeating what sounded like a mantra:
“I need to be better.”
On Sunday, Goff finally delivered.
He passed for 424 yards and two touchdowns as the Rams defeated the Arizona Cardinals 34-7 before 60,944 at State Farm Stadium.
“I was definitely better,” Goff said during a postgame news conference. “We all were.”
The Rams amassed a season-high 549 yards and nearly posted a shutout en route to a victory that improved their record to 7-5, keeping alive playoff possibilities.
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“The reality is we needed a game like this — especially after the drubbing we took last week,” linebacker Clay Matthews said.
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Matthews was referring to the Baltimore Ravens’ 45-6 rout of the Rams at the Coliseum, a game that put McVay, Goff and the defense under fire and had the Rams teetering on the verge of elimination from postseason contention.
The Rams have four games remaining and probably need to win all of them to be in contention for a third consecutive playoff berth.
Next Sunday, they play the Seattle Seahawks at the Coliseum. Road games against the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys precede the finale at home against the Cardinals.
The NFC West-leading 49ers are 10-2 after losing to the Ravens on Sunday. The Seahawks (9-2) host the Minnesota Vikings (8-3) on Monday night — and the Rams could use some help from division rival Seattle as they attempt to catch Minnesota in the race for an NFC wild-card spot.
But a run to the playoffs almost certainly will not happen unless Goff continues to perform as he did Sunday.
Goff had not passed for a touchdown since an Oct. 27 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Wembley Stadium in London. The three-game drought was the longest of Goff’s NFL career.
But Goff found tight end Tyler Higbee for a touchdown in the second quarter and wide receiver Cooper Kupp in the third.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Maybe Jared Goff isn’t ready to surrender the NFL to the Lamar Jacksons and Kyler Murrays of the quarterbacking world just yet.
Goff and the Rams had been looking like last year’s news lately, going without a touchdown pass for the whole month of November, a month that ended with a resounding loss to Jackson’s Baltimore Ravens.
Sunday began with talk in the air about whether the Rams were in for more trouble at the hands and feet of Murray, the Arizona Cardinals quarterback with dual-threat talent like Jackson.
Then Goff, still relevant at the advanced age of 25, shot talk like that out of the Arizona sky with a hail of accurate passes that brought back memories of 2018.
With Goff’s 424 yards and two touchdown passes on 32 completions in 43 attempts leading their most dominant performance of 2019, the Rams romped over the Cardinals 34-7 at State Farm Stadium.
“Today we proved we are a strong team that’s going to respond (to setbacks),” Goff said.
He also showed that a single-threat quarterback can do as much damage as the dual threats when circumstances align.
For Goff, it was the first 400-yard game in a victory since the Monday-night 54-51 win over the Kansas City Chiefs at the peak of the Rams’ run to the NFC championship last year.
He worked hand in sticky glove with wide receiver Robert Woods and tight end Tyler Higbee. Woods finished with a career-high 172 yards on a career-high-matching 13 receptions. Higbee had his best game with 107 yards and a touchdown on seven catches, shouldering an extra load with Gerald Everett sidelined with a knee injury.
Running back Todd Gurley rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries as the air and ground portions of the offense looked the best they have on the same day.
Meanwhile, the defense, confused and overwhelmed by Jackson in the Ravens’ 45-6 win at the Coliseum last Monday night, took it out on the Cardinals’ own Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 draft pick.
Murray went down six times on sacks, Aaron Donald getting credit for 1 1/2, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Dante Fowler, Cory Littleton and Clay Matthews one each and Michael Brockers one-half.
Safety Taylor Rapp ran back his first NFL interception 31 yards for the touchdown that made it 34-0 in the middle of the fourth quarter.
“Kind of the total opposite (of the Ravens game),” Gurley said of the feeling.
Goff said it was the kind of game that could turn the tide for the Rams going into their final four games, starting next Sunday night against the Seattle Seahawks at the Coliseum, with no margin for error in the NFC playoff race.
“We needed one like this,” Goff said.
Before they get too excited, two caveats are in order:
The Rams (7-4) remain too far behind the Seahawks (9-2) and Minnesota Vikings (8-3) to climb into one of the conference’s two wildcard spots without help from other teams.
And Sunday’s dominant win came against the Cardinals (3-8-1) and a defense that ranks near the bottom of the league against the pass.
Then again, nobody had thrown for 424 yards against that Cardinals defense until Goff did it.
The Rams came out throwing and didn’t stop until they’d built their lead to 27-0 early in the second half on a 10-yard pass from Goff to wide receiver Cooper Kupp in the right edge of the end zone.
Goff’s earlier touchdown pass, a 2-yard flip to Higbee that made it 10-0 early in the second quarter, had signaled that something different was happening.
The touchdown ended Goff’s worst drought since his rookie season in 2016. He didn’t throw a scoring pass in November in losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ravens and a win over the Chicago Bears, while throwing five interceptions. He had gone 15 quarters, as well as six time zones, since his last one, Kupp’s 65-yard catch and run against the Bengals in London.
The final proof that Goff and the Rams had everything working Sunday came in the third quarter when the quarterback threw a block against Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson to spring Woods for a 48-yard gain on a play that started as a screen pass to the left before the wide receiver cut back across the field and up the right sideline.
“I typically try to discourage Jared from blocking,” Kupp deadpanned.
Kupp said Goff bounced back by staying “even-keel” emotionally.
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“It’s the nature of humans that when things don’t go your way, and you make some decisions that you don’t like, inevitably you get tight and you start to question things and (lose) confidence,” Kupp said. “For him to respond the way he did, to play free, just shows the confidence he has in the system (and) the guys around him.LDN-L-RAMS-1202
“It was incredible to see him play the way he did today.”
Said Rams coach Sean McVay: “I thought he played like he’s capable of.”
Goff had admitted during the week that “I need to be better,” and nobody argued.
He said Sunday that he had done it, at least for one game.
“I was definitely better. We all were. It was a full team effort,” Goff said. “Keeping your head down and putting in work over time will always pay off, and today we saw that.”