ATLANTA — You always remember your first time.
Jared Goff, just 24 years old and three years into his NFL career, is still playing at a time when 30 other starting quarterbacks in the league are sitting home, done for the season, the footballs and pads put away. Goff helped the Rams get to Super Bowl 53, but this is his first time gearing up for the big game, and novices on this grand stage often do not fare well.
Goff and the Rams arrived on Sunday and Monday night were set to meet the assembled national and international media, the first in what might seem like an endless and tedious lead-up to the game against the Patriots, who have been there, done that so many times before. How Goff and the Rams handle all the new experiences and deal with the distractions could go a long way in determining how they compete against a franchise seeking its sixth Lombardi Trophy in a 17-year span.
“Yeah, I’m ready,’’ Goff said. “Yeah, ready to go. I think you don’t have a choice. You better get ready. Ready to go. It’ll be fun. I’m excited.
“Again, like I said, it’s something that you dream about, you work for. You put in all the work since even before this year. You’re constantly thinking about this game and constantly thinking about getting to this game and having a chance to play in this game and now we have it. Now we have a chance to be world champions and have to prepare our best and get ready to go out there.”
Rams' Jared Goff quietly did everything he had to do
NEW ORLEANS — In the days and weeks between now…
Any team and quarterback getting this far had to endure some tough moments and close calls and the Rams certainly qualify. They trailed the Saints in New Orleans 13-0 in the NFC Championship and were teetering with losing touch with an opponent that has a renowned home-field advantage. The Rams trailed 20-10 in the third quarter and Goff and the Rams righted themselves to force overtime with a Greg Zuerlein field goal with 15 seconds to go in regulation. They won it on Zuerlein’s 57-yard field goal in overtime.
“I think what stood out is the way that he was able to weather the storm,’’ Rams coach Sean McVay said. “I think, really, that mental toughness that was displayed by our team as a whole, and Jared kind of personified that with the way that he handled the game. I thought just his overall command, making big-time throws when we needed it the most.”
“I just thought Jared’s ability to be at his best when his best was required. The competitive greatness showed up in a big way. That noise, like we said, that was something that I’ve never been a part of and you’ve been in a lot of atmospheres that are unbelievably loud. That was something that you have never experienced before. I know Jared and I both felt the same way. He just kind of handled it exactly like a veteran — even-keeled, calm demeanor — kind of like what we talk about all the time. We’re very confident in his ability to lead us, knowing that it’s a big game like we’ve said, but I think Jared will be himself, which is exactly what we want him to be.”
Goff said he was “proud of the way that we battled and the way that we were able to sit in there. It was as hard of an environment as I can imagine I’ll ever play in. Just for us to be down 13-0 early and for our offense to slowly chip away and make plays, it was great. It was a good one to build confidence for us.”
The way Goff and the Rams handled a difficult situation in New Orleans does not guarantee they will keep calm and thrive six days from now inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Tom Brady and the Patriots have been this way before and the Rams have not, and sometimes that makes all the difference.
“Understanding that it’s a great opportunity,’’ McVay said. “The media coverage that’s going to be there — there’s a lot of different things that can allow us to be distracted and there’s certain obligations that we have to take care of and handle ourselves like professionals. But, then when we are locked in, when we go out to Flowery Branch to practice, we’ve got to do a great job locking in and continuing to really progressively build until Sunday when we’re kicking off.”