Nor­mal’s a new thing

Goff em­braces calm rou­tine of first ex­hi­bi­tion game af­ter last year’s hoopla

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Gary Klein

A much less nerve-rack­ing scene sur­rounded Rams quar­ter­back Jared Goff on Sat­ur­day night against the Dal­las Cow­boys.

A year ago, an ea­ger crowd filled the Coli­seum to see the Rams play the Cow­boys in the first NFL game in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia in more than two decades — and to see Goff, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft.

Goff came off the bench and played two for­get­table se­ries

“There was 90,000 peo­ple at a pre­sea­son game, so I was a lit­tle wide-eyed at first,” Goff re­called this week.

He looked more re­laxed Sat­ur­day. He again played only two se­ries but this time pro­duced a touch­down in the Rams’ 2017 pre­sea­son opener, a 13-10 vic­tory over the Cow­boys in a sta­dium that fea­tured large swaths of empty seats.

“Just like any other game, you take good things from it and you take bad things

from it and you learn from it and get bet­ter,” Goff said. “Es­pe­cially, pre­sea­son [game] 1. Our first time back out there.”

New coach Sean McVay saw some bright spots and some ar­eas of con­cern in his first game.

On of­fense, Goff avoided turnovers and sacks and two rook­ies, re­ceiver Cooper Kupp and tight end Ger­ald Everett, made a few good catches. Run­ning back Todd Gur­ley rushed for only four yards in four car­ries — about equal­ing his en­tire 2016 pre­sea­son work­load — and other Rams run­ning backs fum­bled mul­ti­ple times.

A Rams de­fense with­out sev­eral starters, among them lineback­ers Robert Quinn and Mark Bar­ron, cor­ner­back Kayvon Web­ster and hold­out end Aaron Don­ald, fared well against a Cow­boys of­fense that did not in­clude start­ing quar­ter­back Dak Prescott, run­ning back Ezekiel El­liott or re­ceiver Dez Bryant.

“We’ll take the win how­ever we can get it,” McVay said. “Cer­tainly, there’s go­ing to be a lot of things that we’ve got to clean up but I thought it was a great op­por­tu­nity to get out in front of our fans and come away with a win.”

McVay spent sev­eral sea­sons as the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins’ of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor and play-caller be­fore he was hired by the Rams. He is call­ing plays and get­ting ac­cus­tomed to mix­ing those re­spon­si­bil­i­ties with those of a head coach.

“The one thing that I’m go­ing to have to con­tinue to get used to is the tran­si­tion be­tween of­fen­sive se­ries,” he said. “Where you’re kind of get­ting some thoughts here and there but still be­ing in­volved with what’s [hap­pen­ing] on de­fense and spe­cial teams.”

The Rams have re­main­ing pre­sea­son games against Oak­land, the Charg­ers and Green Bay to hone their strengths and work out prob­lems be­fore the Sept. 10 sea­son opener against the In­di­anapo­lis Colts at the Coli­seum.

The team ad­dressed a ma­jor con­cern on Fri­day when they ac­quired re­ceiver Sammy Watkins in a trade with the Buf­falo Bills. Watkins, who will give the Rams and Goff a le­git­i­mate deep-ball threat, ar­rived in Los An­ge­les a few hours be­fore kick­off and watched the game in street clothes.

Watkins said he was “100% healthy” and that the foot in­jury that side­lined him part of last sea­son and re­quired surgery was “out the door.”

“I just can’t wait to . . . get out there and learn the of­fense and re­ally get started,” he said be­fore the game.

Watkins will be­gin prac­tic­ing on Mon­day.

The same prob­a­bly can­not be said of star de­fen­sive line­man Don­ald, who has been ab­sent since the start of train­ing camp be­cause of a con­tract dis­pute.

McVay and de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Wade Phillips have down­played how Don­ald’s con­tin­ued ab­sence is af­fect­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of Phillips’ 3-4 de­fense. The Rams also lost line­man Dom­inque Easley for the sea­son be­cause of a knee in­jury.

The start­ing de­fen­sive line on Sat­ur­day fea­tured tackle Michael Brock­ers flanked by Ethan West­brooks and Louis Trinca-Pasat.

Last year against the Cow­boys, Goff played two sec­ondquar­ter se­ries, one that ended with an in­ter­cep­tion and an­other that ended with a sack.

On Sat­ur­day’s first play, Goff’s short pass to re­ceiver Robert Woods fell in­com­plete. Dal­las stuffed Gur­ley for a three-yard loss on sec­ond down, then Goff com­pleted a nine-yard pass to Gur­ley.

There wasn’t much time to re­flect on the three-and-out. The Cow­boys fum­bled the en­su­ing punt and Rams line­backer Josh For­rest re­cov­ered the ball at Dal­las’ 33-yard-line.

On sec­ond down, Goff made his best play. He faked a hand­off to his right and then rolled left, find­ing Kupp for a 19-yard gain.

Two plays later, on third and six from the nine, Goff com­pleted a pass to Woods on a slant route. Woods fum­bled when he was hit, but Kupp re­cov­ered the ball in the end zone for a touch­down.

That was it for Goff. He com­pleted three of four passes for 34 yards. He gave way to Sean Man­nion, who passed for three touch­downs in last year’s vic­tory over Dal­las.

Man­nion com­pleted 18 of 25 passes for 144 yards.

K.C. Al­fred San Diego Union-Tribune

THE RAMS TURNED this lemon of a play into lemon­ade to score a first-quar­ter touch­down. Re­ceiver Robert Woods fum­bled when hit by Dal­las’ An­thony Hitchens af­ter catch­ing a Jared Goff pass, but Rams rookie Cooper Kupp re­cov­ered the ball in the end zone.

K.C. Al­fred San Diego Union-Tribune

SEC­OND-YEAR quar­ter­back Jared Goff played two se­ries and drove the Rams to their only touch­down. Rams 13, Cow­boys 10

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