Super Bowl LIII was a disaster for the Los Angeles Rams. It went pretty poorly for Jared Goff too. While it went badly for Jared Goff, I didn’t think it went badly because Jared Goff is a bad quarterback, but because the Patriots thoroughly outplayed the Rams. That is my thesis, at least. And that is the reason why I set out on this long and laborious trek that is film analysis.
The following is the first of many long series of fan posts breaking down every single failed pass play by the Los Angeles Rams. That means every incomplete pass, every intercepted pass, and every pass play that resulted in a sack. My goal is to see why the play failed. Is it because Goff messed up, or were there other factors at play?
The offensive play call wording I am using in these posts are fictional. Well, it’s using a few words and concepts from the old Jeff Tedford Cal offense that I picked up back in the day, but I’ve made up some of my own words too. The names are mostly for my own purpose so that I can keep track of which play is which since I’ll be breaking down lots of plays.
Incompletion #1 (throw away) - Under Left Tango Twin 27 bootleg
In the above photo we can see the Rams come to the line of scrimmage with “11 Personnel.” This refers to what positional players are on the field. The first digit refers to the number of runningbacks and fullbacks, and the second digit refers to the tight ends. The number of wide receivers is implied. With 11 personnel, the Rams have 1 RB, 1 TE, and 3 WRs on the field. This is their most common personnel grouping. In fact, they run the majority of their plays with this personnel set.
The playcall is a simple one. It’s a playaction stretch zone to the offense’s left. On the backside (the side away from the run, meaning offense’s right), the inside slot flanker WR (Robert Woods) will block down on the defensive end. The split end WR (Brandin Cooks) will run a go route and clear out the right half of the defense. The TE (Gerald Everett) will run a crossing route, and the H-back (WR Josh Reynolds) will run a flat route across the formation. This is a staple Rams play designed to get the defense flowing one direction, and the eligible receivers running another direction. Goff will really only have two passing options on this play. Either pass to the TE on the crossing route or pass to WR Josh Reynolds on the flat route. Brandin Cooks isn’t an option because his job is merely to act as a decoy and clear out the right half of the defensive secondary.
This is what Goff sees right after the snap. He sees the Patriots’ edge defender (red circle) staying home. Usually, this defender will step up field and pressure the QB. The QB then has to beat this defender with his legs on a run, or with a pass to an open receiver.
Remember, there are only two passing options on this play, the TE Everett and the WR Reynolds. The Patriots edge defender recognizes this play, and instead of doing what most defenders would and pressure the QB, he sees WR Reynolds coming across the formation on his flat route and knocks Reynolds to the ground, essentially taking him out of the play (red circle). That means the only remaining receiver to pass to is TE Everett but he’s covered by the Patriots linebacker. Goff continues to get pressured from the Patriots defensive linemen (red triangle). Rams WR Robert Woods did a poor job blocking down on the Patriots defensive end, and allowed him to get vertical into the backfield, rather than force him laterally towards playside (offense’s left). This is a play in the process of failing.
Ultimately, Goff has no choice but to throw the ball away as he approaches the sideline. This play failed for the following reasons: (1) excellent job by Patriots edge defender to recognize the play and knock down WR Josh Reynolds; (2) a combination of a great job by the Patriots defensive end to get penetration and pressure on Goff, along with a poor block by WR Robert Woods on the defensive end; and (3) great coverage by the Patriots linebacker on TE Gerald Everett.
So did this play fail as a result of anything Goff did? Not in my opinion. The incompletion will go down in the stat book as a failure by Goff but if anything, Goff saved the play by throwing the ball away rather than suffering the sack or tackle for loss. This play wasn’t going to be successful, and an incomplete pass was pretty much the only reasonable outcome.
Incompletion #2 (dropped pass) - Gun Rt Triple Weak Middle Slant
On this down, the Rams are facing a 3rd and 8. They have “11 personnel” in for this play, which means they have 1 RB, 1 TE, and 3 WRs. Prior to the above picture, the Rams were actually in a different formation with a different play called, but Goff changed the play at the line of scrimmage (“LOS”).
Why did Goff change the play? Because he saw that the Patriots were playing man coverage on defense and changed the play call to a man-beater play. The Patriots were playing a Cover 1 Man defense, meaning they had one deep safety, and man coverage on all eligible receivers. This defense typically means there will be additional pass rushers coming at the quarterback. Jared Goff must get the ball out quickly.
Goff changed the play at the LOS to the play, above. It features three WRs to the offense’s right. The split end (outer most WR) runs a dig route, the middle slot runs a slant, and the inside slot WR runs a post route. The TE is split out far to the offense’s left.
This playcall is a man-beater because it features a natural “pick” action (blue circle in picture above) between the middle slot WR and the inside slot WR. The middle slot WR will run his slant route underneath the inside slot WR. The defender covering the middle slot WR will have his pathway impeded by the presence of the inside slot WR and the defender covering the inside slot WR.
Unfortunately for the Rams, the Patriots weren’t just bringing five pass rushers, but were stunting them at the LOS. The Patriots right defensive end is going to stunt around the nose tackle, and into the offense’s right A-gap (space between the center and right guard). If the offense’s right side of the offensive line isn’t aware of the impending stunt and close down the right A-gap, it could allow a defender through for an easy pressure on the QB.
Post-snap, things are not looking great. The defender covering the middle slot WR (Reynolds) on the slant was not picked. Reynolds has separation and is open for a pass. This is where Goff wants to go with the football. The Rams right guard is looking to his right at the left defensive end and the linebacker moving to the offense’s right around the edge. He is thinking he will need to help the right tackle.
The Rams’ right tackle passes his defender (the Patriots’ left defensive end) off to the right guard. Instead, the Rams’ right tackle blocks the Patriots linebacker that is attempting to rush outside of the right tackle. All that is left to do is for the Rams’ center to block the stunting right defensive end (“RDE”), but unfortunately, he was too preoccupied with blocking the nose tackle that he did not get the block on the RDE who penetrates the right A-gap for easy pressure on Goff (red triangle, above). Goff knew the Patriots were coming at him and that he had to get the pass off fast, but not he really has to get the pass off fast.
Goff gets smashed, but gets the throw off. The pass is a little low. WR Reynolds does get two hands on the ball but drops it. It’s a clean drop by the WR.
Although the pass likely wouldn’t have resulted in a Rams first down, a completion and gain of a few yards was there for the taking at the very least.
So why did this play fail? The Rams were hoping to get a quick and short completion to beat the blitz, and for a nice run after the catch by the receiver. But due to great coverage by the defender to avoid the “pick” in the trips formation, and a stunt along the defensive line which resulted in quick pressure against Goff, there was little that the Rams could do. This play will go down as an incompletion against Goff, but I don’t see this failed play as much of his fault at all.
At this point in the game, Goff is 0/2. Not a great start if all you look at is the statistic alone, but the first incompletion was a throw-away and the second incompletion was a clean drop by the wide receiver.
Join me in more posts breaking down Goff’s performance in Super Bowl LIII. Please check back in a few days.