Jared Goff has thrown 12 interceptions and fumbled seven times. I watched each multiple times looking for patterns. Something which the Seattle Seahawks could use against Goff. I’m not sure I succeeded. This does not amount to a game plan, needless to say. But I did manage to find two ways in which teams have induced him into turning the ball over and one way in which he may be naturally inclined to turn the ball over.
Pressure Goff quickly from the side
Goff is unusually bad at sensing pressure arriving from the side—front side or back side. He seems to get tunnel vision. His numbness to front-side pressure can be startling. Here are his first three fumbles of the 2020 season.
Each of these plays likely ends badly for any quarterback. Some throw it away. Some scramble. Some go short. Some brace for the sack. Peyton Manning would actually slide down. But Goff reacts not at all. He’s oblivious. A good quarterback has to minimize damage when things break down. He has to react in some prophylactic way. Instead Goff shows no awareness of an incoming hit. It’s not timing or a long throwing motion or anything like that. Goff’s hit early in his throwing motion. Pressure is feet away and he’s beginning his throwing motion!
That particular goof leads to interceptions too. He even misses pass rushers who arrive slightly to one side.
It must be said. Jared Goff is not at all sack prone. But my guess would be that he avoids sacks through promptness—through throwing on-time. He is not sack prone but he does not have great pocket awareness either. He locks onto a target and the surrounding world disappears. And when you get him down, there’s a better than average chance the ball will be nearby.
I hand tabulated this going through game logs, but by my count Goff’s 126 career sacks taken have resulted in 35 fumbles. That’s 27.7% of sacks ending in a fumble. Which is about double the league average.
Force Goff to look for pass rushers
Since Goff does not sense pass rushers, he instead sees pass rushers. He takes his eyes off of his receivers. And if he sees a pass rusher, he often impulsively throws. He doesn’t even necessarily impulsively throw to a receiver. He impulsively throws to anyone.
These two throws to defensive linemen have touch and placement.
Goff throws picks with a feathery touch
All quarterbacks miss defenders and underneath coverage is especially easy to miss. I include these next two picks not as examples of missing underneath coverage but examples of something queer about how Goff throws.
He mixes excessive touch with bad placement. Not only do defensive linemen catch his passes. Defensive backs make circus catches.
None of this is to say Goff is a particularly bad quarterback. Nor do I think Seattle can force Goff to goof at will. But his performance has declined steadily four straight seasons. He doesn’t have the typical telltales of a bad quarterback. His completion percentage is anywhere from okay to above average. He’s much better than average at avoiding sacks. His yards per attempt is also better than average. But when Goff goofs he goofs big.
I don’t know how a team can scheme to induce that. One would think blitzing would work but Goff has performed pretty well against the blitz. As you can imagine, Goff plays worse when he’s behind the sticks. He’s at his best when running play-action. Which, to me, sounds like Seattle should concentrate on stopping the run. And I think maybe Seattle will.
The Rams are still a modestly pass-heavy team relative to league average. But it is their running game which makes them a good offense. Game-planning to stop the run can seem suicidal. It’s like a baseball team game-planning to stop the grounder. LA may anticipate such a game plan and like Buffalo pass early and almost exclusively. But to make what could be a moronic and painfully wrong guess, I still think it might be the right call.
However Seattle may attempt to stop the run, and it’s way beyond the purview of this post to guess as to specifics, stopping the run means—so long as Seattle is holding serve on offense—more and responsibility falls on Goff. It’s a reverse jackpot. Each passing attempt risks disaster.
I won’t lie. Writing this gives me a certain seasick nausea. It’s never ever ever wise to underestimate an opponent. I have superstitious fear that I am jinxing the Seahawks or reverse jinxing Goff. But I think Seattle can slow LA’s run game enough to force Goff into enough high stress situations that he cracks. He’s not a bad quarterback and he doesn’t have any obvious Achilles heel, but he’s merely a good quarterback and when he’s spooked, hit or stripped sacked unawares, very good things happen for the Rams’ opponent.