For a guy who had thumb surgery less than three weeks ago and has a reputation for not playing well in cold weather, former Cal star Jared Goff performed awfully well Saturday.
It was not good enough, though, as Goff and the Rams came up short on the scoreboard against the Packers' Aaron Rodgers in this NFL postseason duel of former Golden Bears quarterbacks.
It was not until the poised Rodgers connected with Allen Lazard on a clutch, 58-yard touchdown pass with less than seven minutes left that the Packers felt safe on their way to 32-18, second-round playoff victory over the Rams in Green Bay.
Here is Rodgers' game-breaking TD pass to Lazard:
Rodgers, who played at Cal in 2003 and 2004, finished with workmanlike numbers: 23-of-36, 296 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, one rushing touchdown, and no sacks. His 108.1 passer rating Saturday is rather mediocre for Rodgers this season, but it should be noted that it came against the best defense in the NFL, however.
Rodgers will play in his fifth NFC championship game next week, but this is the first one that will be played in Green Bay.
Rodgers' performance was expected; Goff's showing wasn't.
Goff, who starred at Cal from 2013-2015, was not named the Rams starting quarterback until Thursday, when John Wolford was ruled out for the game with a neck injury.all confidently Saturday.
But unlike last week's game against the Seahawks, when his injured thumb clearly affected his passing, Goff threw the ball confidently against the Packers. He finished 21-for-27 for 174 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a 105.9 passer rating. At one point in the second half, Goff had completed 18 of 20 passes, with a passer rating above 137.
He wore gloves for just the second time in his career, as noted in the photo below. Perhaps it was to keep his hands warm in the cold weather in Green Bay, or perhaps it was to get a better grip on the ball since he is still recovering from Dec. 28 right-thumb surgery.
Goff had started just two games in his NFL career in which the temperature was below freezing at kickoff. Both games were in 2018, and Goff performed poorly in both.
First, there was the Rams’ 23-20 win over the Broncos in Denver, when Goff completed 14-of-28 passes for 201 yards, no touchdowns, one interception, five sacks, and a passer rating of 58.8. He wore gloves in that game, though they didn't seem to help.
The other was the Rams’ 15-6 loss to the Bears in which Goff completed 20-of-44 passes for 180 yards, no touchdowns, four interceptions, three sacks, and a passer rating of 19.1, easily the worst of his career.
Temperatures were in the low 30s in Green Bay during Saturday's game and dropped below freezing in the second half, but Goff helped the Rams stay in the game. This time the gloves seemed to help.
His touchdown pass to Van Jefferson, shown in the video below, got the Rams in the ballgame, closing the deficit to 16-10 let in the second quarter.
The Rams stayed in the game in the second half and trailed just 25-18 when they got the ball at their own 6-yard line with less than 14 minutes left.
Goff completed his first three passes in that possession but an incompletion and a sack ended that threat, forcing a punt.
Rodgers followed with that scoring pass to Lazard to end the Rams' chances.
The fact that Goff was sacked four times while Rodgers did not get sacked at all was pivotal to the Packers' success.
It was only the second time this season the Rams have given up more than 30 points in a game, the other coming in the second game of the season, when Bills put 37 on the board.
Aaron Rodgers' postgame press conference, possibly facing Drew Brees or Tom Brady in Green Bay, site of Saturday's game. "It felt like 50,000 running out of the tunnel":
Goff's postgame interview:
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