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  • Yes, the Rams QB turned things around once he was running Sean McVay’s schemes, but it takes special ability to be able to do that—and his success isn’t all down to play-action. Plus, what Sheldon Rankins’ absence and Aqib Talib’s presence means for Rams-Saints and more.
By Robert Klemko
January 20, 2019

During the NFL postseason, The MMQB will be teaming with sports analytics provider Sports Info Solutions for insights into the weekend’s games. Subscribe to the SIS DataHub here.

Jared Goff has been described all week as the least valuable of the four quarterbacks remaining in these playoffs. In comparisons with Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady and Drew Brees, it’s Goff who draws the short straw, with many in the national media placing a higher value on Rams coach Sean McVay’s scheme—in which Goff improved on a disastrous rookie year under Jeff Fisher (63.6 QB rating) to a 28-7 TD-INT ratio in 2017 and more than 4,600 passing yards a season later.

Specifically, it’s play-action that’s viewed as Goff’s biggest crutch, with the major threat of a Todd Gurley handoff propelling him to new heights with simple reads and open throws. Yet the numbers say otherwise. Per Sports Info Solutions, which breaks down plays based on each play’s “expected points added” or EPA, while quarterbacks generally log a higher EPA on play-action passes, the dropoff in Goff’s EPA per attempt (-0.17) when he doesn’t throw after play-action is not as large as that for Brees (-0.22) and Brady (-0.37). Goff also ranks eighth in EPA per dropback on non play-action throws (0.11).

The “system quarterback” criticism is something Goff’s teammates take seriously, and would like to put to rest.

“He’s the one that has to make the throws, make the plays, make the reads,” says Rams receiver Cooper Kupp, relegated to injured reserve since tearing his ACL in Week 10. “The system only works until the ball’s snapped, and then you have to have someone who can execute it. Jared’s ability to do that and make plays has been unbelievable. The accuracy and confidence he has, the skill set he has, you can’t take what he’s done and say it’s the system. I think people who say that haven’t really seen the whole picture.”

Is there a play from the divisional-round win over the Cowboys that shows the whole picture? Yes, Kupp says. Second quarter, second and 6. Goff fakes a handoff to Gurley, and turns around to see that Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence has beaten his assignment. He steps up, pans the field and throws a rope to Brandin Cooks on a 20-yard curl. The ball has to clear the wingspan of Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith, and it has to leave Goff’s hand before Cooks is out of his break. It does, and it does.

“That’s incredible anticipation,” Kupp says.

More numbers for Sunday’s conference championship games:

RAMS-SAINTS

Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins tore his achilles against the Eagles in the divisional round. How will that affect the New Orleans D? Here’s a look at his impact:

Saints passing defense with and without Rankins (scrambles not included):

 

EPA/Dropback

Average Yards/Dropback

With Rankins

0.036

7.02

Without Rankins

0.151

7.88

Saints rushing defense with and without Rankins (scrambles not included):

 

EPA/Rush

Avg. Yards Before Contact

With Rankins

-0.17

1.37

Without Rankins

-0.16

1.58

 

The return of Aqib Talib

When the Rams last faced the Saints, they were without starting cornerback Aqib Talib. Here’s how the defense performed when he was in this season and when he was out:

 

EPA/Dropback

Average Yards/Dropback

With Talib

-0.154

6.20

Without Talib

0.036

7.67

PATRIOTS-CHIEFS

Pat Mahomes averages 0.36 EPA/dropback (scrambles not included) against Cover 1, which ranks second among quarterbacks who have faced the coverage 50 or more times. The Patriots use Cover 1 at the third-highest rate in the league (45.3%) this year.

Much has been made about Tom Brady’s relative decline this year, but he played six games this season in which he was missing either Julian Edelman or Rob Gronkowski.

Tom Brady’s EPA/dropback when both Gronk and Edelman are in the game: 0.16.

Tom Brady’s EPA/dropback when only one (or neither) is in the game: 0.08.

Contributing: Bryce Rossler, SIS.

Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
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IN
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