In Oakland, Jared Goff outplayed Derek Carr, as the Los Angles Rams' second-year quarterback played nearly a full half of football on Saturday night at the Oakland Coliseum.
Goff, who grew up in the Bay Area and attended the University of California at Berkeley, completed 16 of 20 passing attempts and recorded a touchdown to lead the Rams to a 17-14 lead before exiting the game. Carr did not exactly stink up the joint, though, as the two-time Pro-Bowl passer completed seven of his nine passes, including two touchdowns. However, Carr made one inadvisable throw that resulted in an interception, so Goff's passer rating was 116.7 to Carr's 113.0.
If Goff can out-duel or even play even with quarterbacks like Carr during the 2017 regular season, the Rams could well end up dramatically improving on their 4-12 record in 2016. Suffice to say, Goff looked confident, made good throws and truly only had one glaring error where he waited too long to release a long ball to an open receiver, and Khalil Mack broke a double team to record a big sack instead. Mack getting a sack is not exactly breaking news at this point, but at least the second year quarterback still managed to take care of the footbal on the error.
Saturday also turned out to be a day for debuts with the Raiders featuring Marshawn Lynch in silver and black for the first time and the Rams showing off new offensive weapon Sammy Watkins. Both players had minimal impact on the game, as Lynch only rushed the ball twice for 10 yards and Watkins only managed two receptions for eight yards, though Watkins probably should have caught a perfectly thrown long pass over the top by Goff. The Raiders' defensive back having a sneaky lock on Watkins' arm helped explain why the 2014 Orange Bowl MVP didn't come out on top on the play.
On the topic of receivers, Rams rookie Cooper Kupp continued to impress by scoring the Rams' first points for the second straight game. Along with having a terrificly fun name to repeat (Say "Cooper Kupp" out loud three times), Kupp displayed undeniable chemistry with Goff. Playing with the first string, Kupp left the game after making six receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown, as the third round pick out of Eastern Washington continued to show off his sticky hands.
While the developing chemistry between Goff and Kupp deserved its due attention, the most important positive signal for the upcoming Rams' season came via an impressive running performance from Todd Gurley II--finally.
On Saturday, Gurley suddenly looked like a Pro-Bowl running back again, after the 2015 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year struggled mightily during his sophomore season in 2016. The 23-year-old Baltimore native only played two drives but carried the ball eight times for 38 yards and a touchdown. Gurley averaged 4.8 yards per carry and helped the Rams' offensive balance on both drives. Gurley's tough running allowed for Goff to find Kupp wide open on a ball in the end zone.
That 4.8 yards per carry average for Gurley matched his regular season average during his standout rookie season with the Rams. In 2016, Gurley's numbers dropped to 3.2 yards per carry, so Saturday's performance had to be an encouraging sign that Gurley could be ready to rebound from his sophomore slump in a big way.
"Today, I wanted to focus really on just being patient," Gurley said in a team interview after he was done for the day. "Sometimes, I feel like I'm running a little too fast and miss things, so I was just trying to be patient."
For the Rams, backup quarterback Sean Mannion came out for the last drive of the first half and took over running the offense for the duration of the second half. The Raiders went to E.J. Manuel under center for a quarter and then put in Connor Cook to finish out the game.
Cook outplayed Manuel on the day, highlighted by an 11-play, 65-yard drive that concluded with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Holton. With the score, the Raiders took a 21-17 lead with only 6:30 remaining in the game.
Mannion and the Rams responded with a 13-play, 80-yard drive that concluded with a 20-yard touchdown reception by Josh Reynolds. With only 1:11 to play in the ball game, the Rams got another stop, and that turned out to be the game winning drive.
The Rams claimed a 24-21 victory to go 2-0 for the 2017 NFL preseason.
Though Mannion did not look at his best on the night, the Rams' backup quarterback recorded 133 yards in the air, with 15 completions on 22 attempts and one (game-winning) touchdown.
Next, the Rams return home to host the new city rivals, the LA Chargers. The Rams and Chargers play at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Aug. 26 with a 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time kick-off.
Notes: Two-time All-Pro LA Rams defensive-end Aaron Donald continues to be a hold out due to contract reasons and did not feature on Saturday.