For the first time in 2017, the Los Angeles Rams took the field on Saturday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with the Dallas Cowboys serving as the opponent in a preseason opener for the second straight year.
A year ago, no. 1 pick Jared Goff got off to a tough start, only completing four of his nine pass attempts for 38 yards and an interception. On Saturday, Goff started the game for the Rams and completed three of his four pass attempts for 34 yards and a 100.0 quarterback rating before leaving the game leading 7-0.
Obviously, the sample size was extremely limited, but Goff is unquestionably off to a better start under new Rams head coach Sean McVay than a year earlier under former coach Jeff Fisher.
After missing his first target on the night, Goff completed his next pass, but the Rams' offense faced an all-too-familar third and long situation. Pro Bowl kicker Johnny Hecker managed to hang a ball that miffed Lance Lenoir, who muffed the catch, and Rams linebacker Josh Forrest came up with the fumble recovery to place the Rams at the Dallas 33-yard line.
While Todd Gurley III continued to struggle running the ball and only managed two yards on four rushing attempts, Goff displayed chemistry with receiver Cooper Kupp on a nice 19-yard completion to put the Rams deep in the Red Zone.
Out of the shotgun formation, Goff then slung a perfectly timed pass to Robert Woods on a crossing pattern, but the receiver fumbled the ball. Fortunately, Kupp recovered the ball in the end zone and gave the Rams their first touchdown of the year. Officially, Goff didn't get credit for the touchdown, but he completed a pass on the scoring play and celebrated the score with emotion.
It was an unorthodox first touchdown of the year, but the Rams will gladly take all the luck they can get.
Goff and the starters took a seat less than four minutes into the game and let Sean Mannion come in to play at quarterback. The 25-year-old out of Oregon State looked sharp under center for the second preseason in a row and played the majority of the game for the Rams.
Though Mannion looked sharp, this game was far from a clean affair. The Rams and Cowboys combined for nine fumbles, though only three of those would be lost on the night. It was a sloppy game, which is expected in a preseason opener.
In one of the cleaner moments of the evening, though, Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush found Rico Gathers on a beatifully thrown pass over the top to level the score at 10-10 after three quarters. Obviously, each team had added a field goal to its total.
With 6:11 to play in the fourth quarter, backup field goal kicker Travis Coons converted for the home team to put the Rams up 13-10. That score line would hold until time ran out.
When analyzing the game, the Rams should had to feel good about the night. Goff and the starters got through a couple series and scored a touchdown, even if it was a bit unorthodox. Mannion, meanwhile, looked solid as a backup quarterback able to step in, if needed. The former Oregon State Beaver finished the game with 18 completions on 25 passing attempts for 144 yards in the air, with no interceptions and no touchdowns.
Seemingly, the Rams have two quarterbacks ready to play, but it's Goff's position to keep with McVay starting the second year professional.
Next, the Rams play in Oakland on Aug. 19 before returning home to play the LA Chargers at the LA Coliseum on Aug. 26.
Notes: Notably, Dallas was missing starting quarterback Dak Prescott and recently suspended running back Ezekiel Elliot. Aaron Donald, who is a holdout due to contract issues, also did not play for the Rams.