Jared Goff is 0-2 to start a season for the first time in his career, but statistically, at least, the Detroit Lions quarterback is playing like he did during his most productive days with the Los Angeles Rams.
Goff has thrown for 584 yards and five touchdowns in the Lions’ first two games, which matches or puts him ahead of his pace while helping the Rams reach the Super Bowl in 2018.
More importantly, Lions coach Dan Campbell said Goff is playing with “a high level of confidence.”
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“He really has after the last two weeks,” Campbell said Wednesday. “And look, you can’t excuse the turnovers, but if you take those away, he would’ve given us a chance to win (Monday night against the Green Bay Packers). He made some pretty dang good throws and he improvised a little bit, which you didn’t necessarily always see that at the Rams. So that was encouraging to us.”
Goff, who averaged 293 yards and two passing touchdowns a game in 2018, opened the season with a 338-yard, three-touchdown performance in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers, then played his best half of football for the first 30 minutes Monday night in Green Bay.
He completed eight straight passes to start the game and was 13-for-14 for 137 yards and two touchdowns before throwing two incompletions just before halftime.
In the second half, Goff turned the ball over twice, and the Lions did not score a point.
“I don’t know if we’re very proud about the results so far, but we’ve done some good things offensively and have been able to move the ball a little bit,” Goff said. “Had a lot of yards through the air, I guess, but I don’t know if that speaks to much of the success or anything that you’d like to have. I’d rather throw for 200 yards and win games.”
Turnovers were an issue for Goff in L.A. and continue to be a problem in Detroit. He threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown against the 49ers and had a second fumble squirt out of his hand against the Packers, though he recovered it.
And the sixth-year quarterback remains a conservative passer, averaging a paltry 6.7 air yards per attempt.
But the soon-to-be 27-year-old has thrived in handling the new protection responsibilities on his plate with the Lions and has evolved as a playmaker.
“To watch him grow from the spring till now, like, there’s a whole ‘nother level to him that I don’t think anybody’s really seen yet,” Campbell told the Free Press earlier this month. “And that fires me up because now, look, this is his team and he’s the one that’s going to be out there playing. He’s got pinpoint accuracy, he’s got a live arm, a big-time arm, and he’s just mobile enough in the pocket to get you out of trouble. And by the way, they did all those boots and keepers and everything (with the Rams). I mean, that’s on tape. He was doing that in L.A., and it’s not like he’s a 4.4 guy. But he’s plenty mobile and I’m just, I’m encouraged, man. I really am. I know where he’s come and I know what he’s capable of. … I’m excited. Man, I’m a Goff fan, I am.”
Goff was at his best Monday dropping a perfect pass to well-covered tight end T.J. Hockenson for a red-zone touchdown midway through the second quarter.
Zebra Technologies, which provides player-tracking data for the NFL, reported Hockenson had less than a yard of separation from Packers linebacker De’Vondre Campbell on the play; it was Goff’s second tight-window touchdown of the season (along with a Week 1 touchdown to Quintez Cephus).
In 2020, Goff threw one tight-window touchdown pass all year.
Goff questioned the accuracy of those numbers — “I don’t know how much I believe all those stats,” he said — but acknowledged he has “been able to grow as a passer” in Detroit.
“And grow in ways where certain situations don’t look exactly how you want them to, how do I make it right?” he said. “How do I improvise? How do I throw the ball where only my guy can catch it? Different things like that, yeah, I’ve been able to progress in that way for sure.”
While wins ultimately will be the measure of his progress as a passer, Goff can use Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens as another scale of success.
In 2019, Goff was sacked twice and threw two interceptions in a humbling 45-6 loss to the Ravens. This week, Goff said he’ll be ready for what blitz-happy Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale throws his way.
“There’s a million things I’m trying to get better at every day but it’s starting to settle in a little bit for sure in the pass game,” Goff said. “But at the same time there’s still a bunch of things I look at that last game and the week prior that I can get better with.”