The Los Angeles Rams finished off the preseason on Thursday night with a close loss on the road at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings.
In his first NFL start, rookie Jared Goff got off to a strong start on the opening drive marching the Rams down the field on seven plays for 78 yards resulting in his second touchdown pass of the preseason with a one-yard connection with Kenny Britt. It was an impressive throw on a timing route going toward the sideline to Britt’s outside shoulder.
What also stood out on that drive was that he took five of the seven snap from the shotgun formation, including the touchdown pass. However, things quickly went in the opposite direction for Goff over the rest of the first half as he went 3-of-12 with a fumble and an interception, which occurred on back-to-back snaps deep in his own territory.
“The first round he was good, was into it the whole time, and was really aware. I think the biggest thing was when he took his eyes off that snap and lost that ball,” head coach Jeff Fisher said. “That will never happen again. The screen pass, the ball’s deflected, I have to credit the defense. When we went into it he knew that he was going to play a half and that was our approach. Defense dug in there.”
Los Angeles saw things get a bit out of hand after being outscored 20-3 by the Vikings in the second and third quarters.This included several mishaps committed by the special teams that changed the entire flow of the game. This began with a muffed punt by Duke Williams that hit him in the leg.
It was followed by giving up a 106-yard kickoff return touchdown to Vikings running back Jhurell Pressley. Then Paul McRoberts fumbled a punt, which led to a touchdown by Minnesota. Although it primarily occurred with backups, it was not an encouraging sign to see a heavy amount of miscues involved in this aspect of the game.
That said, Sean Mannion did put together a solid performance in the second half compiling 135 passing yards while completing 15 of 23 passes that nearly led the Rams back despite the special team issues and facing constant pressure in the pocket. Mannion was able to command three scoring drive that included a pair of touchdowns.
The Rams’ defensive line once again displayed that they have the potentially be a force to be reckoned with against the Vikings. Minnesota was playing without their starter Teddy Bridgewater, who is expected to be out for the entire 2016 season due to a dislocated knee cap and a torn ACL.
Rookie defensive end Morgan Fox put together a strong outing racking up three tackles including two sacks, two tackles for loss, and four hits on the quarterback. Fellow defensive ends Ethan Westbrooks and Matt Longacre each recorded sacks while the team had five total sacks with 12 hits on the quarterback.
“I was trying not to think about that too much, it makes you play a little slower,” Fox said. “So I just tried to worry about what I could do, and play better than played last week and try to put my best foot forward.”
In fact, Los Angeles was solid defensively giving up just 182 total offensive yards, including 86 rushing yards. They had given up at least 100 yards on the ground in each of the first three preseason games. The defense also held the Vikings to converting just one of their red zone trips along with converting only five of 16 third downs.
“I told the players in the locker room how much I appreciated that effort,” Fisher said. “They responded well and hung in there. You saw the Vikings cramping, tired and tapping out. That is just how that game ends. I was proud that they put themselves in a position for a chance to win the game. I am looking forward to what this team can present on the field in the regular season.”