Expanded Playoff Simulation Part II: 2019 Jared Goff Turns into a Pumpkin
Dec 29, 2019; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) is interviewed by Fox Sports sideline reporter Laura Okmin after the final Rams home game against the Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before moving to SoFi Stadium for the 2020 season. The Rams defeated the Cardinals 31-24 Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Welcome back to the land of 2019. The 8-8 Pittsburgh Steelers and 9-7 Los Angeles Rams would have made the playoffs under the new format. Despite narrowly missing the playoffs, both teams have come under intense scrutiny due to trading their 2020 first-round picks in exchange for a failed attempt at making the playoffs. Here, in an alternate 2019, the Steelers and Rams make the playoffs.
Here is Los Angeles’s journey.
The Rams open their playoff run with a trip to Lambeau Field to square off with the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers gained nine yards on their first two plays, but former Packer Clay Matthews dumped Aaron Rodgers for an eight-yard, drive-ending sack.
Despite a pair of seven-yard gains on the ensuing drive, a holding penalty prevented the Rams from picking up a first down, forcing Johnny Hekker to punt the ball back to the Packers.
Two ineffective plays set the Packers up in a bad spot, but a Rams penalty gave new life to the offense. On the next play, Aaron Jones rumbled for 26 yards and the first first-down of the game. Three plays later, Rodgers hit Davante Adams for a 14-yard chunk and another first down. The inconsistency of the Packers’ offense reared its ugly head as the Packers gained two yards on the next three plays, bringing out Mason Crosby for a 42-yard field goal. The Packers lead, 3-0.
Todd Gurley opened up the next drive with a 10-yard scamper. On second down, Jared Goff fired a first down to Robert Woods, gaining 16 yards. After a pass batted down on the next play, Za’Darius Smith sent Goff into the turf on the next play, and a four-yard Darrell Henderson run was not enough to put the Rams in field goal range.
The Packers were forced into another third down, but a short pass to Allen Lazard broke open into a 34-yard gain, ending the first quarter. On the next play, a Rodgers lob to Aaron Jones turned into a track meet as Jones raced 53 yards to extend the Green Bay lead to 10 on the first play of the second quarter.
The Rams and Packers exchanged three-and-outs involving failed third-and-one conversions.
After a short play on first down, Goff hit Woods for an 11-yard play and a first down. A Todd Gurley first down was followed by a third-and-nine conversion to Tyler Higbee. The Rams converted another third down with a short pass to Woods. On the third third-down of the drive, Henderson broke around the edge and sprinted into the end zone, trimming the lead to three.
The Packers and Rams again traded three-and-outs.
With under a minute to go in the half, the Rams got the ball back on their nine-yard-line. Goff hit Cooper Kupp for 19, necessitating a timeout, Los Angeles’s second of the half. On the next play, Goff hit Gerald Everett for another first down. Goff found Kupp for a third straight first down, but Kupp was dragged down in bounds, forcing the Rams to use their final timeout with 18 seconds left. Goff hit Woods for 20 yards, but the time expired as Woods was tackled in bounds.
Heading into the half, the Packers lead 10-7.
The electric Rams offense returned to start the second half as the Rams picked up four first downs in nine plays and traversed 58 yards. After getting into the red zone, Goff found Josh Jackson, a Packer.
The Packers responded with another three-and-out.
With the Los Angeles offense humming, Goff found Gurley out of the backfield for 24 yards. Two plays later, Gurley pushed the Rams inside the five, and Cooper Kupp would score on the next play. The Rams lead, 14-10.
After an incompletion on first down, Rodgers found Adams, who broke several tackles and gained 45 yards. Rodgers was sacked on first down, but he hit Jones to set up a third-and-nine on the Rams’ 22. Jones failed to pick up any yards on third down, and Crosby connected on the 39-yard field goal.
Leading by one, the Rams continued to roll. In the final two minutes of the third quarter, the Rams gained 63 yards on five plays with the help of an unnecessary roughness penalty and a 23-yard catch by Woods. Two plays later, Henderson broke another 16-yard run, setting up a short touchdown pass from Goff to Woods. The Rams lead 21-13 with 13:38 to go in regulation.
After Jones was stopped on first down, the Packers gained first downs on back-to-back plays: a 10-yard completion to Jamaal Williams and a 13-yard rush by Allen Lazard. Two plays later, Geronimo Allison got in on the act with a 21-yard catch-and-run. A false start put the Packers behind the sticks, but a pair of runs followed by a 16-yard Adams catch put the Packers on the doorstep. Two plays later, Jones found the end zone for the second time. The Packers trail 21-19 after a failed two-point conversion.
Gurley opened the next drive with a three-yard run. Goff found Everett for a first down, but a Packer ripped the ball from the tight end. The Packers took over on the L.A. 34.
A pair of runs lead to a Packer first down, and a sneaky screen pass to Tra Carson set the Packers up inside the L.A. five-yard line. Three plays later, Rodgers found Adams for the go-ahead touchdown with three minutes to go. The Packers lead, 26-21.
The Rams were in full meltdown. Preston Smith sacked Goff for a seven-yard loss, but Gurley answered the bell with a 22-yard run to midfield. Goff missed his man, finding Jaire Alexander to end the drive.
Aaron Jones took the next two carries for six total yards, setting up a third-and-short for the Packers. Jamaal Williams gained the first down, but he fumbled. the ball, giving the Rams 1:55 to win the game.
For the second consecutive pass, and for the third time in the game, a Goff throw found the waiting arms of a Packer. Kevin King snuffed out the drive and took the interception into the L.A. red zone.
After three minimal runs, Crosby walked onto the field and connected from 32 yards out. The Packers lead, 29-21, with 52 seconds left.
After a solid return, Goff hit Malcolm Brown for an eight-yard gain. After a spike, Goff found Higbee, who slipped out of bounds after getting a first down. With 22 seconds left, though, Goff found the gloves of Will Redmond for his fourth interception of the game and the final nail in LA’s coffin.
After a kneel-down, the Packers emerged with a 29-21 win.
Aaron Jones was named MVP of the game, racking up 117 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the day. Aaron Rodgers was on point with a 270-yard and two-touchdown day. Goff put together three effective quarters, but he unraveled in the fourth quarter, tossing a trio of back-breaking interceptions.
With the Rams eliminated, the NFC playoffs will proceed as normal with the Seahawks and Vikings winning first-round games on the road before falling to the Packers and 49ers respectively. The 49ers blasted the Packers in the NFC title game, and they will await the results of the mangled AFC playoffs as their real-life opponent fell here.