Winners and losers from the Divisional Round of the 2019 NFL playoffs

The Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs got underway Saturday night with the AFC’s top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs in action against the Indianapolis Colts. A week off did nothing to slow the Chiefs’ offensive momentum.

Led by Patrick Mahomes, who did not find his first career playoff start nearly as intimidating as the pundits thought he would, the Chiefs jumped out to a 24-7 lead in the first half, and never looked back. The Colts hardly looked ready to play, nothing like the team that rode a 10-1 streak into the weekend. The Chiefs went on to win by a final score of 31-13.

The Cowboys and Rams met in LA for the late game on Saturday night to decide the first of the NFC Championship entrants. The Rams’ running game had no troubles against a usually stout Cowboys defense, and the home team rolled on for a 30-22 win.

On Sunday, the Patriots had no problems running around and through the Chargers, winning 41-28 to lock down their eighth consecutive appearance in the AFC Championship game.

The Saints turned aside the Eagles, sinking their hope of a Super Bowl repeat with a 20-14 win in New Orleans. The Saints will host the Rams there next weekend.

Winner: Michael Thomas

The postseason hasn’t been filled with inspiring performances from offensive skill players. But the Saints wide receiver changed that. He and Drew Brees single-handedly got the Saints offense rolling again after a slow start. His best catch of the day — and there were A LOT of them — was on the Saints’ go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. Just watch it.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1084599206159908864

He finished the game with 171 yards and a touchdown on 12 catches.

Loser: Nick Foles’ magic

You can’t impugn what the guy did prior to this game. The Eagles wouldn’t have been playing this weekend, or last, if Foles hadn’t stepped up as the team’s “closer” again this season with Carson Wentz hurt. But he turned into a pumpkin again, underthrowing his receivers and just unable to get the ball to his receivers when the Eagles needed it the most.

With free agency looming this spring, Foles may have cost himself some money with his performance this week, maybe not much, but enough to notice.

Winner: Time of possession

It feels like we haven’t had a good conversation about time of possession since the early days of the Chip Kelly experience in Philly. This time it was the Saints putting on the clock clinic.

It happened in the third quarter. Trailing 10-14, the Saints got the ball at their own 8-yard line. From there they put together a grinding 92-yard touchdown drive over 18 plays and 11:29 minutes, essentially monopolizing the entire third quarter.

Winner: The Patriots defense

Absent most of the season, the Patriots defense looked like one of the NFL’s most fearsome in the first half of the game. Philip Rivers never had a chance against a pass rush that was previously dormant.

Loser: Philip Rivers’ legacy

He’s got more yards, more touchdowns and fewer interceptions over the course of his career than either Eli Manning or Ben Roethlisberger, but unlike those other two first-round picks from the 2004 draft, he does not have a Super Bowl ring. Instead, he and J.P. Losman have something in common.

Winner: Patriots running backs

The Chargers defense put on a clinic for how to stop a creative running game in last week’s win against the Ravens. Apparently, Patriots OC Josh McDaniels was able to find some holes in their game plan.

Sony Michel rolled up nearly 100 yards and scored three touchdowns … in the first half. He’s the first rookie running back in franchise history to rush for more than 100 yards in a playoff game. He finished the day with 129 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries.

James White, who led the team in receptions during the regular season with 87, was Tom Brady’s favorite receiver on the day, catching 15 of 17 passes for 97 yards.

The Patriots chewed up the clock with their running backs, leaving little time for Rivers and Co. to put points on the board. It also helped keep the workload light for their defense, and teased out what their game plan might be next week against Kansas City.

Winner: C.J. Anderson

The Rams signed C.J. Anderson in mid-December, when Todd Gurley was dealing with a knee injury. Anderson had been released by both the Panthers and Raiders earlier in the season and was really just supposed to be a warm body while Gurley could heal up.

Instead, Anderson has bulldozed every defense he faced. In two games to end the season, he carried the ball 43 times for 299 yards and two touchdowns — that averaged out to 7 yards per carry. But that was against two of the worst teams in the NFL, the Cardinals and 49ers. Next up was the playoffs — and a Cowboys defense that ranked fifth in the league against the run during the regular season. Last week, they held the Seahawks’ top-ranked rushing offense to just 73 yards on the ground.

Anderson had more than that in the first half alone: 12 carries for 78 yards. Even with a healthy Gurley back in the lineup, Anderson was a force in the Rams’ first playoff win in 14 years. He used his, uh, rotund frame to help the Rams dominate the time of possession and scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.

Anderson was the leading rusher with 123 yards and two touchdowns. Plus, he did this:

All the Winners and Losers here

 

 

32 things we learned heading into divisional round of 2018 NFL playoffs

The 32 things we learned heading into the 2018 NFL playoff divisional round:

1. If it seemed the wild-card round was chock full of fresh faces and teams, well, it was. None of the eight clubs competing in the opening round was in action for last season’s wild-card games, and only the Eagles (a No. 1 seed with a bye in 2017) even reached the playoff field a year ago.

1a. But you’ll see largely familiar characters in the divisional round with Philadelphia returning along with the four teams on bye — the Chiefs, Patriots, Rams and Saints, all postseason entries last year, too.

1b. The last team to advance to the Super Bowl after playing on wild-card weekend was the 2012 Ravens, who won Super Bowl XLVII. The next 10 conference champs have all had first-round byes.

2. Gen X-er Philip Rivers, 37, has to be the sentimental favorite to win it all, right? No quarterback in league history has thrown for more yards (54,656) or more touchdowns (374) yet never played on Super Sunday.

2a. And how great (and entertaining) would it be to see Rivers’ Chargers take on the Saints … and former Bolts QB Drew Brees, who kept Philly Riv on the bench for two years?

3. But if you’re into unminted Millennial passers, Patrick Mahomes (23), Jared Goff (24), Dak Prescott (25) and, most certainly, Andrew Luck (29) could ride great story lines all the way to Atlanta, site of Super Bowl LIII.

4. Three quarterbacks made their playoff debuts during wild-card weekend. Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson and Mitchell Trubisky all lost.

5. Welp, Matt Nagy, guess you shoulda laid down for the Vikings in Week 17 rather than invite a matchup with the Iggles and your old buddy Doug Pederson.

6. Did anyone else want Eagles-Bears go into overtime (maybe double OT) just to see how NBC would handle its Golden Globes coverage, which began minutes after Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth wrapped?

7. Rough night for Chicago’s Cody Parkey, whose would-be, game-winning field goal attempt from 43 yards hit the upright then the crossbar before caroming into the end zone. No good. Parkey drilled the Soldier Field uprights four times Nov. 1. Uncanny.

8. But if I’ve learned anything this season, it’s that Parkey is about to get a flood of support from kickers throughout the league as he copes with this unfortunate bounce. Bounces.

9. Nick Foles was picked off twice in Sunday’s win over the Bears. The last time he threw multiple INTs in an Eagles uniform, Oct. 26, 2014, Chip Kelly was their coach and Foles had yet to play for the Rams or Chiefs.

9a. The last time Philadelphia played the Saints in postseason, the 2013 wild-card round, Foles was also the quarterback (in a losing effort) — Kelly’s only NFL playoff appearance.

10. Congrats to Eagles WR Golden Tate, who scored the game-winning TD at Chicago, instantly justifying the scrutinized trade deadline deal for him — which cost Philly a third-round pick that appeared awfully expensive given the struggles to integrate Tate into the offense.

10a. Congrats to Eagles LT Jason Peters, RB/KR Darren Sproles and LB Jordan Hicks, who all missed the 2017 Super Bowl run with injuries but tasted a playoff victory Sunday.

10b. Feel for you, Wentz.

11. Was wild-card weekend’s MVP Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley? His unit was on the short end of a 22-10 loss to Baltimore two weeks ago. Sunday, it showed the rest of the league how to contain Jackson — essentially deploying a defense comprised of linemen and defensive backs to shadow, flummox and confuse the rookie.

12. Jackson, who turns 22 on Monday, became the youngest quarterback to start a playoff game in NFL history. He looked like it. Make no mistake, the Ravens don’t win the AFC North without Jackson’s heroics in the second half of the season, when he went 6-1 as the starter. But Bradley and the Bolts provided a blueprint to stopping him and a fresh reminder that, though Jackson remains an elite athlete and highly effective with the ball in open space, he’s got a long, long way to go to be a fully-formed pro quarterback. He was sacked seven times, picked off once and fumbled thrice, losing the ball on his team’s final possession.

13. Who figured on Chargers rookie K Mike Badgley outperforming Ravens all-pro Justin Tucker? Badgley set a Bolts’ postseason record with five made field goals, while Tucker was 1-for-2 on three-point tries. Tucker missed five FGs this season, three against L.A.

14. Who figured on Chargers FB Derek Watt making a longer playoff run this season than brothers J.J. and T.J.?

15. The Chargers haven’t beaten Tom Brady since 2005. Rivers is 0-7 head-to-head against TB12, including two losses in postseason.

15a. But Sunday, the Chargers became the only team in the league to win eight times on the road this season. A visit to Foxborough, daunting as it is, won’t phase them.

16. The last time Rivers appeared in a playoff game at Gillette Stadium, the 2007 AFC Championship Game, he played on a torn ACL.

17. Baltimore’s second-ranked run game, which had averaged nearly 230 yards in Jackson’s seven regular-season starts, was limited to 90.

Full List Here

By: Nate Davis

 

Fantasy Implications Of Aaron Rodgers’ Broken Collarbone

Written by George Kurtz at YahooSports.com

The prime topic of conversation around fantasy football this week is clear: How does the broken collarbone injury for Aaron Rodgers affect the Packers and fantasy football for the rest of this season?

Rodgers’ injury not only affects those who have him on their fantasy team, but also those who have Jordy NelsonDavante AdamsRandall Cobb, and Ty Montgomery on their rosters. The Packers have one of the best offenses in football but will now be relegated to hoping that a little-known backup, Brett Hundley, can hold down the fort. That seems unlikely.

Here are some possible replacement quarterbacks and other players that may be available in your league and are realistic targets:

JOSH MCCOWN, QB, New York Jets (14 percent)

This pick may be more for deeper leagues but McCown has been surprisingly effective this season and the Jets have been shockingly competitive. Could this come crashing down at any moment? Absolutely, but as you will see from this list, there just isn’t much fruit on the tree. If you lose a waiver claim or two, he might have to be your choice.

TYROD TAYLOR, QB, Buffalo Bills (44 percent)

Taylor has usually been a safe QB in fantasy but a lack of offensive weapons around him has seen him post only two games with more than 200 yards passing this season and only 28 yards rushing over his last three games. If he’s not going to run, then his fantasy value is extremely limited. It’s not all his fault, as his number one WR, Jordan Matthews, is still considered week to week with a thumb injury. His top target, tight end Charles Clay, is out multiple weeks after knee surgery. It’s pretty much LeSean McCoy or bust right now for Buffalo.

JARED GOFF, QB, Los Angeles Rams (50 percent)

Yeah, the pickings are slim as it seems quite a few fantasy owners are rostering two quarterbacks this season. Hopefully, if you own Rodgers or Jameis Winston (shoulder injury), you have a capable backup. But if not, Goff could make a suitable replacement. He’s played much better under a QB-friendly system and has solid weapons in Todd Gurley, Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp.

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The Truth About Jared Goff

Written by Andy Benoit at SI.com

Jared Goff trotted out onto the field with 1:44 left in regulation, down 27-20. One timeout, 72 yards to go. It was a scenario that makes a man’s reputation. Fail, and Goff’s (granted, outrageously premature) first-round bust label returns. Succeed, and the 22-year-old rockets to the top of pro football’s Hype Mountain (along with his 31-year-old head coach, Sean McVay).

Goff stood in shotgun and eyed wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who was motioning in, behind receiver Sammy Watkins. It’s a staple tactic of McVay’s—running two receivers off the same spot, forcing defenders to back up a few yards. It’s great against man coverage and can work against zone.

The ball was snapped and Goff eyed Kupp. Then he kept eyeing him. And kept eyeing him. And eyed him some more. When Kupp made his break, Goff threw. That’s when Washington linebacker Mason Foster stepped in for the easiest interception of his life. Foster, as a shallow zone defender, had been eyeing Goff himself. Game over. Rams lose.

With that, away goes the nascent Goff hype. And with it, the adoration of McVay, who, after the interception looked like his dog had just died. He’ll spend the next few days deflecting the inevitable criticism of his quarterback.

The truth: Goff is not as good as his 306 yards and 117.9 passer rating in Week 1 against the Colts suggests. Indy’s retooled defense was young in the back seven and bereft of edge rushers, so Goff was facing safe, predictable coverages and working from a clean pocket. His defense also scored three times, giving him a comfortable lead. He won’t have another scenario like this in 2017.

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Jared Goff To Start For LA Rams This Week


Written by Gary Klein at Los Angeles Times.com

The Rams traded up 14 spots to select Jared Goff with the top pick in the NFL draft.

They gave him a $28-million contract and an $18.6-million signing bonus. Then they sat him on the bench for nine games as the offense bottomed out as the lowest-scoring unit in the league.

Finally, on Tuesday, Coach Jeff Fisher tabbed Goff as the starting quarterback, replacing Case Keenum.

“It’s time,” Fisher said. “It’s time to move on.”

Goff, 22, will make his regular-season debut Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. Fisher said it was not a short-term decision.

“I don’t want to say it’s a new era, a new start,” Fisher said, “but in a lot of ways it is.”

On day when singer Britney Spears attended practice, Goff took first-team snaps as the No. 1 quarterback for the first time. He said he was excited about the opportunity to start and had been ready for a while.

“I’m glad it’s finally come,” he said, “glad they’ve given me that vote of confidence and the nod.

“I’m ready to go and prove them right.”

Goff has been the franchise’s future since the Rams brain trust chose the former California star over North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz in the April draft. But while Wentz (Philadelphia) and other rookie quarterbacks such as Dak Prescott (Dallas) flourished, Goff languished behind Keenum.

Keenum has passed for nine touchdowns, with 11 interceptions. His 76.7 passer rating ranks 30th in the NFL.

During the Rams’ loss to the Carolina Panthers at the Coliseum, fans booed the offense and chanted, “We want Goff!”

Fisher had been adamant that Keenum was not the problem for a team that had lost four games in a row and scored only two touchdowns in the last three games.

Even after Sunday’s 9-6 victory over the New York Jets — which featured no touchdowns by the Rams — Fisher said he was not considering a change at quarterback. On Monday, Fisher said Goff was No. 2.

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Why Isn’t Jared Goff Starting?


Written by Luke Kerr-Dineen at For The Win.com

Last week was the tipping point. With the Rams looking uninspired and ineffective in its 13-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, the crowd finally pushed Jeff Fisher to turn to rookie quarterback (and first overall pick) Jarred Goff.

But Fisher remains unfazed. During a press conference on Monday, the Los Angeles Times reports that the job is still Keenum’s:

Fisher might be comfortable with his situation, but he is not yet comfortable enough to play Goff.

He continued to say that “Jared’s improving,” but reiterated that Keenum would start on Sunday against a New York Jets team that is 3-6 and features the NFL’s 13th-ranked defense.

“Case right now, especially against this defense, gives us our best chance,” he said.

And then, Ian Rapoport followed with this interesting nugget:

“My understanding of the Rams quarterback situation,” Rapoport said, “is that they’re not going to make a switch — barring some sort of epic collapse by Case Keenum — until they fall out of playoff contention.”

It’s past the point where it’s become weird that Goff hasn’t been handed the starting job. It’s becoming abundantly clear that there are some serious questions over Goff’s overall ability — and, by extension, his potential. This isn’t a coach being excessively conservative or gun-shy. This is a coach who’s lack of faith in his supposed franchise quarterback is, frankly, alarming.

There is no good reason Goff shouldn’t be starting.

The logic for giving him time to learn on the sidelines is little more than a fallacy. If a quarterback is going to be good in the NFL they generally show promising signs early, and if they don’t, with the rookie salary cap in effect, it’s never been easier to cut ties and move on.

Indeed, that mindset has been on full display this very season, with Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott both being thrown in the deep end and treading water just fine.

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Jared Goff Not Even Back Up For Rams


Written by Will Brinson at CBSSports.com

Our breakdown of winners and losers from Week 2 of the NFL preseason could have easily included Jared Goff in the latter category. The Rams rookie quarterback isn’t having the best run under center, struggling early to adapt.

Things are going so poorly that, according to Jason Cole of Bleacher/Report, Goff isn’t just behind Case Keenum on the Rams depth chart — he’s the third-string quarterback behind Sean Mannion as well.

Jared Goff is currently not the Rams’ starting quarterback and may not be the No. 2 according to sources, I talked to. Two coaches admitted Goff’s talent is obvious and he will eventually be the starter. But he’s also not ready to take over. Veteran Case Keenum is still running the L.A. offense. Goff is often being outperformed by second-year pro Sean Mannion in practice. Goff was the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft but there’s no guarantee he’ll be the No. 1 quarterback any time soon.

Goff is listed as the second quarterback on the depth chart at the Rams official site. But those preseason depth charts are often just put out by the PR teams and aren’t designed to be official for coaching staff purposes.

Against the Chiefs it held true, though, as Keenum started the game for the Rams, played a pair of series and was replaced by Goff, who played the rest of the game.

As noted by Ryan Wilson in our takeaways from Saturday night, it was a questionable start for the rookie.

But with 10 minutes to go in the second quarter, No. 1 pick Jared Goff took the field. A week after he completed just 4 of 9 passes and left early with what was feared to be a shoulder injury, he was back in action. And on the first snap … he promptly threw an incomplete pass. There’s more: A play later, Goff tripped over one of his own lineman and lost a fumble in the process.

Part of the issue here is you’ve got limited time to get a rookie ready to play in the NFL and those reps are precious. So there’s a necessity of force-feeding a player taken No. 1 overall in instances like this.

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Rams Return and Goff Debuts


Written by Rich Hammond at OcRegister.com

As long-awaited sequels go, “Episode 50: Return of the Rams” opened in blockbuster fashion, even if the script didn’t quite go the way the live audience of nearly 90,000 probably anticipated.

Moments after the stadium erupted in cheers as the Rams took the field in Southern California for the first time since 1994, it fell into groans when Dallas returned the opening kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown. Anxiety increased when hoped-for franchise quarterback Jared Goff was intercepted on his third play.

Oh, what an ending though. The Rams’ 50th season in Los Angeles – after a 7,903-day St. Louis detour – unofficially opened with a dramatic 28-24 win over the Cowboys in both teams’ preseason opener Saturday night.

“I just felt like the atmosphere was crazy,’’ running back Benny Cunningham said. “You couldn’t have made this up in a movie.’’

The Rams trailed 24-7 at halftime but staged a backup-fueled comeback led by third-string quarterback Sean Mannion, who took over earlier than expected after Goff suffered a mild shoulder injury. Mannion threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to running back Aaron Green with 1:54 remaining for the winning points.

“I had to remind them (in the locker room) that it was a preseason game,’’ said coach Jeff Fisher. “It was like they clinched the playoffs, as far as they were concerned. So that was fun.’’

The visuals were strong, even if the play – at least for the starters – looked quite ragged.

Playing at their temporary home for the first time, the Rams were greeted by an announced crowd of 89,140. At kickoff time, many remained outside, still attempting to get through security, and by the time they got inside, it seemed as though others had headed for the exits.

The Rams had their moments, but most of them were in the backup-heavy second half.

Star running back Todd Gurley was held out of the game, and the long-awaited debut of Goff was an abbreviated bust. Goff, expected to play as much as two quarters, got only 13 plays.

Fisher said Goff has a sore non-throwing shoulder after the hit he took on the second-quarter interception, but that Goff is fine.

“I talked to him and he was getting a little stiff so I said, `I’m not going to mess with this,’’’ Fisher said.

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Jared Goff and Rams Open Camp in LA



Written by Andy Benoit at MMQB.com

1. The only reason to sit Jared Goff as a rookie is if the Rams think he could get permanently damaged (physically or mentally) playing behind what’s been a porous offensive line. Los Angeles’s other quarterback, Case Keenum, isn’t a guy a team can tread water with. He is small and limited in arm. Goff played as a freshman at Cal and took a lot of lumps. He’d tell you now that experience benefitted him in the long haul. People fear a repeat of Tim Couch or David Carr when it comes to No. 1 drafted quarterbacks being battered as rookies. But remember, Troy Aikman, Jim Kelly, Phil Simms and Andrew Luck also fall into this category.

2. Left tackle Greg Robinson is the Biggest NFL Bust That Nobody Talks About. Robinson struggles mightily with his anchor in pass protection. When a 6-5, 332-pounder can’t hold ground, you know his technique is flawed. The Rams are razor thin at tackle and so Robinson’s job is secure this year. But if he doesn’t polish up, it won’t be next year.

3. Todd Gurley has the subtlest change of direction ability you’ll ever see. It’s so smooth and natural that it’s hard to notice. This allows Gurley to slither through small cracks and also maximize the blocks he sets up. Remarkably, it doesn’t compromise his power, either. The 227-pounder consistently finishes runs with authority.

4. Without Tavon Austin, the Rams offense would be completely flavorless. The Rams are a run-based team with a below average O-line. They’re bereft of playmakers at wide receiver and tight end, and so their passing game must be highly schemed, with guys getting open through route combinations and play-action. Their quarterback will likely be either untested (Goff) or untalented (Keenum). It’s an awful combination for first-time coordinator Rob Boras to deal with. The saving grace is Austin’s ability to threaten defenses horizontally and vertically. The Rams do a good job of leveraging this, be it either directly (Austin’s touches) or indirectly (his decoy action on ghost reverse action and fake handoffs or screens).

5. Los Angeles’s D boasts the best front four in football. You know about Aaron Donald, the game’s most explosive defensive tackle. Robert Quinn, when healthy, is the speediest, most pliable edge rushing end in the league. And then there’s the overlooked Michael Brockers, who does all the dirty work. His phone booth strength is matched only by his initial get-off, which is tremendous.

6. Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is very committed to having a high volume, complex system. Most schemers with a dominant front four would just play 4-3 zone and hope to force sacks and turnovers. But Williams deploys a variety of different fronts, including a lot of “odd” fronts out of dime, with Donald (and sometimes Brockers) serving as what amounts to a pass rushing nose tackle. On the back end, Williams likes to rotate coverages and bring disguised blitzers from the second and third levels. There’s a debate to be had about whether all this is worth the trouble; when you’re complex, your players have more mental rigors to handle. But Williams, with this M.O., has had a lot of success over the years, including a Super Bowl title with the ’09 Saints. That Saints D had some limitations in the secondary that Williams hid with by blitzing. You can expect to see more of that from Williams here; the Rams secondary is not as strong as it was a year ago.

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Will Goff Be Good, and How Good?

Written by Paul Ladewski at San Francisco Examiner 

Jared Goff always did look good in Cal blue and gold. The first pick in the NFL draft didn’t look too bad in Los Angeles Rams blue and yellow on Thursday, either, even if the colors weren’t quite the same

Truth is, Goff would look a lot better in 49ers’ red and gold right now. In many ways, the franchise needed him. Their fans wanted him. If the quarterback turns out to be anything close to Aaron Rodgers, another Cal star who got away, the Niners will rue the day they sat on their thumbs and allowed it to happen.

It won’t take long for Santa Clara to get its first glimpse of what might have been. The Rams will be there for week one’s late Monday Nighter.

Think the NFL doesn’t have a sense for drama?

“I look forward to it,” Goff said. “I’ll work hard. Hopefully, I’ll play some.”

Two hours into the whirlwind, Balls was almost as tired as Goff as he followed the kid from room to room at the Auditorium Theater. He was escorted to one interview after another, answered many of the same questions with the words “awesome” and “excited” over and over again. One lackey even called him “Carson” as in Wentz, who went to the Philadelphia Eagles one pick later.

What will Goff buy with his millions? A sports car? A mansion? A small island?

“A massage chair,” Goff said with a wry smile after some thought.

If Goff seemed overwhelmed by it all, nobody could blame him. Finally, he tilted the Rams ballcap on his head,  put his head down then rubbed his weary face with his hands in the corner of a room.

“Yeah, I’m excited it’s over,” Goff said. “I’m happy it’s behind me. At the same time, it’s only the beginning, only the beginning of what I hope to be a long career.”

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