LOS ANGELES (AP) Any lingering questions about Jared Goff‘s ability to be the next standout quarterback in a horned helmet are withering while he destroys defenses this season.
The Vikings were his latest victims Thursday night when Goff threw for 465 yards and five touchdowns of increasing brilliance. Yet Minnesota still had a chance until the Los Angeles Rams’ defense kept them unbeaten.
Goff set career highs while winning a scintillating duel with Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins and leading the Rams to a 38-31 victory.
Goff and Cousins got together at midfield afterward, exchanging compliments about their eye-catching performances and their bright futures ahead.
“We’re really clicking right now,” Goff said. “I feel good about where we’re at, and we have a lot of season ahead of us.”
Goff was perfect, at least according to his passer rating of 158.3 in his third consecutive 300-yard game. He went 26 of 33 in the Rams’ most prolific passing performance since 1982.
Yet the raw numbers don’t describe the series of high-difficulty, high-reward throws that he completed in a brilliant four-touchdown first half.
He threw a 70-yard beauty of a TD pass to Cooper Kupp, who then caught a perfectly thrown 19-yard scoring pass later in the second quarter on his way to a monster 162-yard receiving game. Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods also hauled in scoring throws designed by Sean McVay and executed flawlessly by his quarterback.
The Rams (4-0) are off to their best start since 2001, when Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and their fleet-footed receivers made the franchise’s last appearance in the Super Bowl.
“It can’t get much better than how we’re playing right now,” Gurley said. “I mean, it can. But it can’t.”
For all of the Rams’ offensive brilliance, Cousins and the Vikings (1-2-1) were within a touchdown with the ball at midfield and 2 minutes to play. Cousins passed for 422 yards and three touchdowns, but Minnesota lost when Rams rookie defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers strip-sacked Cousins near midfield with 1:18 to play.
“If you don’t bounce back, if you don’t have an answer, you won’t be in the league very long,” said Cousins, who went 36 for 50. “This league will chew you up and spit you out if you don’t show up every week. We felt like there was a huge sense of urgency, and we played that way.”
Cousins also got a moment to chat with McVay, his former offensive coordinator in Washington. Cousins credits McVay for a major role in his development into an $84 million quarterback, and Goff has spent untold hours watching film of Cousins’ progress with McVay.
“It’s fun for us, personally,” Goff said of his duel with Cousins, who hit Aldrick Robinson for two scores.
“I don’t know if it’s fun for the whole team, but it’s cool,” Goff said. “Got a lot of respect for him and the way he plays, and I just think he’s such a great quarterback. To get a chance to go against him like that and kind of duke it out, I told him after the game how much I appreciated the battle with him.”
A healthy throng of purple-clad fans turned out for the Vikings’ first game in Los Angeles since 1993 – but one week after giving up 27 points in the first half and getting blown out as 16 1/2-point favorites in Buffalo, the Vikings gave up 28 before halftime against LA.
“We did not play well defensively,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “Offensively we moved the ball well, but we had too many missed tackles, and too many people were left wide open. I’ve not ever had a team that’s been this poor in pass coverage. We are going to have to look at everything.”
The Vikings trimmed LA’s lead to 31-28 late in the third quarter with Adam Thielen‘s 45-yard TD catch and a 2-point conversion.
Goff promptly surpassed his previous career highs for yards passing during a swift drive ending in Robert Woods‘ 31-yard TD catch, and the Rams’ defense hung on while the offense went scoreless in the fourth quarter, partly thanks to a missed 28-yard field goal by Sam Ficken.
Goff found Kupp with two beautiful TD throws in the first half, the first hitting Kupp in stride on that 70-yard sprint , and the second eluding two Vikings and dropping into Kupp’s hands deep in the end zone.
“Jared put it in about a 6-inch box that only he could fit it into,” McVay said.
Less than 2 1/2 minutes later, Goff hit Cooks down the middle for a 47-yard score. Goff’s four TD passes were the most in a first half by a Rams quarterback since Warner did it in 1999.
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