Since coming into the NFL as the No. 1 draft pick in 2016, Jared Goff has passed for a touchdown against every opponent he has faced more than once — except the Chicago Bears.
In 2018, the Bears intercepted four passes and sacked Goff three times in a 15-6 Rams defeat at Soldier Field.
Last season, Goff attempted only 18 passes, and had one intercepted, in a 17-7 Rams victory at the Coliseum.
On Monday night, Goff again will try to solve one of the NFL’s most aggressive defenses when the Rams (4-2) play host to the Bears (5-1) at SoFi Stadium.
This season, Goff has passed for 10 touchdowns, with four interceptions. He ranks 11th in the NFL with a 101.4 passer rating.
But in last Sunday’s 24-16 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers, Goff and other Rams playmakers had their most inconsistent game of the season. Goff completed 19 of 38 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns but also overthrew receivers multiple times. The Rams converted only four of 12 third downs and committed multiple presnap penalties.
“It was uncharacteristic,” Goff said Thursday during a videoconference with reporters, “something that we don’t expect to do again.”
Asked what Goff could improve upon this week, coach Sean McVay said that with a film study, “I could answer that question for about three hours,” noting the intricacies and nuance required to play quarterback in the NFL.
“It’s more about a lot of the things that he’s done really well throughout the first six weeks,” McVay said, adding that he was looking for Goff to make consistently good decisions, and to pass the ball with anticipation, timing and placement that enables receivers to make plays after catching passes.
The Bears’ defense features star outside linebacker Khalil Mack, end Akiem Hicks, linebacker Roquan Smith, cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Eddie Jackson.
Those players were on the field when the Bears manhandled the Rams two years ago, a defeat that played a role in McVay’s decision to hire former Bears outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley as defensive coordinator.
McVay reiterated Thursday that he learned from the loss, which did not prevent the Rams from making a run to the Super Bowl.
What did Goff learn?
“Nothing that I hadn't learned from another game where I didn't play my best,” Goff said. “It's just, continue to keep your head down and keep going.
“After that game happened, it was obviously not very good by us and we won a bunch of games after that, a bunch of big games. So, just not letting one game affect two and even when the performance is extremely subpar, like that was, not letting it affect the next game and further on into the playoffs that year.”
After the 2018 season, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio moved on to become coach of the Denver Broncos — and he took Staley with him.
Chuck Pagano replaced Fangio last season and once again gave Goff problems. Playing behind an injury depleted offensive line — and also without receivers Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods — Goff completed only 11 for 18 passes for 173 yards.
“One of my favorite wins as a Ram,” Goff said after the victory.
On Thursday, it sounded as if he still felt that way.
“I thought we played pretty well considering what we had that night on offense,” he said.
The Rams’ offensive line is more physically sound this season. Goff has been sacked only seven times, tied for second-fewest in the league. Mack has 4½ of the Bears’ 15 sacks.
“We're still obviously aware of Khalil and what he's doing, and we want to keep him as far away from me as possible,” Goff said, “but it's a completely different year.
“They have a completely different team. We have a completely different team, so the approach will be different."
McVay said that because of COVID-19 protocol kicker Kai Forbath would not arrive until Sunday. The Rams signed Forbath to compete with and possibly replace rookie Samuel Sloman. “Doesn’t mean it’s over for Sam,” McVay said. “We want to continue to evaluate him but getting Kai in here is something we wanted to explore as well.” Forbath, 33, played for Washington when McVay was an assistant coach. Last season with the Dallas Cowboys, Forbath kicked three field goals and five extra points in a victory over the Rams. “He was automatic,” McVay said. ... Defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson returned to practice for the first time since training camp, when he was put on the noninjury football list. Robinson had been working with trainers the last few weeks. The Rams have a 21-day window to activate Robinson to the roster. McVay did not rule out making him active against the Bears. ... Running back Darrell Henderson (thigh) and tight end Tyler Higbee (hand) did not practice. Defensive lineman Aaron Donald and offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth were given veterans’ day off.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.