The rookie quarterback and No. 1 overall pick led an impressive touchdown drive to open Thursday's game against the Minnesota Vikings, but he completed only a quarter of his passes and made a couple of key turnovers through the rest of the first half in the Rams' 27-25 loss at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Aaron Green broke off a 26-yard touchdown run to pull the Rams to within two with just under two minutes left. The Rams then got the ball back at their own 39-yard line with 40 seconds remaining, but Sean Mannion threw two incomplete passes and took two sacks to seal the loss. Before that, Mannion was 15-of-21 for 135 yards and a touchdown.
For the Rams, the game featured some ugly special-teams play, an impressive showing from their backup defensive linemen and important contributions from a bevy of wide receivers fighting for spots on the final 53-man roster. But the story was Goff, who didn't come close to taking advantage of his first preseason start.
QB depth chart: Goff led an impressive opening drive, going 3-of-4 for 53 yards and sealing it with a perfect back-shoulder pass to Kenny Britt for a 1-yard TD pass. And then it all came undone. The 21-year-old went 3-of-12 for 14 yards the rest of the first half and gave up the ball twice while deep in his own territory, both of which led to Vikings scores. Goff dropped a snap from the shotgun on third down, beginning to drop back before securing the football, and gave the Vikings the ball inside the 10-yard line with less than two minutes left in the first half. On his next snap, Goff tried to set up a screen pass but had the ball tipped by Justin Trattou and subsequently intercepted by Toby Johnson. Goff, given eight first-half drives with starter Case Keenum sitting out, also overthrew his intended receiver three times on third down. After the game, Rams coach Jeff Fisher said "if we were starting right now" Mannion would be the backup quarterback, pushing Goff to third string.
Starter status: The only defensive starters to play were linebacker Akeem Ayers and safety Maurice Alexander, who made a couple of nice tackles in the backfield. None of the Rams' top three running backs played, a list that includes Todd Gurley, Benny Cunningham and Malcolm Brown. Receiver Tavon Austin and tight end Lance Kendricks also sat. So did left tackle Greg Robinson, who is still going through the concussion protocol. Britt received plenty of time in the first half, however. And right tackle Rob Havenstein, who spent most of training camp dealing with an injury to his right foot, was able to start his first game.
Who got hurt? The Rams have some tough decisions to make at linebacker, and a couple of them who don't appear to have solidified spots came out of the game early. Bryce Hager was taken to the locker room, seemingly for a concussion, and Nic Grigsby was shown icing his left thigh on the sideline. With halftime seconds away, offensive lineman Garrett Reynolds appeared to injure his leg.
Surprise player who impressed: Thursday might go down as the night casual Rams fans learned about Morgan Fox, the undrafted rookie defensive lineman out of Colorado State-Pueblo. Fox notched two sacks, two tackles for a loss and four quarterback hits, creating disruption throughout the first half.
Reason to be encouraged: Thursday's game served as further proof of how dominant and deep the Rams' defensive line can be. Fox was the star, but several others helped dominate the line of scrimmage in the first half. Ethan Westbrooks and Matt Longacre each recorded sacks, and Cam Thomas had a nice day creating pressure. The Vikings were playing two days after starter Teddy Bridgewater suffered a season-ending knee injury and didn't play a single quarterback who had thrown a pass in an NFL game.
Reason to be concerned: Special teams was a mess, though it was composed mostly of backups. First there was a fumble on a punt, which hit Duke Williams in the leg. Then the Rams gave up a 106-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to Jhurell Pressley, who benefited from several missed tackles. And then Paul McRoberts muffed a punt, which led to a fumble deep in Rams territory and an ensuing touchdown by the Vikings. This from a Rams team that began the preseason by giving up a touchdown on the opening kickoff at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Checking in on the wideouts: Special-teams blemishes aside, Williams made a nice leaping catch on a throw across the middle, and McRoberts made another nice leaping catch in the end zone, hauling in Mannion's 2-yard pass. Mike Thomas had a couple of really good kickoff returns, and also made three catches for 38 yards. Austin Hill caught a 9-yard pass and Brian Quick dropped an early one while coming across the middle, though Goff's throw was slightly behind him. Rams receivers were statistically the worst in the NFL last season and will enter the season banged up. Pharoh Cooper (shoulder) and Nelson Spruce (knee) don't figure to be ready by Week 1, and Bradley Marquez, who caught a couple of passes for 30 yards, has been dealing with a tender right ankle.
Say what: One of the referees said "St. Louis" instead of "Los Angeles" when referring to the Rams on a challenge in the fourth quarter. That also happened in the second preseason game. This may take some time.