Santa Clara, California. — Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff isn’t as familiar with the Lions’ next playoff opponent as he is with Detroit’s first (his former team, the Los Angeles Rams), but as a former division rival, The San Francisco 49ers are very familiar with his game.
Goff was drafted by the Rams in 2016, a year before the franchise moved to Los Angeles, and just two years later, he reached his first Super Bowl. Rams coach Sean McVay’s arrival coincided with Kyle Shanahan’s arrival in San Francisco, and the two coaches turned their respective teams into perennial powers that compete at the top of the division year after year.
For the first four years of Shanahan’s tenure in the Bay, that also meant competing directly with Goff for the division. Despite how he ended Goff’s tenure in Los Angeles, Shanahan remembered him as a “great” quarterback and said he has brought the best parts of his game to Detroit.
“When you give him a good plan, when you have good people around him, Jared will always find his place,” Shanahan said. “He’s as accurate as any quarterback he’s ever seen. He can play at a very high level. If you sit back and make things easy for him, he will cut you off. I’ve seen it time and time again, whether he’s with the Rams or Detroit. That’s why he challenges you.
“You better focus on your business or he can embarrass you quickly.”
That includes pass rushing, one of the 49ers’ strengths. San Francisco did not record a sack of Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love in last week’s divisional round win, but they did generate 22 pressures on six quarterback hits, five of which were credited to 49ers running back Nick Bosa, the reigning defensive player of the year.
Overall, Bosa, who entered the league in 2019, on the tail end of Goff’s tenure with the Rams, also sees the same guy in Detroit that he saw in Los Angeles. Goff is playing great football, Bosa said, but he still has weaknesses in him that San Francisco believes they can exploit.
Of the 24 quarterbacks who played 50% of their team’s snaps this season, Goff’s 62.9 passer rating while under pressure ranks 16th.
“I think it’s the same guy,” Bosa said. “He has played very well with Los Angeles and he has played very well in Detroit, but the key is obviously to put pressure on him. He has a very good (offensive) line, so it makes it difficult, but you cover the first few reads on him and then you chase him down, hit him a couple of times, that changes things a little bit.”
Although they will be without starting left guard Jonah Jackson, Detroit’s dominance on the offensive line was evident in playoff victories over the Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But it’s not pass protection that puts fear in the heart of 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. It’s run blocking and how that has had a tendency to open up everything else. Lions running backs Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery led Detroit to No. 5 in both rushing yards per game (135.9) and yards per attempt (4.6).
“I think it’s not so much his protection, I think it’s really his running game, which in turn affects his protection,” Wilks said. “When their running game moves forward, it allows them to slow us down a little bit with the play action. We’ve got to do a great job…trying to really stop and eliminate this running game and make these guys one-dimensional.
“It’s still not an easy task, because Goff is a really good quarterback.”