Breakout Live breaks down the key positional matchups heading into Super Bowl 53. Next up: Quarterbacks.
The California kid’s 3rd year in the league proved to be another rung up the ladder for the former 1st overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. This season Goff set new career highs in several categories, including: Attempts, Completions, Completion Percentage, Yards, Average, Touchdowns, and Passer Rating.
It’s been a joy watching the former rookie, whose career got off to a very rocky start during the final year of Jeff Fisher’s regime, become a top 10 quarterback in his 2nd and 3rd seasons under wunderkind Sean McVay. There’s a huge gulf between the rookie who had a 5-7 TD to INT ratio and a paltry 63.6 passer rating, and the 2018 version who sported a 32-12 TD to INT ratio and a 101.1 passer rating.
However, Goff’s 2018 season was marked by bouts of erraticism. If you juxtapose Weeks 2-4 with the 3-week period after the incredible win over the Chiefs in the Monday night classic and subsequent bye-week, you get a great picture of his inconsistency. In weeks 2-4 (all home games vs. ARI, LAC and MIN) Goff threw for 1173 yards, 9 Touchdowns against 2 interceptions with an average passer rating of 130. That 3-game stretch was punctuated by his coming out party vs. Minnesota in Week 4, where he went 26-33 throwing for 465 yards, 5 touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating.
Now, look at his showing Weeks 12-14 (at DET, at CHI vs. PHI). Goff looked more like Goof, than Goff, and he had many observers wondering if the wheels had come totally off, throwing for 726 yards with just 1 touchdown vs. 6 interceptions and a average passer rating of just 54.5. His low point came in a Sunday nighter against a suffocating Bears defense where Goff threw 4 picks, no TD passes, and an abominable 19.1 passer rating.
Fortunately, Goff would end the season with two fine showings against teams picking 1-2 in the upcoming draft in Arizona and San Francisco.
All told, Goff would finish 4th in the NFL in passing yards with 4688, tied for 6th in TD passes with 32, and 8th (101.1) in passer rating, firmly entrenching himself as a top 10 quarterback in the league.
Taking a look at his postseason numbers, there’s cause for alarm. Goff hasn’t necessarily hurt his team, but he hasn’t helped it much either. In two playoff games, Goff has just one touchdown pass and one interception. He’s thrown for 180 and 297 yards, respectively, and has posted a combined passer rating average of 79.5, which is over 20 points off his regular season average. His lone playoff game in the 2017 season vs. the Falcons showed very similar numbers. Goff’s signature moment from his 3 playoff appearances didn’t come in crunch time; it came before the half of the Saints game where he led a 7-play, 81-yard touchdown drive that cut a 10-point deficit to 3.
The irrepressible Tom Brady’s 19th season in the NFL was a most interesting one. The 2018 chapter in the book of Brady had overtones of finality throughout. Leading the Patriots to a 1-2 start, including losses at Jacksonville and Detroit, had many talking heads proclaiming the end wasn’t only nigh, but already upon us. The 2017 ESPN piece by Seth Wickersham that spoke of a great divide in the Patriots between Brady and Belichick was regurgitated as if it were prophecy that foretold of these 2018 events.
That was at the end of Week 3. Week 4 had the Patriots at home facing the 3-0 Miami Dolphins and talk of New England falling 3 games behind in the division that Brady last didn’t win as a starting quarterback way back in 2002. A 3-touchdown performance that wasn’t exactly Brady’s best restored a little faith in the Patriots, but still left questions as to whether Brady was fading.
A win vs. Miami sparked Brady and the Pats to a 6-game winning streak that hit its crescendo in Week 6 when undefeated Kansas City came to town in a matchup of what appeared to be the past in Brady and and future in Patrick Mahomes. That Sunday night in Foxborough, Brady and Mahomes went toe-to-toe in one of the 2018 regular season’s most memorable games. Of course, it came down to the last drive and it was Brady with the ball in his hands. And like so many times before, he delivered, sending the Chiefs to their first defeat and the Pats on course for home field advantage.
By week 10 the Pats were sure-fire shoo-ins for another Super Bowl, and then Brady, who is all rock and roll, tried to go a little country in Tennessee and hit some sour notes with an awful 21-41 performance with no touchdowns and a 70.6 passer rating, resulting in the wrong end of a 34-10 shellacking.
Again, Brady would pick himself up off the mat and respond with three 100+ passer rating games, re-establishing himself as anything but finished.
After a back and forth battle with KC and the Miami Miracle in between, Brady and the Patriots found themselves the 2nd seed in the AFC.
A machine-like performance from Brady against the Chargers in the divisional round brought a rematch in Kansas City for the right to go to the Super Bowl. Brady and the Pats would find themselves as underdogs for the first time in 68 games. The self-deprecating Brady remarked that they sucked and couldn’t win any games. The rope-a-dope act worked for the greatest of all time much as it did for the world’s greatest, Muhammad Ali. A 348-yard performance and a virtuoso overtime drive from Brady vanquished Mahomes and the Chiefs for a 2nd time and put the Pats back in the Super Bowl for the 3rd consecutive season.
No disrespect to Jared Goff, who has had a fine season in his own right, but there is no quarterback in the history of the game that the advantage would go to in Super Bowl 53 over Tom Brady. This is Brady’s 9th Super Bowl and 40th playoff game to Goff’s 4th playoff game and no Super Bowl appearances. Tom Brady holds the record for the most postseason game-winning drives with 12, more than double any other quarterback. The Patriots Super Bowls always come down to the final possession. Nick Foles got Brady last year, making it less likely the young Goff can accomplish that impressive feat twice in a row against the greatest of all time.