Jared Goff, showered and smiling, slowly bent down and pulled on his left sneaker. He slowly stood back up and gingerly wriggled into his right.
“I feel,” he said, “like a 55-year-old man.”
The Rams quarterback wasn’t creaking around in Sunday’s 35-30 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, but he was certainly playing beyond his years. He didn’t look like a guy making the 11th start of his NFL career.
The decibel count kept climbing, but Goff’s blood pressure never seemed to. He was unflappable, even when his in-helmet radio went on the fritz in the fourth quarter. For a series, he had to run to the sideline to get the play call, meaning the Rams couldn’t run their no-huddle for a stretch.
“There was no noise in my ear, zero,” he said. “Just for that three-and-out.”
He used a generic helmet on the next series, one without a radio. That gave the equipment crew time to fix the earpiece in his original helmet.
All the while, it was the same sleepy-eyed Goff, relaxed as a Texas twang.
“He was running on and off the field like high school football,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “And he just never flinched. That’s a great characteristic of him and who he is as a quarterback. There’s a stubbornness to good quarterbacks, guys who don’t listen to all the junk around them and just go out and play their game. He seems to have a really good resolve to do that right now.”
This was a landmark victory for Goff, not just because it came on the road against an elite opponent, and not just because it further legitimized his team’s 3-1 record. These weren’t the Andrew Luck-less Indianapolis Colts, after all, or a San Francisco team coming off a 2-14 season.
Sunday’s game showed that Goff and the Rams are no fluke. Watching last year’s Rams, you had to slap yourself in the face to stay awake. This year’s Rams are suddenly scintillating. They scored 35 points and left a ton on the field, considering they kicked seven field goals.
“Jerry’s a good friend, but we owed them,” Rams owner Stan Kroenke said of Jerry Jones, his Cowboys counterpart. “We needed to beat the Cowboys. They’ve been beating us for several years now.”
There’s one undeniable conclusion when comparing these 3-1 Rams to last year’s 3-1 Rams: Wow, they actually design plays now.
The offensive line blocks. Todd Gurley churns out yards — he had 215 from scrimmage against the Cowboys. And just imagine when they get receiver Sammy Watkins fully involved on a weekly basis. (He had one catch for 17 yards Sunday.)
“It’s one more step in the right direction,” Coach Sean McVay said.
McVay’s team has scored 142 points in four games. That’s the third-most at this point of the season among first-year coaches in the modern era. Bill Callahan of the 2002 Oakland Raiders (162) and Mike Martz of the 2000 St. Louis Rams (160) saw their teams score more.
Even the Rams’ defense, as wobbly as it has been at times this first month, slammed the door when it had to against both the 49ers and Cowboys.
“Big,” Goff said. “To finish this quarter 3-1 and having them be with big road wins with our defense on the field needing to make a stop and they do. For it to finish both those way is huge for our team, our chemistry and everything in between. Just continues to build that camaraderie and the belief in each other that we always have.”
The only time Goff was intercepted Sunday was on his way to the bus after the game. There, in the bowels of AT&T Stadium, he was swarmed by about 25 of his high school classmates from Marin Catholic who had flown out for the game — young men and women, most of them in No. 16 jerseys. He happily made his way through the throng, doling out handshakes and hugs, while posing for all sorts of group photos.
“Good or bad, he handles it the same,” said his father, Jerry Goff, watching his son interact with friends. “He doesn’t let things bother him.”
Eventually, Goff made his way to the bus. A day older, a little wiser, and one win better. He’s throwing the right kind of spirals now, for a franchise that once only knew downward ones.
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer