Rams’ Aaron Donald vs. Lions’ Jared Goff: ‘You know some things’

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Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald will not chase or hit Jared Goff until Sunday night, when the Rams play the Detroit Lions in an NFC wild-card game at Ford Field.

But Donald, a three-time NFL defensive player of the year, already sent his former Rams teammate a message.

Donald said Thursday that he texted Goff this week.

“I just told him I was proud of him,” Donald said, “You know, obviously, with what they’ve been accomplishing and what he’s been doing.

“I said I’d see him Sunday night. He said, ‘I appreciate you, brother. I’ll see you Sunday night. It’s going to be fun.’ ”

Donald, of course, would like to make life miserable for Goff during the Lions’ first home playoff game in 30 years.

The Lions earned the No. 3 seed in the NFC by finishing with a 12-5 record and winning the NFC North.

Goff, jettisoned by the Rams in 2021 in a trade for quarterback Matthew Stafford, has led the Lions with outstanding play under coach Dan Campbell and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson.

Goff has passed for 30 touchdowns, with 12 interceptions, in an offense that ranks second in passing and fifth in rushing and scoring.

Donald and Goff were teammates for five seasons. They made the playoffs three times, including a run to Super Bowl LIII to end the 2018 season.

So Donald knows Goff’s strengths and weaknesses.

“You know some things he did good, some things that make him feel uncomfortable,” Donald said.

Goff, Donald said, has grown in his understanding of the game since he played for the Rams but the 6-foot-4, 217-pound Goff remains mainly a pocket passer.

“We know he’s not the most mobile guy,” said Donald, who has eight sacks, “but when he’s got a clean pocket and he’s able to make all the right throws, he can do that.

“So we just got to do a great job of finding ways to put pressure on him, make him uncomfortable. Hopefully, we get him.”

This is not the first time the Rams played against Goff.

In 2021, the winless Lions were in position to upset the Rams at SoFi Stadium. With about five minutes left and the Lions at the Rams’ 12-yard line, however, Donald pressured Goff and cornerback Jalen Ramsey intercepted a pass in the end zone.

The Lions finished 3-13 in 2021, improved to 9-8 in 2022, and this season tied for the second-best record in the NFL.

Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said Goff has grown while playing under Campbell.

Lions quarterback Jared Goff has faced his former team before, losing 28-19 to the Rams in 2021.

(Luis Sinco)

“They spew toughness, and it’s really what most good coaches are about,” Morris said. “And Jared has been able to display that since he’s been there. The mental toughness and the ability to bring people up.”

Morris is continuing an audition of sorts as the Rams begin the postseason. The Chargers, Carolina Panthers, Washington Commanders and Atlanta Falcons have requested to interview Morris for their head-coaching vacancies.

Interviews cannot be conducted until after the divisional round of the playoffs, which is fine with Morris.

“I’m worried about trying to go out and get a victory for the L.A. Rams,” Morris said, “and I really believe I’ll handle that when that time comes and it’s there.”

Neutralizing Goff is among Morris’ biggest concerns.

Pressuring quarterbacks is the goal in any game. In Goff’s case, it is not as simple as studying the Miami Dolphins scheme that unnerved and overpowered Goff in 2020. Facing pressure from nearly every angle, Goff had two passes intercepted and lost two fumbles, one that was returned for a touchdown.

“If everybody can repeat that they would,” Morris said. “And if that was that easy to do then we’d all do it.

“There’s certain things that you want to go exploit on everybody you play if you have the opportunity to. But Jared has grown a lot. … I can just watch him on tape and see he knows what he wants to do and how he wants to do it.”

The Ford Field crowd is expected to be loud, but that could work to the Rams’ advantage, according to Morris.

“No better feeling in sports than to go in there and be the Darth Vader to somebody’s Star Wars,” he said. “It is a really cool feeling.”

Donald, who has eight sacks, said he is feeling good after coach Sean McVay held Donald and other key starters out last Sunday for the victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

“I feel great, feel healthy, feel strong — I’m anxious to get back on the field and play some ball,” Donald said. “So I feel really good.”

Donald said he felt no aches or pains.

He chuckled as he stretched his shoulders, seemingly sending another message to Goff.

“Shoulders are good,” he said, “I’m ready to go.”

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