The first time he touched the ball in the third-highest scoring game in NFL history, the best quarterback on the planet led his team to a punt.
The game was supposed to be played in Mexico City but was rescheduled to Los Angeles because of poor field conditions, where it was played amidst wildfires that forced most Rams players to evacuate their homes and in the aftermath of a mass shooting at a Thousand Oaks, Calif., restaurant.
It was billed at the time as a heavyweight fight between two of the game’s best young quarterbacks and two of the NFL’s most explosive teams. Their careers have gone down different paths in the years since, but Goff and Mahomes will meet Thursday for the first time since that game in the NFL season opener when the Detroit Lions visit the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
“That one was a shootout for the ages and a fun one,” Goff recalled Friday.
Goff and Mahomes put up video game numbers, leading their teams to a combined 105 points on 95 pass attempts with 11 touchdowns.
Goff was 31 of 49 passing for 413 yards and four TDs. He ran for a fifth touchdown, and Samson Ebukam scored on fumble and interception returns.
Mahomes was 33 of 46 for 478 yards and six scores, but threw interceptions on Kansas City’s final two possessions and lost two fumbles.
“It was one of the longest games of my life,” said Lions receiver Josh Reynolds, who caught six passes for 80 yards and scored the Rams’ second touchdown that day. “Both offenses were just rolling. If the defense was able to get a stop, usually it was a defensive touchdown so it was just one of those games where everything was kind of clicking.”
Goff led 75- and 83-yard touchdown drives on the Rams’ first two possessions to stake L.A. to a 13-0 lead. Mahomes rallied the Chiefs back after a Goff fumble, and the two teams traded scores in the final two minutes of the first half to reach the locker room tied at 23.
The Rams took a 10-point lead in the third quarter before four lead changes in the final 12 minutes led to an epic finish. Goff threw a go-ahead 40-yard touchdown pass to Gerald Everett with 1:49 to play, and Mahomes followed with his first pick of the game on the ensuing series and was intercepted again on a long heave with 25 seconds left.
“It was a crazy week, super fun game, but one for sure you remember forever,” said former Rams long snapper Jake McQuaide, who was with the Lions this preseason.
McQuaide said nothing Goff did that day surprised him.
“I think maybe from the outsider’s view maybe people didn’t necessarily believe in Jared’s greatness, but when you see it every day, consistency is the truest measure of performance,” he said. “Jared does it every day. Like, it’s every day. And he makes it look boring. The guy can just throw the ball and when he’s on and when you’re running the ball and he’s working his play-action it’s like, dude, there’s no one better than this guy. When he’s on, he can just fricking sling the ball. He’s great. And you see it every single day.”
Goff led the Rams to a 13-3 record and Super Bowl appearance that season, though their offense sputtered some down the stretch. The Rams needed two fourth quarter scores to beat the Lions in their next game two weeks later, 30-16, and they didn’t score a touchdown in their 13-3 Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots.
The Rams missed the playoffs in 2019, and Rams coach Sean McVay tired of Goff after an early playoff exit the next year, prompting his trade to the Lions.
Mahomes, a first-year starter in 2018, won the NFL’s MVP award that season and again last year, and has led the Chiefs to five straight AFC championship games with two Super Bowl wins.
“He’s as good as they come,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “He’s as tough as they are to play. He’s a great player.”
As prolific as Goff, Mahomes and their offenses were that day — Washington’s 72-41 win over the New York Giants in 1966 and a 2004 Cincinnati Bengals-Cleveland Browns game are the only games with more total points in NFL history — both Reynolds and McQuaide said they look back on the game now with a healthy appreciation for everything else that went on in the game.
Goff has fond memories of the game, too, though he never “saw it as like a bigger meaning than just a Monday Night football game.”
“I think it was two really good offenses and there were some defensive scores in that game, too,” he said. “It just was kind of some fireworks and we were able to score last. That was kind of the thing, it was like, who was going to have the ball last is what it felt like and we were able to score last and finish the game.”