Jared Goff’s first interception in 315 days happened midway through the fourth quarter of a Week 2 home game against the Seahawks. Until that moment on Sunday, his pick-less-in-Detroit streak dated back to Nov. 6, 2022, through two months of last season and one game of this one, despite nearly 400 pass attempts. He had a shot at history, even.
Context mattered at that moment. Always does, especially in the NFL. The Lions were using their third running back on this particular play and had been shuffling tackles around to deal with injuries that cropped up against Seattle. On the broadcast, a graphic flashed across television screens. At that point, Goff had been sacked once (the same drive) and pressured just four times on 25 dropbacks. But the analysts were also lamenting all the injuries around him, their analysis, they would soon find out, perfectly timed.
Detroit lined up with Goff in shotgun and two receivers bunched to his right. Another wideout set up on the left, while that third-string back, Craig Reynolds, stood next to Goff on that side. Seattle showed a heavy blitz look, with three extra defenders near the line. But when the ball was snapped, only one actually blitzed. The Seahawks created pressure anyway, which is what Goff sensed, the left defensive end coming off the edge, barreling toward him. He turned slightly the other way, to his left and threw. His attempt wobbled toward Reynolds, who was covered but open, depending on the throw. Had the ball arrived in front of him, the play might have picked up 10 to 15 yards. Instead, the attempt tottered behind Reynolds.
A third-year cornerback trailed Reynolds on the play, close but not close enough, which actually proved fortuitous—wrong place, right time, right place … after all! Tre Brown stepped toward the ball, grabbed the pick and sprinted 40 yards the other way. Touchdown, Seahawks, which extended their lead to 31–21. Brown had secured his first career interception.“He’s wide open,” one of the broadcasters said, meaning Reynolds. “If (Goff) just puts the ball on his front shoulder …”
It happens. Right idea. Botched execution. Only, in this instance, there was a little bit more at stake for Goff. The interception was notable. For the history it upended, sure, along with the impact it had on one particular loss in this Lions’ season of renewed promise. But the turnover’s greatest significance spoke not to failure but to mindset—and to growth.
Goff’s private quarterback coach, Adam Dedeaux of 3DQB, sent the QB a text message Monday morning. He had watched the play, over and over, and couldn’t quite figure out what had gone wrong. Dedeaux wondered if Goff had been hit. If not, maybe there had been some sort of miscommunication? The answer, on both, delivered via text responses and in a phone call, was negative. Goff had felt a defender “coming.” The attempt’s wonky flight path owed, instead, to a split-second decision to alter his arm angle, in order to account for a defender perhaps running into his arm. The explanation made sense. “He doesn’t throw balls like that,” Dedeaux says. “It wasn’t a bad decision. He just felt pressure. That stuff happens. But [with Goff], it hasn’t happened in a long time, obviously.”
That last part is important. Because for more than half of last season, Goff had avoided precisely that kind of mistake. He knew it wouldn’t last forever and politely told reporters who kept asking him about the streak that they were placing way more focus on it than he ever would. Which isn’t to say Goff ignored the idea of cutting down his interception total. He focused on that, as his tally heightened from his first and second seasons, with the Rams, where he threw seven interceptions in each, followed by 12 picks in 2018, a career-high 16 in ’19 and 13 more in ’20. That’s when Los Angeles shipped him to Detroit. And, while Dedeaux says that Goff “never had an accuracy problem,” more accuracy certainly never hurts.
In two seasons and two weeks of this season, that emphasis paid dividends, interception or no interception. Goff helped spark Detroit’s revival by limiting his interception total from the outset. He threw eight in his first season (2021) and seven last year, but none after Nov. 6. His interception percentage also dropped after Goff changed teams. In his rookie season, Goff clocked a career high, at 3.4 percent, and that’s not the “high” quarterbacks prefer. In three of his other four seasons with the Rams, his percentage was 2.1 or higher. But with the Lions, it was 1.6, 1.2 and, entering last week, 0.0.
In the springs and summers between those seasons, whenever Goff and Dedeaux worked together, limiting turnovers came up. Goff wasn’t inaccurate. But being more so remained a focus. On Monday, the emphasis continued, clinically. His explanation for the drop was simple; it started not with his arm, his experience or anything except his mindset. He wanted to be aggressive. But he understood that he could dial back his aggression, in just a few spots each week, in order to remove his riskiest attempts—which, of course, were more likely to be picked off. Consider the exercise an improving of odds. “I’m just not going to force them,” Goff told Dedeaux this past summer. “I just move off of stuff, if I don’t like it. I’m not going to try and win the game on one play anymore.”
“Just speaks to the maturation process,” Dedeaux told me Monday morning.
Less “speaks.” More: “grabs a bullhorn and shouts with the microphone on max volume.” In an era of professional football defined by unprecedented levels by precision and accuracy in passing games across the league, not to mention an era replete with elite NFL signal-callers, only two players in NFL history have thrown more attempts without an INT. One is Tom Brady, who went 399 passes without a pick (2022). The other is Aaron Rodgers, who set the all-time record with 402 consecutive throws that no defender secured.
Goff entered Sunday’s matchup against Seattle needing 43 attempts to match Rodgers’s tally from that 2018 season. He was more interested in Detroit’s record: 8–2 in last season’s final 10 games, 1–0 after toppling the Chiefs in Week 1. Goff, it turns out, has still never lost to Patrick Mahomes. This time, in their second meeting, he sparked Detroit to 368 offensive yards and overcame a fourth-quarter deficit at Arrowhead Stadium.
In victory, Goff laid out his accuracy arc to reporters in attendance, emphasizing that he gleaned a better quarterback version of red-light, green-light largely through emphasis (on accuracy) and experience (in the NFL). He didn’t have to take every shot that coaches called, and his improved calculus centered on windows and their respective sizes, the difference between “tight” and “too tight,” or “maybe” and “whoopsies.”
Goff didn’t fixate on missed throws from the opener, same as always, whether throwing bunches of interceptions or none at all. He continued to utilize that scientific approach instead: Study what happened, make corrections and remove as much emotion as possible, whenever possible. When reporters pressed him for more detail on his improved accuracy after the victory over Kansas City, Goff told them the streak wasn’t from one thing but from a lot of things, including good fortune. “But if I’m taking care of the ball, [we] usually win games,” he said, hence the continued emphasis. Pressed further, on joining a list that included luminaries such as Brady and Rodgers, Goff responded with that scientific bearing that’s central to his approach. “I haven’t thought about it once.”
His uptick, instead, appears to highlight something that’s often misconstrued in professional football. The term “system quarterback” has become derogatory in nature. But, the truth is, they all are, even the best ones, who change and elevate and optimize the systems they run, as those systems are built and upgraded around what separates them. It’s no secret the relationship between Goff and his head coach-play-caller in Los Angeles, Sean McVay, was tense near the end of Goff’s tenure with the Rams. But perhaps McVay’s system—simultaneously aggressive and brilliant—also incentivized Goff, even subconsciously, to attempt throws he now would not dare release.
In some ways, Detroit presented a better fit for Goff. Before his second season, the Lions elevated Ben Johnson to offensive coordinator, in part, for his effectiveness in maximizing Goff’s skill set. Short, quick, efficient throws reigned. Yards after catch were emphasized. Goff could still throw deep, still run play-action, but he did so from within more optimal situations, with a mindset developed to throw the trickiest balls away. Sounds simple. It is not.
Detroit bolstered its offensive line depth and deployed Amon-Ra St. Brown more often from the slot. They drafted a speedy running back, Jahmyr Gibbs, in the first round last spring. They added another back in David Montgomery, after four versatile seasons in Chicago. (Montgomery left the Seahawks game with a thigh injury.)
The momentum culled from combining all those machinations with Goff’s personal development was evident against the Seahawks. The same broadcasters who noted, “It was not an easy road for him” and said Goff had been “reborn in Detroit,” also praised how all the other pieces fit around him. He had throws, such as a first-quarter touchdown pass, where his head movement induced the defense to shift one way and created enough space for an open target and easy score. He was quick, was decisive, as evidenced by his statistics, which, for the first half, were nearly perfect (12-of-15, 180 yards, two touchdowns). That was the big picture. Take one throw, for a smaller one, on one second down in the second quarter. Goff faked the Seahawks into opportunity, with play action; but rather than greedily scan down field for maximum yardage, he saw Gibbs, open, with blockers set up in front of him. Goff dumped the ball off. Gibbs picked up five yards. He also set up a third-and-1. Detroit didn’t convert that one—dropped pass—but the Lions did go 6-of-11 on third-down conversions against Seattle.
Goff threw behind wide pockets with plenty of space. He completed passes to eight different targets—and four of them grabbed at least five receptions apiece. He orchestrated creative sequences, such as on a flip pass in the third quarter after Johnson sent a wideout in motion the other way. He watched teammates limp to the sidelines, watched them fumble, watched Detroit’s lead morph into a deficit. His interception only made the margin worse. But he still came back. He got up after getting sacked in the fourth quarter. He led a touchdown drive, then another scoring march that ended in a field goal. He forced overtime. Anyone who watched that game in its entirety and Goff, in particular, might want to remember the chorus that once sounded. That Goff could, might, even would, lose teams games all by himself. That notion was always oversimplified. Here, he positioned Detroit to win, over and over again, even as turnovers and injuries conspired against his efforts.
So, yes, the streak did end. But as Dedeaux watched Goff on Sunday, he saw an enviable combination: a changed mentality and a system fit, for a quarterback who, many forget, is still only 28 years old. With Goff’s natural talent, it’s not surprising what that combination appears to have created. Goff has faith in the Lions. The Lions have faith in him. Of Goff’s 121.8 quarterback rating against Seattle, Dedeaux says, “You can expect a lot more of that.”
On Sunday, which Goff himself would note is just one Sunday, he had only one real errant throw. His private coach saw an “unflappable” demeanor that portended much, much more, that started with mindset and maturity and all the rest, but that didn’t project to end any time soon.
So, of course, there was only to end their call, with Dedeaux reminding Goff of what’s possible, not what ended, of what the interception signified rather than the history not quite reached.
“Time,” he said, “to start a new streak.”