Jared Goff knows what playing in big games is all about. He's been to the playoffs and has played in the biggest game there is in this sport in Super Bowl LIII.
The Detroit Lions starting quarterback also knows the natural storyline that's developed this week with the team he spent his first five seasons in the NFL with that ultimately chose to move on from him now standing in the way of this Detroit Lions team doing something they haven't done in over 30 years – win a playoff game.
It's that last part that's driving Goff more than anything else this week as the Lions prepare to host the Los Angeles Rams at Ford Field in the Wild Card round of the playoffs Sunday night.
"Obviously there's a personal connection there not just for me but for a lot of our players and theirs as well," Goff said Wednesday. "No, I so badly want to win a game for this city and a playoff game for this city that hasn't had one in so long. We have a home playoff game for the first time in so long. That's so much more important than anything personally for me. I want to be a part of this win."
The Lions aren't sitting in this spot without Goff and the season he's put together. He finished second in passing yards (4,575), fourth in touchdowns (30) and Top 10 in passer rating (97.9) this season.
His playoff experience, which totals six games, has taught him to treat the week leading up to the game like just another week.
"To be honest, not much changes," he said. "Obviously these games are win or go home, we all know the magnitude of them. Your weekly process doesn't change – the way you watch film the way you prepare. There's a reason you got here. Trust that and prepare similarly."
The Lions are hoping that mindset and experience can help lead them to victory on Sunday.
"He's wired the right way," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said this week of his quarterback. "He's been through this. He's been to the big one. So, he's dealt with this a number of times, not just the playoff wins.
"And I bring this up again, he came to our place (New Orleans in 2018), NFC Championship game and won the game for them. And so, he's been in the big ones and he understands what it is. He understands that you can't get too high or too low, you just focus on your job."
The knee injury suffered by Lions rookie tight end Sam LaPorta in last week's win over Minnesota in the regular-season finale is improving, according to Campbell, but the team won't know until Friday afternoon if they'll have their record-setting tight end available Sunday night vs. the Rams.
"I think the best way to say it because I know it'll come up every day, but he's improving," Campbell said Wednesday. "He was out there at walkthrough, and I don't foresee us knowing anything or feeling like we have a real good picture until probably Friday afternoon. But every day we're going to do more with him, but he's improving."
LaPorta had 86 receptions for 889 yards (10.3 avg.) and 10 touchdowns during the regular season, setting a new single-season record for receptions by a rookie tight end.
Veteran linebacker Alex Anzalone can't wait to get into Ford Field Sunday night and play off the energy Lions fans are going to bring.
He has one request for fans: Instead of waiting until the Rams break the huddle to get loud, he'd like them to be loud while they're in the huddle to try and affect communication in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage.
View photos from the Detroit Lions practice on Wednesday, January 10, 2024.
If LaPorta can't go Sunday, the Lions will need others to step up. That goes for the tight end position with Brock Wright, James Mitchell and Anthony Firkser, but the receivers will also need to pick up more of the load. That always starts with Amon-Ra St. Brown, but another player who could see an increased target load is second-year wide receiver Jameson Williams.
Williams was playing some pretty good football before an ankle injury kept him out of last week's game vs. the Vikings. He was back at practice Wednesday, and Sunday night would be a perfect opportunity for Williams to have a breakout game.
"Well, he's earned that," Campbell said Wednesday when asked about his trust level in Williams. "He's making plays, and he is, he's much more consistent. And all he's got to do is exactly what he's been doing every week. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. He's getting better."