Jared Goff crumbled before the Super Bowl even began

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ATLANTA — You saw it before a play was run in Super Bowl LIII Sunday night inside ear-splitting Mercedes Benz Stadium.

You just sensed it.

Jared Goff looked petrified during Gladys Knight’s stirring rendition of the national anthem.

The third-year Rams quarterback had that textbook deer-in-the-headlights look of a young quarterback playing in his first Super Bowl — the biggest game of his life, with Tom Brady playing in his ninth Super Bowl on the opposite sideline — as he stood frozen in his uniform during the anthem.

Goff had a faraway look in his eyes, and his right hand looked like it was shaking as he tried to clutch his left chest with it as Knight completed the anthem.

You could have passed it off as nothing … until they started playing.

As unsettled as Goff looked on the sideline during the anthem, he was as discombobulated on the field in the game.

The play that defined Goff on this night — a bizarre, choppy, low-scoring 13-3 Patriots win before a crowd of 70,081 that consisted mostly of throaty New England supporters — came ironically at a time when he finally appeared to have found a rhythm on what was a colossal struggle of a game.

It was a mistake by Goff born of pure panic, and it effectively ended the Rams’ chances of tying the game. Goff, on a second-and-10 from the New England 27-yard line with the Rams trailing by a touchdown, threw a sickly pass off his back foot toward the end zone.

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