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Ted Nguyen’s Film Room: Goff makes big throw after big throw

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  • Ted Nguyen’s Film Room: Goff makes big throw after big throw

    Ted Nguyen’s Film Room: Goff makes big throw after big throw
    By Ted Nguyen Jan 23, 2019 22

    Could Jared Goff win if the defense took away the run game and forced Goff to beat them? Could the Rams defense step up and make stops if the offense stalled? Those were the two biggest question marks in the Rams’ bid for a Super Bowl.

    After being hastily labeled as a bust by pundits after his rookie year, Goff has made a remarkable turnaround under the tutelage of head coach Sean McVay, but in a sense, he was also hidden behind the shield of McVay and his offensive genius. The Rams’ wide zone run game and play action created a lot of easy throws for Goff and he never really got credit for some of the tough throws that he did make. He was given the dreaded “system quarterback” label.

    When the Bears and Eagles shut down the Rams’ running game in Weeks 14-15, Goff struggled mightily. In the NFC Championship game, the Rams running backs averaged fewer than 3 yards a carry but Goff stepped up in the game’s most critical moments. His numbers weren’t eye-popping but in the deafening Superdome, against a very good Saints defense, Goff kept making big throw after big throw.

    Star running back Todd Gurley’s health was questioned after he was mysteriously shut down by his coach. Gurley hurt his knee in the regular season and sat out the final two games of the season but looked healthy against the Cowboys in the divisional round in which he rushed for 116 yards on 16 carries (7.2 YPC). After a rough start to the NFC Championship game in which he dropped a couple of passes, Gurley finished with only 4 carries for 10 yards (2.5 YPC) and a touchdown. C.J. Anderson received a bulk of the carries but he didn’t fare much better with 16 carries for 44 yards (2.8 YPC).

    “Today, that was just kind of the feel for the flow of the game,” McVay told Connor Casey of 247Sports. “Not anything against Todd. C.J. did a nice job, but I think (the Saints) did a nice job as a whole slowing down our run game and we kind of just had to grind some things out.”

    Gurley said he was fine and that he just played like “trash.” I believe the flow of the game did dictate Anderson getting more carries.

    Since Anderson signed with the Rams, they have been more balanced in their run game. Anderson was used more on vertical runs rather than stretch runs, which is the Rams’ bread-and-butter play. McVay called a disproportionally high percentage of outside zone compared to inside run concepts in the regular season. According to Pro Football Focus, the Rams ran 237 outside zone plays to 179 inside run concepts. Against the Saints, McVay called eight outside zones to 12 inside run concepts (not counting quarterback or receiver carries).

    The Saints have a talented front seven and defensive coordinator Dennis Allen had an effective game plan for taking away the outside zone.

    On Gurley’s first run of the day, the Saint lined up in a “shade opposite” front. Usually teams will align their three-technique (outside shade of the guard) defensive tackle toward the strong side (tight end side) and their one-technique (outside shade of the center) to the weak side but the Saints shaded their three-technique to the weak side because the Rams’ weakside stretch play had been so effective in previous weeks.

    To the strong side, they had their end line up inside of the tight end and had a safety play contain. The end’s job was to string out the play so that the safety had time to get to the edge. The strong side defensive tackle David Onyemata (No. 93) lined head up on the guard, which meant Rams center John Sullivan (No. 65) was “covered” and responsible for blocking Onyemata.

    Right guard Austin Blythe (No. 66) had the most difficult block. He had to cut off linebacker Demario Davis (No. 56), who blitzed in the backside A-gap. Blythe couldn’t get there in time and Davis knifed in and tackled Gurley in the backfield. This run would set the tone for the rest of the game.

    The Saints alignment and their ability to hold their ground made it difficult to run. McVay likely knew that the run game wasn’t going to be as explosive as it was against the Cowboys. He might have figured that he wasn’t going to abandon the run but that they needed to run inside rather than outside and move the pile for short gains to keep the defense honest rather than try to stretch the ball outside and get stopped for negative yardage. Every yard was valuable and Anderson’s power and vision on inside runs was essential for giving the Rams at least a small threat of a ground game.

    On this inside zone play, Anderson had the option to “bang” the ball in the B-gap or “bend” the ball back. His first read is the first defensive tackle outside of the center, which was Tyeler Davison (No. 96). Davison penetrated the B-gap so Anderson looked to his second read, which was Onyemata. Onyemata flowed toward the backside B-gap, so Anderson made the correct decision by cutting the play back toward the backside C-gap. Anderson then finished the run by lowering his shoulder and falling forward for an extra yard. It was only a 6-yard gain but it kept the offense on schedule and kept the threat of the run alive, which meant the Saints had to keep their base personnel on the field.

    Of Anderson’s 16 carries, 10 were inside run concepts, while six were outside zone concepts. This distribution was a stark difference to the Rams’ regular-season numbers. The Rams likely didn’t give Gurley those six outside carries that Anderson got because they wanted Anderson to cut vertically quicker and fall forward. McVay rightfully wasn’t going to ask his offensive line to hold their blocks for too long against the Saints. He simply trusted Anderson to maximize short inside runs more than he did Gurley.

    Regardless of who the running back was, the Saints were successful in their plan to take the run away. Goff had to make plays for the Rams to win this game and he did. Trailing 13-3, the Rams needed to cut the deficit before halftime. With 1:52 remaining in the second quarter, Goff led the Rams on an 81-yard touchdown drive.

    The biggest play of the drive was a result of an aggressive decision by Goff to take advantage of a mismatch by going downfield. The play call was McVay’s variation of the “sail” concept. Brandin Cooks’ job was to take the top off the secondary. He wasn’t part of the regular progression, he ran an “alert” route, meaning Goff could throw to Cooks if he saw a mismatch or if the secondary wasn’t in position to guard Cooks. Alert routes aren’t thrown frequently but Goff saw the mismatch with cornerback P.J. Williams playing bump-and-run coverage on Cooks and decided he was going deep.

    The free safety Marcus Williams (No. 43) favored Cooks’ side so Goff had to make sure to look him off. After the snap, Goff stared down the middle of the field to hold Williams. When he saw Williams continue to back pedal and not open up toward Cooks, Goff knew he had an opportunity downfield. He threw a perfectly placed pass and hit Cooks in stride. Cooks hardly had to adjust for the 36-yard completion. The Rams would score on the next play to cut the lead to 13-10.

    Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and the Rams defense deserve a ton of credit for holding the Saints to only 10 points after the first quarter. Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Michael Brockers and Dante Fowler harassed Drew Brees throughout the game and drew costly penalties but the key to stopping the Saints was taking Michael Thomas out of the game with double coverage and then making in-game adjustments to take away Alvin Kamara in the passing game.

    Thomas killed the Rams in their regular-season matchup. In that game, Phillips had Marcus Peters shadow Thomas but Thomas was just too physical for Peters and he burned the Rams for 211 yards and a touchdown. There was speculation that Aqib Talib, who is much more physical than Peters, would shadow Thomas but Phillips didn’t mess around and doubled Thomas for a majority of the game.

    The Rams kept Peters on the defensive right and Talib on the defensive left. If Thomas lined up in the slot to the right, Peters would bump inside to cover him. If Thomas lined up in the slot to the left, Talib would bump inside to cover him. They would play outside shade of Thomas while either a linebacker or safety would bracket him to the inside.

    Here, Thomas lined up in the slot to Talib’s side so Talib bumped down to the slot and bracketed him with the safety. Brees was forced to look elsewhere but no other receivers won their matchups and got open. Thomas is a great receiver but he did not have much space to operate with the type of looks the Rams gave him. Brees isn’t one to force passes into double coverage. Thomas finished with four receptions for 36 yards.

    The problem with doubling Thomas so much was that it meant Kamara would get matched up on the Rams linebackers without much help. Corey Littleton (No. 58) was repeatedly burned by Karma on weakside option routes. Kamara finished with 96 yards receiving. Phillips had to make an adjustment so the Rams stopped giving Kamara a free release; they bumped him in key situations. Kamara had only one reception for 8 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime.

    In overtime, on second-and-16, the Saints needed a chunk play to either get the first down or make it a manageable third down. Sean Payton lined up Thomas in the middle of the three-receiver set and had him run a switch release to get a clean release. On the other side, Kamara ran the weakside option route that gave the Rams fits. This time, they had Suh bump him to slow him down. The bump gave Littleton time to recover after he was picked.

    The coverage on the play was Phillips’ classic trips adjust, which is his version of Cover 4. Phillips’ Cover 4 is a combo coverage. On the strong side (trips side), the defense is a quarter zone. On the weak side the defense is in 2-man (man-to-man with a safety playing deep half) or at least the defense made it appear that way.

    The Saints’ play call was designed to confuse the underneath coverage and get Thomas a free release to the 2-man side where he should’ve been able to get open. Linebacker Mark Barron would usually trail Thomas but he seemed to fall for the bait and followed the number three receiver too far outside, which gave Thomas free access to the middle of the field.

    I’m not sure if it’s by design and Phillips did a great job of disguising his defense or safety John Johnson just made a great instinctual play. Johnson was responsible for the deep half of the field to the weak side. At the snap of the ball, Johnson got his eyes on Thomas, who was lined up on the opposite side of the field. Thomas had free access to the middle of the field but Johnson was just squatting there waiting for him.

    The Rams sacrificed pass rush for coverage. Suh bumping Kamara meant the Rams would only rush three but Fowler made up for it with an extraordinary effort. He was supposed to shoot inside in hopes that he would free up Brockers looping outside of him. Right tackle Ryan Ramczyk did a good of staying with Fowler’s inside move but Fowler got free on a second effort and spun outside. He hit Brees as he was releasing the ball targeting Thomas and the ball floated right into Johnson’s hands.

    “Felt like a minute, 15 seconds,” Johnson told The Athletic. “Seriously, I think a minute and 15 seconds went off the clock before I caught it.”

    With the ball back in their possession, the Rams needed only a field goal to win the game. This is where calling all those Anderson runs that resulted in 2-3 yards paid off. The threat of a run was believable. The Saints linebackers couldn’t sit on their heels to defend the pass.

    McVay knew the Saints were going to be aggressive and called a boot on the Rams’ first offensive play in overtime. Davis had tight end Tyler Higbee in man coverage but he bit on the run so hard that he was nowhere near Higbee. The naked boot play was designed to leave defensive end Alex Okafor (No. 53) unblocked in hopes that he would chase the running back and allow Goff to get outside. However, Okafor was the only one who sniffed out the boot and was right in Goff’s grill as he turned around.

    Running boot to the left could be difficult on right-handed quarterbacks because they have to spin their body all the way around to square up with the throw. This is much more difficult if they have to deal with instant pressure. Goff isn’t known for remarkable athleticism like Patrick Mahomes but he did a great job of quickly spinning and then throwing side-arm to Higbee for a 12-yard gain.

    On second-and-13, the Rams needed a decent gain to put themselves in position to where McVay would feel comfortable letting Greg Zuerlein attempt a field goal. McVay called the same boot play that they killed the Cowboys with in the previous week.

    The play isn’t a true naked boot because the end was supposed to get blocked by tight end Gerald Everett (No. 81) so Goff could get outside. Allen had the perfect defensive play call against McVay’s boot and it could have ended in disaster for the Rams. Cameron Jordan squeezed the tackle, which made it nearly impossible for Everett to get to him, and was right in Goff’s face as he turned around. But Allen also blitzed safety Vonn Bell toward the boot that nearly got to Goff. Williams was supposed to guard Higbee in man coverage but he bit on the play fake. Goff made a remarkable throw with Okafor draped on him and Bell running full speed right at him. Two plays later, Zuerlein won the game for the Rams on a 57-yard field goal.

    Goff has been seen as the quarterback who only benefited from McVay’s play-calling but on his final completion to Higbee, McVay’s play-calling put him in a tough spot but Goff bailed out his coach with a gutsy play. Goff wasn’t perfect in this game but he grew up and became the leader who the Rams needed. With an improved defense and a battle-tested Goff, the Rams might have what it takes to exact revenge on the Patriots from their last Super Bowl appearance in 2002.

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  • Nick
    Jared Goff’s in-the-huddle speech that got the Rams rolling to Super Bowl LIII
    by Nick
    Jared Goff’s in-the-huddle speech that got the Rams rolling to Super Bowl LIII
    By Vincent Bonsignore Jan 20, 2019 24

    NEW​ ORLEANS — Rob Havenstein​ doesn’t​ exactly​ remember what the​ score was when​ it all​ went down.​ The Rams were​ struggling, he​​ knows that much. Between the crowd at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome — which roared so loudly it seemed like the Rams were constantly lining up alongside a Boeing 747 about to take off at LAX — and Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara and the revved-up New Orleans Saints defense, the Rams handled the first quarter of Sunday’s NFC Championship Game about as poorly as they could have imagined.

    A few more slip-ups like the ones they incurred to that point and they might as well kiss all their Super Bowl hopes and dreams goodbye.

    And that would have been a shame, given everything the Rams have been through this season and how far they have come since their return to Los Angeles. From the depths of the 4-12 hell they put everyone through in 2016 to the brink of pro football’s biggest prize, it has been a wild and miraculous ride.

    But there they were, shaken and wobbly and on the verge of turning what could have been a spectacular season into just a very good one. Yes, it was early in what would be a 26-23 overtime victory for the Rams. But you got the sense time was already running out.

    So Jared Goff huddled up the Rams offense and, in his own chill, laidback California way, basically told his teammates to shut up, listen up and get with it.

    This was long before one of the most egregious non-calls in the history of professional sports gave the Rams a sliver of hope late in the fourth quarter. Without question, Nickell Robey-Coleman was guilty of a pass interference penalty against Tommylee Lewis that should have given the Saints a fresh set of downs inside the Rams’ 5-yard line with under two minutes left in regulation. New Orleans could have either bled the clock before kicking a game-winning field goal or punched it in for a touchdown to go up by seven to leave very little time for the Rams to respond.

    In fact, Robey-Coleman was essentially trying to slam as hard as he could into Lewis — be it to break up the pass or, worst-case scenario, get called for the penalty.

    “I still would have been able to live with that,” Robey-Coleman said.

    Anything but giving up the sure touchdown, which it would have been had he done nothing at all.

    “As soon as I got up from the ground, I was looking for (a flag),” Robey-Coleman said. “I had to. It was natural. Because I knew I was low-key wrong.”

    And it was well before Dante Fowler got just enough body on Brees in overtime to force him to launch a pass so high into the air it seemed to hang there for an eternity before miraculously falling into the waiting...
    -01-22-2019, 05:02 AM
  • MauiRam
    Rams burning question: Can Sean McVay make Jared Goff a poor man's Kirk Cousins?
    by MauiRam
    Cousins is pretty rich, so that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world

    Rookie seasons are rarely memorable for NFL quarterbacks, but Jared Goff's first shot as an NFL signal caller was entirely forgettable. He rode pine until late November, with Rams coach Jeff Fisher stubbornly sticking by Case Keenum. When he finally got the starting job, Goff went 0-7, was a little lucky to complete 50 percent of his passes and threw just five touchdown passes, three of which came in one game against the Saints.

    Fisher was fired midseason and the Rams cleaned house after 2016 ended, all while watching the Titans select a talented wideout with the top-five pick that the Rams handed them as part of last year's Goff deal. The Rams' next hire was a critical one and they went uber young with it, bringing 30-year-old Sean McVay over from Washington.

    (The Rams are back at training camp! Don't MISS anything as they prepare to try and make the playoffs -- take five seconds to Sign up for our Free Rams newsletter now!)

    Make no mistake, McVay's hire is about turning Goff into a legitimate quarterback. McVay's tutelage in Washington turned Kirk Cousins into the ultimate conundrum: a quarterback who plays well enough you have to pay him but not well enough to commit past massive single-year franchise tag deals.

    A lot of what you see with Goff and the Rams from 2016 is a case of Los Angeles putting major reigns on their rookie quarterback and limiting what he can do with a particular play. There are four guys running routes here but only one of them is really in play here. Goff is throwing to Tyler Higbee. via NFL GamePass
    It's not surprising for an offense to put a cap on a rookie early on and for coaches to limit the amount of things a player has to worry about, but Goff was so obviously locked into a single target that he was sometimes throwing before he finished his drop. via NFL GamePass
    Again, there are four routes being run but three of them might as well be decoys. This throw, by the way, resulted in a 19-yard completion and even set up a 24-yard Todd Gurley touchdown run. But let's not get too caught up in results. Everything about the gameplan in Goff's first start -- Week 11 against the Dolphins -- was rudimentary to the nth degree.

    The creativity level was about what you would expect out of the worst offense in the league. The Rams averaged a measly 14 points per game and trailed even the 31st-ranked Jets by a healthy margin in DVOA. On a critical 3rd-and-4 play call against Miami, with the Rams leading 7-0 and 2:32 left in the second quarter, here's what Goff saw at the top of his shotgun drop. via NFL GamePass
    It looks like rush hour between the hash marks. Ndamukong Suh ripping through the offensive line didn't help matters and it resulted in a sack. Pressure was a problem for Goff, who finished the...
    -08-10-2017, 01:22 AM
  • Nick
    Despite Up-and-Down Night, Goff Feels Ready for Regular Season
    by Nick
    Despite Up-and-Down Night, Goff Feels Ready for Regular Season
    Posted 8 hours ago
    Myles Simmons
    Rams Insider

    Though head coach Sean McVay held many starters out of Saturday night’s matchup against the Chargers — including running back Todd Gurley — second-year quarterback Jared Goff played the Rams’ first three drives.

    The opening possession started well. Goff hit wide receiver Robert Woods with a 16-yard pass on the right side. Then Goff maneuvered well in the pocket, evading a few defenders before making an outlet pass to Malcolm Brown in the flat, which the running back took 22 yards down the field. A defensive pass interference foul put the Rams in the red zone, where the club looked poised to tie the game at seven.

    But the Rams wouldn’t cash in. On 3rd-and-2 from the visitors’ eight-yard line, Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa came in from Goff’s right and strip-sacked the quarterback. Outside linebacker Melvin Ingram picked up the loose ball and returned it 76 yards for a touchdown.

    “We have to do a good job of protecting, but we also have to be ready to step up, hold on to the football,” McVay said. “And certainly we talk about the importance of turnovers, and we have to do a better job, collectively, taking care of it.”

    Then on the third play of the Rams’ ensuing drive, Goff attempted a deep ball to wide receiver Sammy Watkins on the left. But the quarterback overshot the wideout and the pass landed in the hands of cornerback Jason Verrett for an interception.

    “I just came off it a little bit. I can’t do that. I can’t make that throw. Just a bad throw,” Goff said. “I felt someone coming down my throat a little bit and I have to stand in there and throw it.”

    Goff played one more another series that ended in a field goal — a possession where he mostly handed off and attempted only two passes. He ended his night 5-of-8 passing for 56 yards with the two turnovers.

    “I think when you look at the sample size, those are the two plays that everybody will talk about,” McVay said. “Over the course of a full game, you get a chance to really redeem yourself a little bit more than he did, just based on the amount of plays that he played. But there were some good things. He made a great off-schedule play where he finds Malcolm Brown on the wide route and ends up going for a big gain, so there are some positives.”

    “It’s all good stuff to learn from,” Goff said. “I think at the end of the day, it’s good to have this stuff happen in the preseason and hopefully it can be avoided in the regular season.”

    Even though there were so many starters who either did not dress or did not play, Goff said the first drive was evidence that the mood was no different to start.

    “We moved the ball right down the field on them on that first drive, just like we had the previous couple of games on...
    -08-27-2017, 07:07 AM
  • MauiRam
    The California Cool of Jared Goff
    by MauiRam
    In the midst of a wild three-year career arc that has taken him from rookie bust to MVP candidate, the Rams quarterback has learned to enjoy the ride. How far can his surge lift L.A.?

    Not long ago, the keepers of football's sacred texts detected a tragic flaw. The college game was spreading out and speeding up. It had become too simple, too bloodless -- and the repercussions could cripple the NFL. What they were witnessing was an insult to the thousands of men who sacrificed their bodies and brains on the game's altar. A quarterback standing 15 feet behind the center, catching a snap and throwing the ball to a receiver before the defense could even react? This was an act of pure expedience, a shortcut in a sport that does not abide them. Who was left to teach a young quarterback to nudge up close to the center, put his hands in another man's haunch and take a proper snap? A quarterback should be close enough to feel fear, and to smell a nose guard's rancid breath, and the suggestion that these gimmicky offenses would work in the NFL -- against grown-ass men, they thundered -- was an affront to the legacies of every great American who ever took the time to teach a man the seven-step drop.

    But one by one, the thundering old men were replaced by younger men who identified an opportunity within the perceived decay, and the sacred texts began to be rewritten. These new men, unburdened by the psychic lore of Joe Namath's creaky knees or Joe Montana's jigsaw-puzzle spine or Y.A. Tittle's bleeding forehead, took the obvious skills of the spread quarterbacks and set them loose against NFL defenses.

    And now what is this we have before us -- fun? Yes, a league that can't define a catch without seven pages of footnotes is being overrun by this most endangered concept. Fun destroys the myth that everything must be difficult and exhausting and earned. Fun puts the game's inherent martiality at risk. Turns out you can make your way down the field faster, more efficiently and far more often by standing back there and finding the receiver most open.

    It's starting to feel like a revolution, and every revolution needs a frontman. Rams quarterback Jared Goff, under the progressive vision of head coach Sean McVay, is the leader of one of the NFL's most dynamic offenses. Just two years after 2016's top pick suffered through the turgid, sclerotic final days of the crumbling Jeff Fisher empire -- losing all seven of his rookie starts -- Goff is an ascendant star, an MVP candidate, a player who symbolizes the promise of the new over the stubbornness of the old.

    "It's funny that the spread quarterback was seen as such a scary thing going into every draft," Goff says. "I played in the spread, Patrick Mahomes played in the spread, Deshaun Watson, Mitchell Trubisky -- the NFL is so stuck in its ways sometimes. If you don't innovate and adapt, you're going to be left...
    -11-15-2018, 12:25 AM
  • NJ Ramsfan1
    Thoughts and Observations
    by NJ Ramsfan1
    The Rams picked the absolute worst time for an offensive clunker, laying an egg in the Super Bowl, and there were plenty of culprits. Start with Gurley, who showed again that he's obviously hurt, despite the repeated and ridiculous proclamations to the contrary by the organization, McVay and Gurley himself. Was a tight end's name mentioned all night? Higbee and Everett apparently went into Witness Protection, because they were totally invisible. Ditto for Robert Woods, who contributed virtually nothing. Only Reynolds and Cooks carried their weight offensively though Cooks' two drops killed us (more on this later).

    Goff could never get it going. He wasn't helped, as his offensive line played poorly for much of the night, especially Austin Blythe, who was tossed around like a salad every time I watched him. Goff nonetheless took a couple of ill-advised sacks and was skittish on throws when pressure came. He continued his pattern of making bad reads from time to time, trying to hit covered receivers while others roamed free. It's his biggest weakness, IMO, and one has to hope it's the byproduct of youth which will be improved with reps and experience.

    Three pivotal plays changed the course of this game. One was the phantom holding call on Sullivan during Gurley's 27 yard run- a call that changed the drive and forced a punt. Terrible, over-officious call. And plays two and three were the drops by Cooks- difficult catches for sure, but ones made by big time players in big time moments. The 2nd one in particular on a beautifully thrown ball by Goff REALLY hurt, as a possible 10-10 tie was replaced by an interception thrown one play later. Game over.

    McVay was outcoached. One can safely say that because when a man's bread and butter- offensive football- is reduced to a pile of trash on the biggest stage in the sport, he didn't do a good job and had no answers. Why weren't the tight ends incorporated more? Why wasn't CJ Anderson given a bigger role given Gurley's continued troubles? The Goff fake handoff and play action fooled no one. And I think if the offense is predicated too much on the success of one guy (Gurley), you're going to have problems, as evidenced tonight.

    Credit Phillips, who had the defense ready. They played well enough to win, and despite their lousy coverage of Edelman, made stops when needed and kept New England off the scoreboard. We'll certainly see some changes for next year, but couldn't have asked too much more from them- this defeat rests squarely on the offensive side of the ball. And if you had bet me this would be the way the game would go, I'd have lost my shirt.

    In time, I'll appreciate the season we had, but in sports, you must take advantage of opportunities given to you in Championship Games, because you never know if or when you'll ever get back. A bitter pill to swallow on so many levels....
    -02-04-2019, 04:29 AM