By SOUTHERN BRITT
“We realized that we [had] to stop the run if we’re gonna win a championship.”
- Rams defensive end, Justin Lawler
The Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots prepare to meet in the 2019 Super Bowl come February 3. With the Rams’ plan to wreak havoc on the Patriots running scheme, expect a great deal of pressure on the Patriots gameplan.
By just comparing the regular season performance of the Rams’ rush defense to the New England rushing offense, the odds are slim for the L.A. Rams to have any success. The Patriots fifth-ranked rushing offense displayed 2,037 yards on the ground in the 2018 season.
On the other hand, the Rams’ rush defense obviously struggled. No other team in the NFL allowed more yards per carry than the Rams in the regular season, allowing their opponents to average a massive 5.1 yards per carry. During this defensive slump in the Rams’ regular season, Rams defensive end Ndamukong Suh even lamented his team’s defense as “terrible”. For this defense to shut down the Patriots’ running scheme, something had to change going into the 2019 postseason.
Fortunately for the Rams, its defense is peaking at just the right time.
“I just think our mindset changed. After the end of the regular season we went back, the coaches went back, and we evaluated ourselves. And we saw that stopping the run was not a strength of ours… so we emphasized that in the bye week,” explained Rams defensive tackle, Sebastian Joseph-Day.
Come postseason, The L.A.Rams’ defense is suffocating opposing running backs. Somehow the defense went from struggling to stop the run to only allowing a combined average of 2.3 yards per carry in the postseason against the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints. Star defensive tackle Aaron Donald and league leader in sacks attributed the results of the defense to his mantra of “hard work pays off,” admitting the defense has “come a long way.”
However, head coach Sean McVay acknowledged a specific defensive player that rose to the “natural level of urgency” of the postseason. Though Suh, the Nebraska product, humbly commented on the entire defensive unit’s improvement as a result from “understanding that we have to execute the game plan and tackle.”
Nevertheless, Suh’s performance in the postseason far surpasses his regular season. While his well-played 2018 season shows 4.5 sacks, four passes defensed, and a few fumble recoveries, the same athlete returned for postseason play as a force. Suh managed to make eight postseason tackles with four quarterback hits, and also recorded 1.5 sacks against the Saints just over a week ago.
“I think he’s been at his best these last couple of games. But that by no means is an indication that he wasn’t playing really well in the regular season,” exclaims Coach McVay. “He has certainly raised his level of play and we expect the same this week.”
With Suh’s peaking performance and steady leadership, expect this new attitude of his to be prominent on both sides of the ball for the Rams. “[The Patriots] got a 3-headed horse… And we have to be able to stop them!” – Ndamukong Suh