It’s About Disruption
Offense is the same in every sport. Advance toward the goal until you put points on the board. There are all sorts of theories on how to stop offenses from doing that. But really the keys are about disrupting what the offense wants to do. The New England Patriots are one of the best franchises at figuring out where your defensive weakness is and attacking it. So how does a defense combat that?
Make the Offense One Dimensional
This is easier said than done especially against the multiple sets, make you move your defenders’ type offense that the Patriots will bring to Atlanta. I think the Rams are talented enough to do it though. Against the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round, they allowed 50 yards rushing on 22 carries. This against the NFL’s leading ground gainer Ezekiel Elliott.
In the conference championship, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram didn’t fare any better ringing up 48 yards on 21 carries. New England put up 498 total yards against the Chargers and 524 yards against the Chiefs. Those totals included 155 yards and 176 yards rushing respectively. Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, and Michael Brockers need another game where they win the battle in the trenches and make Tom Brady throw.
Pressure Brady From the Middle
“Are you nuts? You WANT Tom Brady to throw?” Well, yes and no. I want to force the Patriots into positions where they should throw. This will allow the Rams to rev up their engines and their pass rush and disrupt the timing of the Patriots passing game. Keep in mind though you don’t make a living blitzing Tom Brady. The Eagles got pressure last year by rolling defensive lineman in and out until finally they got home to the quarterback.
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The pressure in Superbowl 53 needs to come right up the gut from the Rams. Los Angeles’s starting defensive line, along with rush specialist Dante Fowler, has the athleticism to do this. They should make it their priority because it will give defensive coordinator Wade Phillips the margin to mix in the occasional blitz to keep Brady guessing. A repeat of the 2 sack, 7 hits on the quarterback performance would be a good thing for the Rams.
Mind the Middle Third
The Rams cornerbacks, Aqib Talib, and Marcus Peters were banged up through the year. Peters missing 8 games and Talib playing through a calf injury. Both are healthy and playing at a higher level than earlier in the year. John Johnson the Rams strong safety finished with 4 interceptions which were enough to tie him for 4th among safeties. Free Safety Lamarcus Joyner is one of the better defensive backs in football in my opinion. So where is the chink in the Rams armor? The Rams like to press wide receivers at the line of scrimmage. This will leave Nickell Robey-Coleman matched up with Julian Edelman a lot of the game. Gronkowski will occupy a lot of attention as always so the game could hinge on this slot match-up.
Keys in Conclusion
The path to beating the Patriots isn’t a wide one. You need to execute your game plan to do it. Key number one, stop the run. In all five games, the Patriots lost they rushed for less than 100 yards. Key number two, pressure Brady. In every game the Patriots lost except Pittsburgh, Brady was sacked at least two times. In every game except Miami Brady was hit 6 additional times. Key number three, don’t get chewed up in the middle of the field. I think New England will attack the Rams in the middle of the field with Edelman on slant and seam routes and Gronkowski with crossing routes. I further expect Gronk will split out wide even more than he was against Kansas City. The Rams have the horses on both sides of the ball to win this game. They need to come with their best effort.