The Rams have one of the fiercest defensive lines in the league. The line features arguably the best defensive player in the game, Aaron Donald. Also featured on the line is veteran pass rushing menace, Ndamukong Suh. Much of the focus of the Los Angeles Rams success has been centered around their explosive offense. With weapons like Todd Gurley II, Robert Woods, and Brandin Cooks, Jared Goff has a lot to work with.
Still, there is a legitimate argument to be made that the Rams defensive line is the biggest reason they are facing the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Everything starts and ends with Donald.
This season, Donald has a league-leading 20.5 sacks and 25 tackles for loss. All while often facing double and triple teams in the trenches. Donald commands a lot of attention and that sets up fellow quarterback terror, Suh, to have a great opportunity to make plays. Donald obviously graded out as the top defensive tackle in the game, but Suh was graded as the 21st defensive tackle according to Pro Football Focus. Suh had 4.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss this season.
Now the narrative for beating Tom Brady is forcing pressure up the middle and getting him off his spot. Brady is terrific at getting the ball out early as well as dissecting defenses pre-snap. In fact, an argument can legitimately be made that Brady lost his three Super Bowls due to an inability of the Patriots to stop pressure up the middle. Fortunately for the Rams, most of their quarterback pressures come from the inside.
Looking at the Stats
The Rams are a pressure-heavy team, which has always been a mantra of Wade Phillips coached defenses. Phillips has proven he still has his touch with the Rams and having weapons like Suh and Donald certainly doesn’t hurt either. The Rams pressure the quarterback 15% of the time. Of those pressures, the Rams convert sacks 16% of the time.
One of the keys to the New England ground game is quick strikes in the passing game to James White. The Patriots also thrive with misdirections and fast handoffs to rookie Sony Michel and veteran back Rex Burkhead. The Pats love to pound the rock inside the five-yard line, where the Rams only allow one rush per game. The Rams allow a touchdown 29% of the time on runs inside the five. That doesn’t bode well for the Patriots either.
Patriots Offensive Line
The Patriots are fortunate to have one of the best offensive lines in the league. In fact, Brady has yet to be sacked in the postseason. Donald and Suh are certainly going to have to be on their toes and quick off the whistle if they want to reach Brady. Donald and Suh have yet to face a unit as sound as this one this season. With mammoths like Trent Brown at 6’8″ 380 lbs on the line, Donald and Suh have their work cut out for them.
Still, history suggests that Donald and Suh will rough Brady up and cause problems most of this game. Converting sacks and rushing Brady’s throws will be key. Something Donald and Suh excel at.