Cracking The Uncrackable: The Rams’ Receivers and Tight Ends Need to Shine in the Super Bowl

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Dec 30, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks (12) celebrates with receiver Robert Woods (17) after scoring on a 3-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots are a machine. A juggernaut. An unstoppable force. An immovable object. The Patriots are every buzzword in the book and more. Really, I was foolish for picking against the Patriots. When I made my predictions, I mentioned the likely event the Pats would make it back to the big game and dang it I should have listened to myself.

Through the best display of coaching we have ever seen, the Patriots have turned a mediocre defense into a unit to be feared. They are always two steps ahead of the offense and have a counter for every punch even the best can throw at him. One of the most potent offenses in NFL history blanked in the first half against New England two weeks ago. New England put the Chargers in a box, making LA look like the Pats’ lowly AFC East competition.

With all of that being said, the Patriots will face an offense just as dominant as the two before them in that of the LA Rams. But one differentiation from those previous offenses is a lack of elite receiving weapons. The Rams don’t have a Tyreek Hill running past everyone, a Keenan Allen catching every ball in a 100 mile radius or a Travis Kelce forcing mismatches all over the field.

Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks are two very good receivers but I wouldn’t call them elite like the previously mentioned players. In some ways, they are poor-mans versions of Allen and Hill respectively. Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee are two solid tight ends but nothing close to the realm of a Kelce.

These weapons are able to excel playing off of the strengths of Jared Goff and in the genius system of Sean McVay. An heir of the Gruden-Shanahan coaching tree, McVay’s system is predicated on zone runs, bootlegs and getting his receivers in positions where they can succeed. Whether it is an orbit screen for Brandin Cooks or a deep post for Robert Woods, McVay always gets the most out of his receivers.

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The Rams’ primary method of attack is out of 11 personnel, meaning one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers. The primary pillar of the McVay offense is the outside zone-bootleg combo. Todd Gurley and that offensive line bend the defense on the ground. That gravity they have allows for Goff to play action fake off of that run threat. Often, the Rams will run one of their tight ends or receivers out into the flat and have another running deep, on something like an over route. The combo of Cooks on a jet motion into the flat and Woods running a deep over is a tough one for any team to consistently cover.

One of the trademarks of the Bill Belichick defense is to double team the opposing team’s best receiver. This method effectively erases that player from the game; we saw New England neutralize Tyreek Hill in the AFC Championship game. Against LA, it is unclear which receiver the Pats will choose to double if any at all. They might want to eliminate the deep threat that is Brandin Cooks, playing in his second straight Super Bowl. This would neuter the Rams’ explosiveness vertically. However, my bet would be Robert Woods. He is quick, runs exceptional routes and is strong at the point of the attack.

In this scenario, Cooks would see one on one coverage from Stephon Gilmore for most of the evening. One of the premier man cover corners in the NFL, Gilmore can mirror the best the NFL can offer. But Sean McVay can use this tendency of New England against them if they elect to double Woods. Putting Cooks in motion, running screens, rub routes and deep overs will help put Gilmore on his heels.

With so much attention on those two receivers, Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett could have a major role. Acting as safety valves over the middle and threats over the middle, Goff could rely more than usual on his tight ends.

Over the past two season, the LA Rams have won games with one of the best offenses in the NFL. But on Sunday, expect to see a different looking LA offense. Sean McVay knows about the meticulous, almost crazed preparation of Belichick and will adjust. Don’t expect to see the same old Rams offense they’ve trotted out all season. The Patriots are going to score and score some more; that is a given. In order to bring home the Lombardi, the Rams’ receivers need to step up to the challenge.

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