Sean McVay is the NFL’s darling wunderkind.
During his first two years leading the Rams, McVay has impressed with his innovative offensive schemes, robotic memory and ability to identify and attack the weaknesses of Los Angeles’ opponents.
The Rams’ next opponent, the New England Patriots, have their flaws, but the NFL’s “It” man knows Tom Brady isn’t one of them.
Yeah, it’s a great challenge,” McVay said of facing Brady in Super Bowl LIII, via ProFootballTalk. “I mean, there’s a reason why he’s arguably one of the greatest of all time, because he does an excellent job of identifying whatever defensive structure you’re in, whether you want to pressure, whether you want to try to put pressure with a four-man rush and play loaded zone or some man principles behind it. He’s got such an ownership on being able to get the ball out of his hand in a timely manner and then he’s got guys that can separate.
“So it’s got to be a good mixture. We’ve got to identify the things that we want to be able to stop. Any time that you can try to move the quarterback off of his spot, whether that’s interior or edge pressure, just being able to force them to move where they’re not able to just set their feet and work in rhythm — certainly easier said than done, but that’s going to be a key to try to get him off of his rhythm, which not many people have success doing.”
The way to disrupt the Patriots’ passing attack always has been to pressure and hit Brady to throw off his timing. That’s easier said than done, however. Through two playoff games against the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs, Brady has dropped back to pass 90 times. He hasn’t been sacked and has been hit only once.
In theory, LA should have the defensive linemen to pressure Brady. Aaron Donald is the best defensive player in football and has been a wrecking ball all season, while Ndamukong Suh and Dante Fowler Jr. have ratcheted up their games in the playoffs.
Suh and Donald collectively stymied Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys’ rushing attack in the NFC divisional round, holding the Pro Bowl running back to 47 yards on 20 carries.
Suh continued to wreak havoc the following week, tallying 1.5 sacks against the New Orleans Saints, and Fowler’s pressure forced Drew Brees’ overtime interception in the NFC Championship Game.
Donald, Suh and Fowler will have their work cut out for them in Super Bowl LIII, though. The Patriots’ athletic offensive line has been handling teams over the past month, giving Brady ample time and a clean pocket to throw from while also bulldozing opponents in the running game.
During the regular season, the Rams tallied 41 sacks and 94 quarterback hits but ranked 23rd in rushing defense, giving up 122.3 yards per game. That number has dropped dramatically in two postseason games, though, as the Rams are allowing just 49 yards per game on the ground during the playoffs.
The Rams’ ability to fluster Brady and get him off his spot will depend heavily on their ability to slow down Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead and the Patriots’ running game, thus making New England one-dimensional. If the Patriots are unable to run the ball effectively, it will allow the Rams’ defensive line to pin its ears back and go after Brady.
The Rams’ defensive line is one of the main reasons LA finds itself in Super Bowl LIII, and now it’ll be up to Donald, Suh and Fowler to make life difficult for the GOAT and snatch the Lombardi Trophy from the NFL’s greatest dynasty.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images