LA Rams defense appears to be playoff ready

Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /

The LA Rams have surged to the NFL’s top defense, proving that portion of the team is playoff ready.

The LA Rams have gone the way of their offense since head coach Sean McVay has taken over the team as the head coach in 2017.  It was that Rams offense that set defenses back on their heels. Behind excellent blocking, and an uncanny balance of rushes and passes, the Rams taught the NFL how to score 30 plus points a game with young players at the skill positions.

Well, the NFL did watch and learn. Not only how to replicate those same lofty statistics, but also how to defend that fast-paced offense. And 2019 was a combination of injuries and the simple fact that the NFL had closed the gap between McVay’s offense and their defense. The Rams fell from 13-3 to 9-7, prompting action.

Emphasize defense

The Rams needed to act quickly after the 2019 season ended. For all intents and purposes, the team’s most vital expiring contracts fell upon defensive leaders for the team. While the Rams were still solid with star-power with All-Pro Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, the team needed to reformulate the defense.

Enter rookie defensive coordinator Brandon Staley. Early into the season, Staley emphasized the fact that he was a former quarterback, and intended to put the defense on the attack. He proved early in the season that he would commit the defense to play both the pass and the run well. But the greatest attribute of this defense is the ability to adjust at halftime to stymie the opponent in the second half of games.

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Rams D peaking at the right time

The Rams defense has improved all season. It makes sense that the team would need time to adhere to a new defensive philosophy. After nine games, the team seems to have found a good rhythm at the defense. So much so that even stalwart defensive lineman Aaron Donald struggles to contain his pleasure over the defense so far.

But the true test to any defense is not their statistics, but rather how well the team plays against the NFL’s top quarterbacks.  The Rams succeeded in frustrating the Seahawks Russell Wilson, but must now face their nemesis, Tom Brady.

Playoff potential proof

The Rams can defend the run. The Rams can hold top wide receiver Mike Evans in check. But can the Rams defend Rob Gronkowski any better? Only if the defense gets to Brady often. The New Orleans Saints defense forced Brady to throw five interceptions in two games. To win, the Rams will need to be equally adept at forcing and capitalizing on the mistakes of one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.

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Statistics mean little in the NFL Playoffs. Seldom used players can make game-winning plays. Stars can vanish in a big game.  This is the game where the Rams need to step up once more. A loss plummets the Rams to the brink of elimination from the NFL playoff picture. A victory solidifies the Rams inclusion in the NFL playoff race, as well as a lead in the very competitive NFC West.