Why not save a bit of LA Rams Matthew Stafford for the playoffs?

Mandatory Credit: Titans Rams 089
Mandatory Credit: Titans Rams 089 /

The LA Rams sit veteran players like offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, and defensive lineman Aaron Donald, over the course of the season to ensure that they remain refreshed and healthy. But when it comes to the willingness of the team to run the ball and take some of the pressure off their veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford, that philosophy seems to have been chucked out the window.

Protecting Stafford seemed to be a priority of the team’s offense, and the offensive line delivered. In the first five games of the 2021 NFL season, the Rams had surrendered just four quarterback sacks, and that had come at the expense of some pretty potent NFL defenses.

It’s no wonder that Stafford was able to torch opponents for insanely quick and effective scoring drives. He threw for 12 touchdowns to only three interceptions. He averaged nearly 10 yards per pass attempt. It was the best of times.

But the next five games would change all of that. Defenses learned new ways to get to Stafford, and did so at an alarmingly effective rate that averaged 2.0 quarterback sacks per game. Similarly, the results proved to limit his ability to throw so effectively. He threw for five interceptions to 12 touchdowns, but he threw for only 7.5 yards per pass attempt.

More reasons to run

The NFL defenses have adapted. Just as they had done in the past, defensive coordinators have sold out on run defense and brought significant pass-rush pressure on the LA Rams‘ most important offensive asset, veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford.

And it’s taking its toll.

This team cannot afford to entrust their playoff hopes to any quarterback not named Matthew Stafford.

There are those who believe in backup quarterback John Wolford. In the past, there were good reasons to believe in the change of pace and the confusion that a more mobile quarterback like Wolford would cause on defenses. But Wolford depends a great deal on his legs, and defenses know how to force him to throw. That hasn’t turned out very well.

No, the LA Rams need to keep Matthew Stafford healthy enough to survive a long 17 game season, plus any and all playoff games. If the team needed any reason to run more than 10 times a game, that should be in each and every discussion about the team’s offensive strategy from now on.

Defenses have been able to dictate what the Rams do on offense for far too long. The LA Rams can run and must do so for many reasons now. Failing to establish a running game now makes this offense one-dimensional, making the jobs of each defense faced through the rest of the season that much easier.

Run now and keep Stafford healthy? Or pass 41 times against a fierce pass rush in a losing effort?  The answer seems obvious to some. Now, let’s see if the powers-that-be can figure it out.

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