Optical Illusion: How bad was the LA Rams defense?

Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /
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LA Rams News Sean McVay
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Super Bowl defensive projections

So now, where does this leave us in terms of projecting the defense in Super Bowl LVI? Well, let’s examine their upcoming opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals.  The Bengals defeated the Las Vegas Raiders, the Tennessee Titans, and the Kansas City Chiefs to become the AFC Conference Champions and earn the right to compete in Super Bowl LVI.

So can the Rams defense hope to stop their potent offense? Let’s dig into ESPN NFL Analytics for some answers. For starters, how bad are the LA Rams at run defense?

Well, that checks out so far. The Rams have played three playoff games, and have allowed only 54 yards per game on the ground. How does that project on the Bengals rushing offense? Look for the Bengals to rush the ball in the 20ish range, gaining about 70 yards on the ground.

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Rams pass rush

How about the LA Rams pass rush? Can this team get to the Bengals QB, Joe Burrow?

Considering that the Rams faced the Arizona Cardinals, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the San Francisco 49ers, all teams that boast great offensive lines and accelerated their offensive tempo to mitigate the Rams pass rush, the Rams’ ability to get to the quarterback five times is pretty solid.

The Bengals’ offensive line is only part of the problem.  Because the Bengals’ offense is predominantly passing, the opposing pass rush can key on bringing Burrow down, which they have 12 times in three games.  Of course, the biggest contributor to that has been nine quarterback sacks at the hands of the Tennessee Titans. But only two teams were better at getting to the quarterback than the LA Rams: The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings.  When the Vikings played the Bengals, their defense was able to bring down Burrow five times.

I think that this one will be a boon for the Rams, who have gotten very good at picking up their pace to get pressure on the quarterback, despite the offense’s attempt to up the tempo. Look for the Rams to clear an amazing seven sacks in this one, as both Von Miller and Aaron Donald could rack up multiple sacks respectively.

Rams pass defense

The Rams have been playing through the playoffs without their two starting safeties. Rather than struggle at pass defense, the Rams opportunistic defense has gotten a B-12 shot. Only the Bengals have more interception in the postseason, and the Rams are well positioned to get more in Super Bowl LVI.

The Bengals have passed 109 times for 748 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions and 12 quarterback sacks in the playoffs so far.  Meanwhile, the Bengals have rushed 70 times for 264 yards and one touchdown.

The Bengals passing attack is powered through rookie Ja’Marr Chase and second year Tee Higgins. The Rams will counter with DB Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams. Ramsey will likely cover Chase, Burrow’s favorite go-to guy. That will force the Rams to use Williams on Higgins.  The Rams will likely use David Long Jr. on WR Tyler Boyd, and Eric Weddle on TE C.J. Uzomah.  I like how this one lines up for the Rams. The Bengals offense is young, which gives the Rams time to force Burrow to hesitate, giving their pass rush time to fell the second-year QB.

The Bengals will eventually complete some passes and score some points. But I like the Rams defense to hold Burrow in the 200ish passing yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

In the end, the 2021 sentiment about the LA Rams defense was sorely misdirected. How bad is this defense? It’s good enough to win Super Bowl LVI, and that’s pretty darned good if you ask me.

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