Even as the LA Rams use this final week to fine-tune preparations for Super Bowl LVI, there is plenty of speculation about what will the Rams do in this all-important game? Will the Rams stick with the tried and true, run RB Cam Akers and throw to WR Cooper Kupp? Or will they use a deceptive form of chicanery, trying to fool their opponents, the Cincinnati Bengals, by routing a majority of their offense through backup tight end Kendall Blanton?
Ultimately, the final decision will be up to LA Rams head coach Sean McVay. But McVay has been to the big game before and lost. Afterward, he admitted in interviews that he was guilty of overthinking the game. Don’t look for the same mistake. You see, on the way to Super Bowl LVI, the Rams offense rushed 48 times against the Dallas Cowboys, 26 times against the New Orleans Saints, and just 18 times against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.
So far this year, the Rams have been far more consistent in their attempts to run the football. The offense rushed the football 38 times against the Arizona Cardinals, 30 times against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and 29 times against the San Francisco 49ers. Now, the team needs to play just one more game in a similar fashion against the Bengals.
Rams can run on the Bengals
So far in the postseason, the Bengals defense has been a bit vulnerable to the ground game. In three games, they have allowed 382 yards rushing, the worst of all playoff teams so far. But they’ve also allowed a whopping average of 5.9 yards per run. If the Rams offense could achieve the average against the Bengals, that would be nearly 180 yards of offense on the ground.
It was not just one opponent who found daylight on the ground against the Bengals. The Las Vegas Raiders attained a 7.4 yard average per run, the Tennessee Titans put up an average of 5.2 yards per run, and even the Kansas City Chiefs gained an average of 5.6 yards per run. By comparison, the Rams are allowing just 3.1 yards per run, a difference of some 2.8 yards for each and every carry. Advantage: Rams.
One of the concerns over the Rams offense so far is whether or not the team will stick to the running game. Even as we’ve pointed out the benefits to the entire team to maintaining offensive balance, that balance was at risk in the heat of battle. At some point, the Rams begin to pass repeatedly, giving the defense a chance to up the tempo of their pass rush, and play the ball, not the receiver.
Who gets the rock?
I have confidence that the Rams will find a way to remain relatively calm cool and collected in this one. So now the quest is simply to understand who will get the football?
While the tone of many comments so far seems to be “What about Sony Michel?”, the Rams always intended for Michel to be a robust, but temporary, bridge for the offense until Cam Akers returned. While I won’t rule out a Sony Michel sighting in Super Bowl LVI, my gut instinct tells me that the Rams will trot out Cam Akers to start the game and intend to hand the majority of carries to him in this one.
Michel will have his turn. If the Rams take the lead in this one and keep it, look for the team to mingle more and more of Sony Michel into the lineup. Much like former RB Malcolm Brown, Michel is the more punishing runner, and the Rams will be happy to keep him going as long as the chains keep moving.
The numbers, please?
The availability of Darrell Henderson Jr. for this one could be huge. if he gets a clean bill of health and instills confidence in the coaching staff, I could see the Rams sending Henderson in to test the Bengals defensive perimeter. The more real estate the defense must cover, the more opportunities will be created for the offense in both the running and passing options. How do I see the final box score for Super Bowl LVI?
LA Rams CAR YDS TD
Cam Akers 21 117 1
Sony Michel 8 42 1
Darrell Henderson Jr. 4 44 0
The Bengals defense will be focused upon stopping the LA Rams passing attack, as they have done a good job of thwarting the efforts of Derek Carr, Ryan Tannehill, and Patrick Mahomes so far. So look for the Rams to give them something to talk about. A little mystery to figure out. A potent running attack, something the Rams have not seen often this year, would be a hugely positive development.
And it would be something the Bengals really would not be looking for.