The defense donut hole was filled
The LA Rams defense under defensive coordinator Brandon Staley in 2020 was the top-ranked defense through the regular season but struggled in the playoffs due to the poor play of the inside linebackers. That led to the Green Bay Packers slaughtering the middle of the Rams defense due to the injury to DL Aaron Donald and poor linebacker play. The Rams’ goal in 2021 was to fix that vulnerability
The first step was to stop offenses from running on the Rams. They did that, with a combination of deception and determination. In four playoff games, the Rams defense allowed just 241 yards on the ground in 72 attempts. That works out to an average of just 3.34 yards per run and an average of just 18 rushes per game. That’s pretty good, but the fact is that offensive coordinators were so eager to exploit the LA Rams pass defense with two new safeties on the back end of the secondary that the game plans seemed to abandon the
Inside linebacker play improved
The Rams also go very good play out of both ILB Travin Howard and Ernest Jones. That was quite important, as the team faced some of the most elite tight ends in the NFL in Arizona Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz (3 of 4, 21 yards), Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski (4 of 11, 85 yards), San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (2 of 5, 27 yards, 1 TD), and Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah (2 of 2, 11 yards). As a group, the LA Rams defense held opposing tight ends to 11 out of 22 for 144 yards and one touchdown in four games.
The Rams ‘fixed’ the hole in the middle of the defense that was exploited relentlessly the year early. While it showed up huge in the playoffs, it did take some painful trial-and-error to accomplish throughout the regular season. But that was only part of the lessons learned about this team. What other lessons, good or bad, did we take away from the team’s Super Bowl LVI experience?
Let’s look at liabilities first…