There were no cushions for receivers on NFL Championship Sunday. With the games on the line, with a win-or-go-home scenario, four NFL teams, and four defenses, proved that their secondaries could play effective press-man or man coverage. That is something that the LA Rams defense was unable to do in 2022.
And it’s something that the Rams need to get back to.
Zone pass coverage has its place in the palette of NFL defensive options. I get that. But the LA Rams simply failed to construct a viable pass defense with players who could flip to anything other than the very predictable, and frustrating, shell coverage that lined up defensive backs 10+ yards off the ball.
The Rams’ offense was quite predictable. Teams understood that jumping out to a quick lead ensured that the Rams’ offense would pivot from a balanced attack to pass-only mode. Once that happened, defenses salivated over the concept of pass rushing against the second, third, and sometimes fourth-string offensive linemen in a no-holds-barred attempt to get to the quarterback.
But at the same time, the Rams’ secondary was stuck in a rut as well. The Rams safeties were ill-suited to cover anyone in pass defense, so the Rams’ solution was to place two safeties in center field, pull the cornerbacks off the line of scrimmage about 10 yards, and then hope that offenses would bite and keep everything in front of the defensive backs. It may have worked if the Rams’ offense had built up a 21-point lead. But combining that with the Rams’ offensive futility, and that strategy simply allowed opposing offenses to control the clock with the lead.
Was it the best that the LA Rams could do? With the defensive backs on the roster, I think so, yes. The LA Rams need to upgrade their safety position and add a cornerback who can play man coverage as needed.