Feb. 06, 2018
Your Super Bowl LIII Champions: The LA Rams
Picture the scene; February 3rd, 2019, Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta Georgia, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stands on the podium erected on the field surround by yellow and blue confetti. Next to him stands California’s new favorite son, Jared Goff, hoisting the Lombardi Trophy high into the sky. How did this occur? Let’s flash back to July 2018 to figure it all out?
This story begins with LeBron James… Lebron James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers on July 1st and professional sport in LA became relevant again. Now that’s probably harsh considering the LA Dodgers made the World Series in 2017 and remain a contender this season but we’ve only just reached the All-Star break so no one in LA really cares about Baseball just yet. The last time a Los Angeles franchise won a major championship was the Kings in 2014, lets be honest LA isn’t really a well-known Hockey town. Back to LeBron, the entirety of US sport media dedicated hours of coverage to LeBron’s signing. “The Lakers are back” being the popular declaration. There was a championship on the horizon. It wasn’t coming to Staple Centre though.
Over in Irvine, California, preparations were being made for the Los Angeles Rams training camp. The LeBron James hype train had seemingly taken all the attention away from the Rams remarkable offseason. After an 11-5 season followed by a disappointing 1 and done playoff campaign, the Rams front office had made some dramatic moves to put Sean McVay in a position to win now. They added 3 starting caliber corners to the 13th ranked pass defense, they addressed their 28th ranked rush defense with the signing of Ndamukong Suh and replaced Tavon Austin and Sammy Watkins with New England’s Brandon Cooks. Cooks set the Rams back a first round pick but that was an easy price to pay for the man who finished 11th in receiving yards last season. Cooks lightning speed and skill set made him the perfect fit for the Rams as he can be used for Jet sweeps and screens like Tavon Austin was and he can also be utilized to stretch the D much like Sammy Watkins was.
So just how did the Rams win Super Bowl LIII? Here’s how:
The most important signing of 2018 for Los Angeles sports franchises wasn’t LeBron James, it wasn’t even Zlatan Ibrahimović, it was Aaron Donald. The Rams and Donald found and agreement and the dominant Donald stormed onto the field with the intention of breaking through every wall of offensive linemen placed in front of him. Joining him on the front lines of Wade Phillips defense is new free agent signing Ndamukong Suh. These two didn’t see the field together all that much in Phillip’s 3-4 scheme but having both allowed them to rotate and stay fresh. Thus allowing last season’s most dominant interior lineman in Donald to be even more effective in disrupting the pass game while Suh helps fix the issues the Rams dealt with defending the run. These run defense improvements were all the Rams need to be a serious contender. Last seasons 12th ranked overall defense shot up to the leagues top 5 overall as the 28th Ranked rush defense from last season was quickly forgotten about. The Rams newly tighten run defense meant that teams were often having to go to the passing game on 2nd and 3rd down, playing right into Wade Phillips strengths and resulting in the LA Rams leading the league in interceptions.
A quick question for everyone, what happens when you take the number 1 ranked offense in the league, retain all the players in that unit of any note bar one and replace him with someone who was effectively twice as productive? The most dominant offense in the NFL for a second year running, that’s what you get. The Rams offense was arguably far more dominant in 2018. Last season the argument many had was the offense was having to carry too much of the load. This season, the defense stepped up, provided the offense with countless short field opportunities and more often than not they capitalized. Under Head Coach and play caller Sean McVay, Jared Goff took a major step towards the upper echelons of NFL Quarterback status by carrying his confidence from the 2017 season and combining that with a great rapport with Woods, Kupp and the newly acquired weapon of Brandin Cooks. Goff showed improved Football IQ all season making smarter decisions but also shown the poise and clutch only demonstrated by the NFL’s elite in big games early in the season. Brandin Cooks arrival didn’t just help Jared Goff though, it proved a master stroke in helping Todd Gurley pill up even more yards. The constant fear of a deep ball, a screen or a jet sweep involving Cooks made teams pay even more attention to the Rams passing game, allowing last seasons 2nd highest rusher to blow previous seasons out of the water an amass over 1500 yards on the ground.
To recap the 2018 regular season, the Rams finished the season 14-2, losing only to the Chiefs and the 49ers. The 49ers loss being in week 17 with much of their All Pro talent benched. They finished the season with the number 1 offense in the league and number 4 defense in league, however they did lead the league in Interceptions. Moving into the playoffs all the talk was on their one and done post season in 2017.
The Rams reward for the 14-2 season was home field advantage and the Los Angeles Coliseum was the perfect location for playoff football. The New York Football Giants came to town for the Divisional round game but even Eli, OBJ and rookie of the year, Saquon Barkley couldn’t pick their way through the LA defense. A surprising season for the Giants ended in defeat but one final trip to the postseason was the perfect curtain call for Eli Manning’s illustrious career.
Comeback player of the season and NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers roll into the Los Angeles winter for the NFC Championship game and things are just a little too hot under the collar for the boys from Lambeau. Rodgers Elite performance dragged the Packers to the heights of the conference championship but even he could out gun the LA offense. Goff kept things sensible and Gurley made Green Bay’s front 7 look like swiss cheese and ultimately LA’s no fly zone defense, helped by former Packer Sam Shields shut down Rodgers Super Bowl dream.
Super Bowl number 9 for Tom Brady would ultimately be Super Bowl loss number 4 for the Greatest of All Time. 9 Super Bowl trips is exactly why he is the Greatest of all time though, only one NFL franchise has more than that and that’s his New England Patriots. How did he lose it? Well it went quite the same as his last, Super Bowl LII. A shoot-out from start to finish, Brady and Goff traded touchdowns early. Ultimately as the game wore on, it was clear that the Rams number 1 ranked offense was finding it easier to move the ball versus the Patriots middle of the road defense. Brady as always kept it close but the dominance of the Rams front 7, often employing both Donald and Suh together shut down any Patriot run game, forcing New England to throw. Forcing New England to throw is something most people would fear, but Wade Phillips embraced it. He made New England throw the ball in the 2016 AFC Championship on route to winning Super Bowl 50. In that game Brady threw 56 times with 2 interceptions and only 27 completions, Brady was a little more accurate here Super Bowl LIII but ultimately unnoticed pass interference by Aqib Talib on Rob Gronkowski led to the Patriots failing to score late and ultimately allowing Goff and the Rams offense to run down the clock. The Blue and Gold ticket tape parade began, and the Greatest Show on Turf 2.0 had made history as your Super Bowl LIII Champions.
Naturally, since is only August 2018, it’s probably quite strange reading an article in past tense about an event which is still 6 months away. It probably seems quite dramatic and quite arrogant but thinking about it, is there a team better positioned to win Super Bowl LIII? Can the LA Rams afford to not win Super Bowl LIII? This offseason has screamed win now and their offseason expenditure surely seems like they are chasing a championship (or two). How many number 1 ranked offenses get stronger? In my eyes, this is LA’s year and the Lombardi Trophy is heading to the City of Angels. Then again, it’s football, anything can happen. This might just end up being another forgotten Hollywood script.