2017-Present - McVay's run

The Los Angeles Rams defense was key in victory over the New Orleans Saints

The Los Angeles Rams had a rare opportunity to get revenge on their non-divisional rivals, the New Orleans Saints, during the NFC Championship game. The battle of these two giants proved intense, but the Rams emerged victorious this time around. But what changed from their Week 9 blunder?

Slowing down Brees

The defensive front stepped up for starters. Saints quarterback Drew Brees was too comfortable in the pocket during their first meeting, and the Rams didn’t register a single sack. This time around, Brees couldn’t establish a rhythm because of the constant pressure, including two sacks. It’s not a lot of sacks, but the hurries forced Brees to make quick decisions that hurt the Saints’ offensive production.

Brees still recorded a decent game with 249 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, but it’s still a far cry from the 346-yard, four touchdown performance earlier this year.

The defensive line has come alive in the playoffs, and not just Aaron Donald either. Michael Brockers and Ndamukong Suh transformed from fallen stars back to dominant forces. Linebackers like Cory Littleton, Mark Barron and Dante Fowler made some spectacular plays when they counted, and didn’t just diminish Brees’s performance, but limited a key weapon in Alvin Kamara as well.

Kamara’s impact diminished

None of this is to say that Kamara or Brees didn’t have a role in this game, because these guys are too talented to go silently. Kamara made some noise, but through the air and not on the ground. He was Brees’s top target, nabbing 11 receptions for 96 yards. That said, the Rams defense held him to only 15 yards on the ground on eight attempts.

Mark Ingram doubled Kamara’s production, earning a still underwhelming 31 yards rushing. What was the difference? Not much in terms of Ingram since he had 33 yards in Week 9. As for Kamara, he rushed for 82 yards and two touchdowns. Starting to see a trend here? Wait until you see the difference in Michael Thomas’s performance.

Slowing down Michael Thomas

The Rams missed the balance that Aqib Talib brought in the secondary in their regular season matchup. One player doesn’t make the secondary, but he can help. Allowing 12 receptions for 211 receiving yards and one touchdown is unacceptable for any serious contending team. Thomas is no doubt one of the best receivers in football, so to hold him to only four receptions for 35 yards is nothing short of impressive.

The defense played with heart, but the Rams offense showed some improvement too, particularly with No. 16.

Don’t forget the offense

Jared Goff still wasn’t perfect, but not many quarterbacks can be perfect competing against a team like the Saints. That said, Goff made some passes that we haven’t seen since the first half of the season. His throws were money.

Technically, Goff’s numbers were better in their first matchup, but we all know that stats aren’t everything. He only needed 297 yards and one touchdown, because he played smarter football. No matter how you feel about Goff or Sean McVay’s playcalling, to keep your composure in the ear-bleeding Superdome is impressive. It did affect the Rams early on, but they adjusted and were able to drive the ball successfully.

In short, the Rams that played during the NFC Championship game were a better team than the Week 9 Rams. It was a different feeling even when the Rams were trailing 13-0 in the first quarter. The defense kept the Rams in the game and are owed a huge amount of praise for this win. If the Rams can continue to play on this level, the New England Patriots shouldn’t be a problem in Super Bowl LIII.

Source: ESPN.com

You can follow Johnny Gomez on Twitter @Johnny5not6. Be sure to follow Rams Talk on Twitter @TalkRams.

Most Popular

To Top