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Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions: Game balls celebrate defensive improvement

Let’s talk defense...

Los Angeles Rams v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Defense, defense, defense! (It must be December...)

The Los Angeles Rams beat the Detroit Lions today, 30-16, clinching the NFC West for the second year in a row. Here’s who gets my game balls in the win:

DL Aaron Donald

While everyone knows that Donald is in the debate regarding who the best player in the league is, people suggesting that he should actually be named MVP usually sound like someone is trying to make some kind of profound point, largely because he’s not a quarterback. The retort becomes, predictably (and maybe accurately), that a defensive tackle can’t impact a game the way a quarterback can, even if that defensive tackle seems like something out of a Marvel comic. Well, it’s almost as though Donald has heard that conversation and decided to take matters into his own hands.

Against the Kansas City Chiefs, he created two game swinging fumbles by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and this week he did it again. With the game still in the balance, he forced a quarterback fumble again, at a time when the Rams needed it most. On the day, he added two more sacks to his season total, which now stands at 16.5, with four games remaining. It’s not just the sacks though. Every play he’s soaking up blockers, and knifing his way through the pocket, ultimately having a devastating effect on nearly every play.

Also, it was nice to see him get chippy in the end of the game: first, shoving Legarrette Blount to the ground before flexing like Jesse Ventura in celebration, then body slamming Matthew Stafford, in a play that Stafford fortunately walked away from. Someday, the Hall Of Fame montage of Aaron Donald will need some plays like that to help future generations imagine what we’re all currently witnessing.

DL Ndamukong Suh

This was one of those games where you didn’t have to squint to notice the impact that Suh was having next to Aaron Donald. He made plenty of plays against his former team on Sunday. He actually had five tackles in the first half, a hefty sum for an interior lineman, and was able to win the position battles in the trenches when the Lions tried to run. All in all, a good day for Suh.

EDGE Dante Fowler, Jr.

Last week, it was Samson Ebukam; this week, it was Fowler. He had five tackles and a sack, but his motor was on full throttle all day. On his sack he took a wide path the Stafford, and then dove forward to bag Stafford when the quarterback slid to his left. That play, along with the play when Fowler came from the other end of the play to yank down Lions RB LeGarrette Blount on a backside pursuit, showed Fowler’s energy and willingness to play from snap to whistle.