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Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints: Film review shows Rams’ defensive adjustments

The Rams went into the game daring anyone on the Saints not named Mike Thomas to beat them, though things eventually changed

NFC Championship - Los Angeles Rams v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints game is over, and while the Rams are moving forward and preparing for a Superbowl showdown against the New England Patriots, it’s good to revisit what made the Rams successful in the NFC Championship and what allowed them to extend their season.

Let’s revisit the tape.

Pregame Plan

Going into the game, the Rams keyed in on WR Michael Thomas as the main option they wanted to to try and silence, and they did that by doubling Thomas with bracket coverage on multiple occasions (typically on third downs). Thomas burned the Rams to the tune of 211 yards and one touchdown in week nine, though their plan was far more successful this time around as Thomas was limited to only 36 receiving yards.

Take a look at this play below, you can see Thomas on the top of the screen bracketed by CB Aqib Talib who maintains outside leverage and FS Lamarcus Joyner who rotates down with inside leverage.

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On this occasion below, you can see the different wrinkles the Rams had installed pre-game. The player highlighted in yellow is FS Lamarcus Joyner who kicked down and has RB Alvin Kamara as an assignment in man coverage, and the player circled in red is backup FS Blake Countess who has a single-high assignment.

On the play, you can see the responsibilities of Joyner and Countess, but not only that, on the bottom of the screen you see Michael Thomas motioning into a stack, and then subsequently being bracketed by CB Marcus Peters and SS John Johnson III again (on third down as well).

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Suh’s Dominance

Ndamukong Suh was simply a man possessed on Sunday. I have no idea where he channeled this inner power from, but he looked like Suh back in his prime. He altered run plays on multiple occasions, registered 1.5 sacks in the matchup, and proved to be a mismatch regardless of who had the assignment of blocking him.

Here’s his highlight film from the game:

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At one point, he became such an issue that the Saints actually triple teamed him:

In-game Adjustments

In the third quarter (mainly) alone, Alvin Kamara proved to be quite an issue for the Rams defense. He wasn’t creating massive chunk plays, but he routinely converted the chains on short-to-intermediate receptions with the Rams having no answer. That’s what eventually lead to an in-game adjustment from Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips, and this came at the end of the third quarter. On this rep below, you can see both ILB’s in Cory Littleton and Mark Barron bracket cover Kamara coming out of the backfield (which lead to single coverage on Michael Thomas in the slot resulting in one of his only four receptions on the day).

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To continue throwing wrenches at the Saints, the Rams knew they couldn’t consistently offer two defenders on Kamara so they allowed DE’s (Suh on this particular snap) to chip Kamara before he had a chance to release into his route.

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When you look at the Rams’ gameplan going into the game and the adjustments on the fly, you begin to see a difference in the mindset of the team (particularly on defense). The gameplan was a strong one as the Rams ensured Michael Thomas wasn’t going to be the player that beat them, and when another player became an issue (Kamara) they started mixing in looks to help contain him as a weapon also.

For what seemed like a defense that was under-performing, they’re now gelling at the perfect time, but not only that, Wade Phillips is ensuring they’re leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit of victory in every game.