The Los Angeles Rams will have one of their biggest tests of the season on Sunday when they take on the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles haven’t been able to put together a complete game yet this season and are facing injuries in the secondary. Meanwhile, the Rams have been feisty team through four weeks and will be looking to take advantage of an Eagles team that isn’t 100 percent. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp will be making his debut. Let’s get into our five keys to victory on how the Rams can pull off the upset.
1. Pass to Set Up the Run
There are games like last week against the Indianapolis Colts or the game before against the Cincinnati Bengals where the Rams should have run the ball to the set up the pass. That’s exactly what they did last week. That’s not the case against the Eagles.
The Eagles will show favorable looks to run against. However, they are one of the best in the league at stopping the run. Philadelphia ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing EPA. Their 3.3 yards per carry ranks fifth.
Now, this isn’t to say that the Rams should get one dimensional. However, this is a secondary that can be exploited. Sam Howell threw 41 times for 291 yards last week. Two weeks earlier, Kirk Cousins had 364 yards passing to go with four touchdowns. The Eagles secondary has struggled this year and with Cooper Kupp returning, the Rams need to get him involved.
2. Avoid Fourth-and-Short Situations on Defense
The Eagles have gone for it on fourth down seven times this season. Nick Sirianni is an aggressive coach and will leave the offense on the field in fourth down situations. Typically as a defense, you are defending 10 yards. With the Eagles, you better be ready for the Eagles to go for it anything under five yards. A fourth-and-short situation is almost guaranteed to set up the “tush push”.
When asked about the “tush push” this week, Aaron Donald said,
“You got to be stout in the middle. Obviously, offensive line tries to get as low as you can. I think it all starts from the center you get under his pads and pop him up and then guys crowd the ball. You can stop it, but it is definitely tough.”
Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris added,
“People are still figuring that out...It’s been stopped around the league a little bit. Some people have got lower pad level, done some different things and you got to get out there and try to knock that out. The way they do it in particular is really well done because you got a quarterback who’s very strong on his lowers, has halfback-like traits. You have that O-line which just talked about Kelce being the foreman of that and playing with that low center of gravity and being able to get off the ball and move people.”
The best way to stop the “tush push” is just to avoid it completely. If the Rams can keep the Eagles out of those situations, it will be a non-issue.
3. Attack the Middle of the Field
As mentioned earlier, the Eagles secondary can be attacked. This season, the Rams lead the NFL in passes completed inside the hashes with 25. Meanwhile, the Eagles secondary ranks 30th in EPA in defending those passes inside the hashes. Look for the Rams to exploit the middle of the field with Puka Nacua and Cooper Kupp.
The Eagles secondary is extremely banged up. Philadelphia is very thin at the nickel cornerback spot. Don’t be surprised if McVay looks to exploit that and put inexperienced players in conflicting positions. The Rams couldn’t be getting Cooper Kupp back at a better time.
4. Limit Explosive Plays
The Rams defense allowed a handful of explosive plays against the Indianapolis Colts in the fourth quarter that allowed them to get back into the game. In 2022, the Philadelphia Eagles were one of the more explosive offenses in the NFL not only on the ground, but also through the air.
Commanders had a plan to slow down Eagles run game and clog the middle. The deep pass to DeVonta late in the half broke the damn a bit. Jalen Hurts was excellent at hanging in, holding it a hair longer, and really being aggressive down the field to AJ Brown. From FNIA last night: pic.twitter.com/gXi6zxthjV— Chris Simms (@CSimmsQB) October 2, 2023
This is an offense that wants to be able to hit vertical passes to DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins, and AJ Brown. Derion Kendrick has had up and down moments, but is susceptible to getting beat vertically. Raheem Morris needs to put a shell over the top for the defense to limit these types of explosive plays and force Jalen Hurts to hit underneath throws. The Rams have done a good job limiting offenses this season, but this will be one of the better units that they will face.
5. Protect Matthew Stafford
This is a game where the Rams are going to want to and need to line up in empty in order to spread out the defense. However, in doing so, that also puts the offensive line on an island and forces them to win their one-on-one matchup. It also increases the importance of good communication.
It sounds like Joe Noteboom will be out, but Alaric Jackson is expected to play. McVay said, “I think he’s going to play. Yeah, that’s the expectation.” Warren McClendon will be backing of Jackson at left tackle. The Rams offensive line needs to win their matchup. If Stafford gets time to throw, he’ll be able to do some damage from empty.