In part 2 of this special in-depth look into the keys to winning in the New Orleans Saint’s home ground, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, I take a look at what the Rams can do specifically to over come the challenges that I’ve outlined in part 1 of this NFC Championship playoff breakdown.
Goff Needs to Throw the Ball
If we look at the only times in the last two years that the Saints have lost at home it has come from Quarterbacks having plus 400 yard games, multiple TDs and zero turnovers. This was obviously Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tom Brady respectively. Considering both of these losses have occurred early in their seasons against a young Defensive Backs group which has now had time to learn, develop and grow together the feats of both ‘Fitzmagic’ and Brady are now seemingly a lot harder to achieve.
Sounds easy, right? Of course not.
Given the Superdome’s unique passing friendly atmosphere we can expect the high octane offense of Drew Brees, Mike Thomas and Alvin Kamara to bring a bunch of points. One way to overcome this is to score more.
Coming out of the three Wide Receiver, one Tight End and one Running Back base-package that the Rams have become famous for using roughly 96% of the time Sean McVay is going to have utilize play-calling where there are bodies in motion through sweeps and slants in order to create open opportunities for our receiving corps down field.
Having a healthy dose of the running game will assist in finding those passes downfield and the new found combo of Todd Gurley and CJ Anderson will have to do their part by battering the Saints and therefore setting up the play-action later in the game. They were clearly brilliant against Cowboys and hopefully the threat of them having a repeat performance is already putting the Saint’s defensive play-calling in two minds.
Gurley, Everett and Higbee will be the ex-factor in the passing game. In what is essentially a West Coast offense these players often represent the check-down and their ability to extend plays by making players miss and gaining extra yardage is going to be the key to turning a good passing game, into a great passing game.
The New Star Recruits Need to Shine Bright
In the off-season General Manager Les Snead and Head Coach Sean McVay went on a shopping spree. On the top of the shopping list was a Super Bowl and the ingredients included a man-mountain Defensive Tackle, and couple of All-Pro Cornerbacks and deep-threat Wide Receiver. Welcome to the Rams Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Brandin Cooks.
There were many reasons for these players to be head-hunted but the main reason, as mentioned above was to lift the quality of the team from the year before by adding the necessary pieces required to deliver a Lombardi Trophy. With varying degrees of success throughout the season each of these new players have had periods of hit and miss. For the Rams to win on Sunday they need these star recruits to shine bright.
Cooks needs to do what he has done many times before in the Superdome and reel in some long rainbows. Use his blinding speed to torch the turf along with Defenders to find some space and open up the passing game for Goff.
Suh needs to bring the pressure through the middle that he has become renowned for throughout his career. Playoff games are special in that they present opportunities for special type players to stand up in the spotlight. Suh definitely did that against Dallas last week as he was a major reason that the run-game was shut down and allowed Aaron Donald to keep constant pressure on Dak Prescott. Suh was a stand-out last week and will need to be again at the Superdome.
Probably most importantly the combination of Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib will be required to inject themselves upon the playoff stage the most. They have the most difficult task in marking the duo of Mike Thomas and rookie Tre’Quan Smith and of course limiting the impacts of future Hall of Famer, Drew Brees. Both Cornerbacks have play-making ability and if they can come up with a key turnover it could provide the tipping point for success.
Overcome the Noise
For sometime now the LA Rams would have known that the road to the Super Bowl would most likely have to go through New Orleans and the dreaded Superdome. Given time is therefore on their side preparation should surely be the key to overcoming the issues associated with trying to communicate plays while not being able to hear each other over the deafening home crowd.
McVay and Goff have a special relationship when Offensive play-calling. Goff gets the offensive to the line of scrimmage as quick as possible, often in a no-huddle hurry-up, so that he and his coach can assess what the defense presents. McVay is still able to communicate with Goff via his headset inside his helmet up until there is 10 seconds left on the play clock. Goff hears the suggested changes from his coach, then communicates them to his team through often hilarious audible play calls such as “Halle Berry” and “Ric Flair”.
As effective and funny as this has been to the high flying Ram’s offense this method will be hard to execute if you can’t hear each other over the Richter-scale type noise.
For those that had a keen eye on last week’s home win in the LA Coliseum you may have noticed that Jared Goff was steering his team around with some very creative waves of the hands. Goff listening to the instructions delivered through his head-set would stand up and deliver a bunch of unique, yet seemingly unrelated signals to his team using his hands. With a nod of the head it seems that the rest of the offense understood and like clock-work the play was executed.
Preparation is the key. I believe that the Rams are prepared for the noise and to keep an eye out for Goff to do the same this week and eliminate the crowd as a factor.
Trust in McVay
There is a real reason that Sean McVay’s name is the talk of the town at the moment as struggling teams are scrambling to find the next-McVay.
Rival NFL teams are desperately hunting for that young offensive-minded genius who relates to his players and coaching staff. That coach who is set to break the mould and come up with play calls that bam-boozle defenses and leave opposition coaches scratching their heads. Someone who is adaptable and learns quickly from their mistakes while being humble in defeat.
He has an extremely detailed memory and I would say remembers well the feeling of walking out of the Superdome in round nine a loser. McVay took the brunt of the blame for the loss that day and if I was a betting man he would have been staying up late at night dreaming for another shot at redemption. Scheming ways to beat Sean Payton and Drew Brees and coming up with more Doogie Howser type child-like brilliance plays.
More than anything though Sean McVay has the ability to make a football team win.