Los Angeles Rams: Stopping Jared Goff and the Detroit Lions Offense

by Tommy Mo
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The Los Angeles Rams defense and Raheem Morris must have read last week’s Defensive Game Plan. What was outlined was exactly what they needed to do, and exactly what they did to defeat the New York Giants. The Rams took over in the second quarter, scoring 4 unanswered touchdowns.

While the Rams defense gave up a field goal for the only points in the first quarter, the Giants only managed a touchdown late in the fourth. Stafford threw four touchdowns and the defense forced four turnovers en route to a 38-11 rout.

The Los Angeles Rams got out to an early lead, put their foot on the gas, and forced turnovers. They stuck to the game plan and took advantage of an injured Giants offense. Taylor Rapp got his first and second interceptions of the year, Robert Rochell added another, and Leonard Floyd recovered a fumble caused by a  Ogbonnia Okoronkwo sack. Clearly, the Rams understood the assignment.

The Lions Offense

The Los Angeles Rams face the Detroit Lions in Week 7 at home on Sunday. Los Angeles welcomes back their former quarterback Jared Goff to SOFI Stadium. The Lions are currently winless at 0-6 after losing to the Bengals in Week 6. They hit the road this week with a struggling offense that has some stars in the making, and a defense that has unsuccessfully slowed down any opponent. With Goff struggling and Stafford excelling, there’s a lot of happy Rams fans that want to see Stafford and the defense drop the hammer down on the Lions this week.

The Offensive Line

The Lions’ offensive line came into this season as one of the solidified strengths of this offense. This is a young group of talented linemen who are signed to multiple year contracts. This was going to be the building block of the Lions rebuild. It still is, at least for the future.

However, currently the Lions are struggling, like the Giants last week, to field a starting offensive line that can be effective and gain continuity. While three of the projected 2022 starters still remain healthy, they have shifted Penei Sewell to left tackle where he has struggled, despite his ability to play both tackle positions.

Strong defensive ends like Everson Griffin and Trey Hendrickson have been able to bull rush Sewell with ease.  Without Frank Ragnow and Taylor Decker, and Sewell playing his intended right tackle position with Halapoulivaati Vaitai, this previous strength has turned into a weak link.

Tendencies

  • Detroit is 20th in adjusted line yards (run blocking) and 15th in adjusted sack rate (pass protection)
  • 7th overall in power success rate (79%)
  • 14th overall in stuffed rate (16.1%)
  • Most successful running over the tackles, least successful over the RG
  • Most common runs are over the Center, then the tackles
  • Explosive runs (10+ yards) have mostly occurred over the RT

The Run Game

The real strength of the Lions offense has been with the rushing duo of D’andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. Whether it’s in the run game or catching passes, Swift has been the brightest light on the Detroit offense. His volume has not been great, but he’s been extremely efficient with the opportunities he’s been given.

Next Gen Stats lists Swift as the third most efficient running back in the league.  However, he has the worst recorded rushing yards over expected (-90) and worst rushing yards over expected per attempt (-1.38). Williams on the other hand sports a RYOE rating of 1 and RYOE/att of 0.01. This means that he’s gaining as many yards as he is expected based on blocking. This isn’t entirely surprising for both players as Swift and Williams are seeing 8+ defenders in the box 20% and 28% of the time, respectively.

Tendencies

  • The offensive line is finding success at 79% of the time on power runs.
  • 27th overall in rushing attempts per game (22.8)
  • 23rd overall in rushing yards per game (91.8)
  • Their highest success rate over average on run plays are to the RG and RT
  • Runs to the LG and outside right have the lowest success rates compared to average
  • Least successful rushing on 3rd Down (43% success rate)
  • Jamaal Williams has been 100% successful on 4th Down runs

The Passing Attack

Like the offensive line, the wide receiver for the Lions have struggled with injuries. Unlike the offensive line however, this group was never going to be the strength of the offense in 2021. T.J. Hockenson was touted as the top pass-catcher coming into the season, and is so far living up to that fact with 32 receptions, 311 yards, and two touchdowns.

After six weeks, that stat line is not impressive for the de facto WR1 on the team. Second on the team in targets and yards is D’andre Swift who is just shy of 300 yards off 34 catches and one touchdown.

In the summer, most expected Tyrell Williams and Breshard Perriman to lead the way. But Williams has been on IR all season and Perriman was released at the end of August. Khalif Raymond was expected to be a rotational player but has been thrust into a starting role with rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown. Both have talent but weren’t expecting to be the every week starters.

Quintez Cephus was stepping up nicely early, but broke his collarbone against the Vikings and has landed himself on IR. 13 players in total are on IR for the Lions.

As the Rams know, Jared Goff isn’t going to win games just on his own. But with very few explosive targets to throw it to, and with a struggling offensive line, his first stint in Detroit has been rocky at best. Goff has already been sacked 15 times this year. His last two seasons in LA he was sacked only 23 and 22 times. It’s been a rough ride for Goff in 2021 due to the Lions throwing the ball the  sixth-most times per game (39.8). They are riding Goff to get this offense going, but it hasn’t been working.

Tendencies

  • 4th shortest completed air yards
  • 2nd least aggressive QB
  • 2nd shortest average intended air yards (6.6), shortest completed air yards (3.7)
  • Bottom half of the league in Passer Rating (86.9)
  • Most successful on short yardage passes (<15 yards)
  • Deep passes have been vastly more successful to the deep center but only on 1st Down

Defensive Game Plan

Attack. As usual, it starts up front with this excellent defensive line. The Los Angeles Rams are currently 12th as a unit in both adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate. They are holding steady at the LOS and getting into the backfield, in multiple ways, to disrupt quarterbacks. This week they will need to continue to put pressure on Goff, attacking the middle of the offensive line and bringing pressure off the right side.

The linebacking group will need to focus on slowing down D’andre Swift. They will need to contain him on the outside and make sound tackles. Swift will continue to get targets in the passing game so the secondary would do best to play a Cover 3 scheme when in zone and roll a safety into the box to cover the flat. Zone blitzes where the Edge defender covers the releasing running back should be limited. Bend but don’t break with Swift and let Goff attempt to beat you.

The secondary is far too good to let this wide receiver group get separation and targets. Hockenson and Swift will need to keyed in on for passing downs. Cover 2 Man will also work well in 3rd and long situations.

Exploiting Tendencies

  • Attack the RT and middle of the OL on pass rush
  • Be strong the edges, contain the run
  • Stack the box on 4th and short when Jamaal Williams is in the game
  • Cover Swift out of the backfield with a safety or LB, no DEs
  • Bend but don’t break in the passing game, shut down deep shots to the middle
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