In 2018, the Los Angeles Rams traded for Dante Fowler to add a boost to their pass rush. It’s not very often that you get to add a former top-5 pick to your roster. Outside of Aaron Donald, the Rams weren’t generating a lot of pressure on the quarterback and the Rams hoped Fowler could add a boost.
It took a few games for Fowler to settle in, but he showed up when he was needed most. From Week 16 until the NFC Championship game, Fowler generated 12 pressures and was credited with 1.5 sacks. However, it was his hit on Drew Brees in the NFC Championship game against the Saints that might’ve been the biggest of the season. Fowler hit Brees as he threw which forced a bad pass that was swallowed up by John Johnson III.
The Rams were unable to re-sign Fowler that offseason, but that trade paid off and helped send the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl.
This season, the Rams were dealing with similar issues with their pass rush. While Donald and Floyd were getting to the quarterback, they needed consistent pressure and someone who could play every down opposite of Floyd. This was especially the case after Justin Hollins went down with an injury.
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo has just two sacks this year and Terrell Lewis struggles against the run. The Los Angeles Rams needed a veteran presence that they could trust on an every down basis. That player just so happened to be former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller.
In Super Bowl 50, it was Miller who carried the Broncos to victory. In the first quarter his forced humble was returned for a touchdown to give the Broncos a 10-0 lead. Later in the game in the fourth quarter, Miller forced another fumble. This time the offense was able to punch it in to essentially end the game.
Miller finished the game with six tackles, 2.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles. However, Miller was dominant that entire playoff run. The former Bronco had 2.5 sacks against Tom Brady in the NFC Championship game and 2.5 more sacks in the Super Bowl to bring his total up to five for the postseason.
Hampered by bad offenses and injuries since, Miller has been a forgotten pass rusher in the NFL despite being one of the league’s most dominant.
In 2018, the Los Angeles Rams also signed Ndamukong Suh in free agency. Suh had a mediocre regular season, but turned it on in the playoffs. He had 1.5 sacks in the NFC Championship game and was a huge force in the run game. “Playoff Suh” showed up when it mattered most.
Immediately following the trade for Von Miller, the Rams were harshly criticized and Miller was talked about like was washed. Narratives started to be written.
Von Miller has 8 tackles and 1 pass defensed in 4 games since being traded to the Rams.
— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) December 14, 2021
The stats weren’t there right away for Miller, but he was still the same pass rusher and having an effect on the game. Those were the thing that analysts were missing. In Weeks 12-15, Miller only had one sack, but he had 20 pressures. Those 20 pressures ranked tied for third in the NFL and was the same number as TJ Watt.
Even while the pass rush numbers weren’t there, Miller was the fourth-highest rated edge player against the run. His 14 tackles and 13 stops each ranked second in the NFL. However, the pass rush production is finally there.
Since 16, Miller has six sacks which is tied for the second-best in the NFL behind Cameron Jordan. Watt is tied with TJ Watt and Arik Amstead. Over his last six games Miller has seven sacks, ten tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hits, and two forced fumbles.
We saw a vintage Von game against the Bucs. I tweeted about his ghost moves on live viewing but after digging into the tape, you can see how he set it up prior.
Since the ghost is based off of shooting the long-arm, setting it up using actual long-arm/stab moves makes sense 👇 pic.twitter.com/ehRT39QQME
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) January 25, 2022
The production is finally catching up to the tape and the Rams defense is reaping the rewards. Miller has shown up in the playoffs and has a sack in each of his last six games. What many fans expected to happen when you pair Von Miller and Aaron Donald together is happening.
Since Miller has started to find his groove, the Rams defense as a whole has seen the benefit. Since Week 14, the Rams defense ranks fifth in EPA/play and is allowing just 18.3 points per game.
Like Suh and Fowler in 2018, Miller has stepped up when it counts the most. The Los Angeles Rams are getting the 2015 Super Bowl MVP version of Von Miller for this playoff run. Last week, Miller had a strip-sack on Tom Brady against the Buccaneers that should have effectively put the game away.
Miller has seven sacks in his last four postseason games and the Rams will need that version over the next two weeks, but especially Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.