Back in early August, the Los Angeles Rams came to Baltimore to scrimmage and practice against the Ravens. As soon as they walked onto the field, they made a favorable impression because the Rams were one of the best-looking football teams I had ever seen.
Some of the recent Dallas Cowboys teams were physically imposing, but the Rams had a collection of sculptured and well-defined bodies that were truly remarkable and intimidating.
On the first day of the scrimmages, the Rams physically dominated the Ravens like the hometown team was a junior varsity squad, and that one practice showed the talent gap between a team that was a serious contender for winning the title and one that was at least another year or two away.
And now, about five months later, the Rams are playing for the Super Bowl title Sunday against the New England Patriots. Back then I thought Los Angeles had a shot at winning the championship if the Rams could absorb the personalities of newly acquired cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
I am still not sure the Rams will win Sunday because it’s hard to beat New England, head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady when they have two weeks to prepare.
But there are two major reasons why they can win: One is Suh, and the other is Aaron Donald, the other starting defensive tackle for the Rams.
Donald is the best defensive player in the league and Suh has been as dominating in the postseason. They’ve led a Los Angeles front seven that held Dallas to 50 yards and then New Orleans to 48 yards rushing in two postseason games.
While the Patriots have run the ball well in the postseason, they haven’t faced a defensive line as strong as this one in winning against the Los Angeles Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Even more importantly Suh and Donald can cause Brady problems in the passing game. Brady isn’t a scrambler but he is smart in his movements, able to take a step up or sideways to avoid the rush. With Donald and Suh, they can collapse a pocket in the middle leaving Brady nowhere to go. The best pass rush on Brady always has to come up the middle instead of off the edge.
What is interesting with the Rams is that defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has been moving Suh around in passing situations. It causes problems for offenses as far as which way to turn the pass protection. On one side you have Donald, the player with the great speed and leverage, and on another you might have Suh, who has quickness but also can overpower most linemen.
It will be interesting to see what Belichick comes up with to negate them. Some have suggested he will run at Donald, who is listed at 6-1 and 280 pounds. But Donald plays a lot stronger than he looks.
Combined with Suh they have become the great equalizers in this Super Bowl matchup with Brady and Belichick.