The Rams Offense Should be Able to Generate Big Plays Through the Air Against Cincinnati
The Rams offense generated the 3rd most passing plays of 20 yards or more this season. The Bengals defense also allowed the 3rd most. That means we could see some fireworks on Super Bowl Sunday when the Rams have the ball. And while Cincinnati will try their best to take away those big plays, that task will be much easier said than done. Sean McVay’s approach to consistently generating big plays doesn’t make it easy on defenses.
One of the best aspects of McVay’s offense is that he finds so many ways to get to the same route concepts by dressing them up with different looks. He’ll use various formations, personnel alignments, and other tactics to keep the defense guessing. And this allows the Rams to keep going back to those staple plays that they are both comfortable with and great at executing regardless of the defense.
For instance, a route concept the Rams love to lean on for big plays is the post-wheel. There are a couple of different ways cornerbacks and safeties can handle the post-wheel in any coverage if they recognize it in time or are ready for it pre-snap. However, the perfect timing with which the Rams run their routes and the disguise via different alignments, formations, and personnel distribution utilized by McVay make it very difficult for defenses to get a jump on these plays.
On the below example from Week 2 against the Colts, Van Jefferson would run the post and Cooper Kupp would run the wheel from the slot:
Indianapolis would play quarters coverage to that side. In quarters, the cornerback is responsible for the #1 receiver’s vertical route and the safety is responsible for the #2 receiver’s vertical route:
If there is no vertical threat from the #2 receiver, the safety will look to help out on a possible in-breaking vertical route from #1 (like a post).
However, the timing of the routes on this play muddied the reads for the defense. Kupp utilized a delayed release off the line, so he was still only 5 yards from the line of scrimmage when Jefferson started breaking to the inside on his post:
With Kupp still close to the line of scrimmage, the safety appeared to assume he wouldn’t be running a vertical route. So he turned his attention to Jefferson’s post coming right at him. He gained depth and stayed inside initially. By the time he recognized the wheel, it was too late. The result was a huge play for the Rams:
Here’s another example from L.A.’s NFC Divisional Playoff win against the Buccaneers. This time, the route combination was designed to put pressure on the underneath flat defender.
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As you can see, Van Jefferson ran the post, Odell Beckham, Jr. ran the wheel, and Cooper Kupp aligned in the backfield before motioning to the flat right before the snap:
Beckham slow played his release off the line, almost making it look like he would be blocking for Kupp on a swing pass. That got the defender over him to bite. With the post taking the deep-third cornerback inside, a window appeared for the wheel: