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3 Non-Obvious Things that Made the Rams Champions

3 Non-Obvious Things that Made the Rams Champions

Veritable tomes of analysis have been crafted on how the Los Angeles Rams built their first league champion of the century. We’ve heard about the daring Matthew Stafford, Jalen Ramsey, and Von Miller trades, the underrated Eric Weddle and OBJ additions, and the Cooper Kupp-sized hole that Sean McVay blew into the Bengals. However, the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles show us that a collection of stars isn’t truly enough to build a “Dream Team.”Here are the under-the-radar moves, adjustments, and tactics that the Rams took advantage of to become immortal:

1) They got value on the offensive line

Andrew Whitworth, 17th cap hit among LTs. David Edwards and Austin Corbett, 73rd and 48th among guards. Brian Allen, 31st among centers. Rob Havenstein, 15th of RTs.

It’s easy to look at LAR’s 27th-highest cap hit on the offensive line and think that they scrimped and devalued the position. Nothing could be further from the truth. While Whitworth has been well-documented, Havenstein’s deal was restructured only a week before the Von Miller trade and Corbett, Evans, and Allen are all on their rookie contracts. Despite the cheap cost, LA still allowed the fifth-lowest pressure rate (23.6%) and generated 1.5 yards before contact per rush – good for 10th across the league. 

2) They traded for Sony Michel

With a new QB in tow and questions mounting about their vision, the Rams were understandably devastated when 2020 rookie breakout Cam Akers tore his achilles tendon shortly before training camp. Les Snead and Co. didn’t panic, however, and were patient and diligent in finding his replacement, sending two Day 3 picks to New England for Sony Michel.

Although he took time to get settled, by Week 13 he was starting for the team and compiling an even 90 rush yards per game as the team finished 5-1. It wasn’t the flashiest move, but once again Michel came through for his team when needed.

3) They increased their usage of 2×2 formations

When Sean McVay was hired in 2017, one of the tenets of his offense was the usage of 2×2 formations, meaning alignments with two receiving threats on either side of the offensive line. Using these alignments on 53% of snaps in 2017 and 50% in 2018, McVay adjusted to post-Super Bowl defensive adjustments by reducing his reliance on 2x2s – only 44% in 2019 and 45% in 2020.

The first 10 weeks in 2021 were the continuation of this trend, as the Rams instead began to favor 3×1 formations while 2x2s dropped all the way to 35%. With two consecutive losses to enter their Week 11 bye, McVay went back to his roots and jumped back to 2x2s on 42% of snaps for the rest of the season, more than any other grouping.

Over the final seven weeks of the regular season, the Rams led the league with 0.270 EPA per pass from 2x2s. In the playoffs, Stafford completed over 75.4% and threw a pair of TDs from these sets alone – including the Super Bowl winner.