When the Los Angeles Rams made a trade for Von Miller before the trade deadline, Les Snead indicated his team was making a run for a Super Bowl. The imminence of this run seemed apparent since Miller is set to be an unrestricted free agent following this season, the last of a string of win-now moves.
The key offseason move by the Rams to begin this quest of returning to the Super Bowl was with Matthew Stafford. The team sent former first-overall selection Jared Goff along with two first-round picks to Detroit to acquire the former Georgia Bulldog. Stafford, having not won a playoff game until the Wild Card matchup with the Cardinals, turns 34-years-old before Super Bowl LVI. This trade for a quarterback on the wrong side of 30 shows deliberate intent to go all-in. Another under-the-radar trade was for Sony Michel, another former first-round pick, after Cam Akers suffered a torn Achilles tendon. Although the latter not as large in magnitude, these transactions paired with their current roster set LA up to be a top team.
Heading into the season, the Rams would be in the conversation for true contenders, but only time would tell whether this would be shown on the field. The defensive line is a position group frequently discussed because LA has one player that other teams don’t: Aaron Donald. The dominant defensive lineman helps teammates since he attracts so much attention both on the field and in teams’ game plans. But, through Week 8 of the regular season, the Rams’ pass rush was about average at putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, ranking 14th in pressure percentage. One way to help change this is to improve your roster’s talent, and they did just that with Von Miller.
Vaulting up into the top quartile of the league in pressure percentage for the remainder of the regular season, Los Angeles made an adjustment that worked out, at least in the regular season. The Rams also improved in pass rush win percentage, finishing second-best in the league in this statistic after the trade deadline. Adding Miller to a defensive line featuring Donald and Leonard Floyd was downright frightening, and each of the three finished in the top-23 for the regular season in both total pressures and hurries.
However, these numbers were only put up in the regular season. Although this bodes well heading into the postseason, January and February are where teams win championships, the plan of Snead and the Rams. Luckily for Los Angeles, Miller elevates his game when it matters most. Improving from an average of 0.77 to 0.93 sacks per game when in the playoffs, not including this postseason, the former second-overall draft pick hits another gear in the playoffs. In his last two postseason games before this year, the 2015 AFC Championship game and Super Bowl 50, Miller exploded for five total sacks. This ridiculous outburst helped the Broncos win the Super Bowl, and Von Miller took home the MVP.
In the Rams’ recent Wild Card victory, Miller was a top performer, posting a sack and six tackles. In the win over reigning the Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers, the pass rusher put up another dominant showing. With his nine hurries on Sunday, he posted the second-highest figure in a single playoff game since at least 2001. Miller also notched ten total pressures, tied for the most in one game during the last two postseasons. However, his best play from this game was a strip-sack of Tom Brady where he also recovered the fumble.
This impact play is why teams go after big-time contributors while attempting to make championship runs. It is yet to be seen whether this wish will come true, but the Rams are back in the NFC Championship facing their division rivals in the 49ers. The price for Miller was somewhat hefty at a second-round pick and a third-round pick for an impending unrestricted free agent, but this will quickly be forgotten if the Rams can win Super Bowl LVI. Now the question stands — will Von Miller and the Los Angeles Rams get the job done?