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The Rams team that made it to the Super Bowl in 2018 wasn’t without its flaws. The offense was explosive and could score with the best in the NFL, but the defense lagged behind as the weaker link, struggling with consistency on a weekly basis.
The roles have been flipped this season as the Rams enter the playoffs, with the defense now carrying the offense. Aaron Donald is obviously at the forefront of that, once again playing like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
He was also on the 2018 team that made it to the Super Bowl, but he sees differences between that defense and this year’s squad.
“You’re still confident, but I will say the confidence is in a different type of way. I think the defense we have now is a little bit more stout, a little bit more consistent,” he said Wednesday. “Not taking anything from the defense we had in 2018, it just comes down to being consistent. That’s what it’s about in this league. You have to be consistent. You have to do it week-in and week-out and I think we’ve been doing that. So, having a group like that, that’s be doing that going into the playoffs, it makes you that much more confident.”
The Rams finished first in the NFL in multiple defensive categories, including yards, points, passing yards and first downs. They also ranked second in sacks, third in third down defense and third in rushing yards allowed.
And it’s not as if they had games where they allowed 40 points. Outside of the Bills game, the Rams didn’t allow more than 28 points a single time and help opponents to 10 or fewer points five times.
Consistency is the biggest difference Donald sees in this Rams defense compared to the 2018 group.
“We are just playing consistent football. I think it comes down to guys just making plays and it isn’t just one or two guys, I’ve been saying it all year. It’s guys stepping up in a big way, at any time and making plays to help us win games,” he said. “When you tend to do that week in and week out on a consistent basis, and there aren’t too many drop-offs, that’s what it’s about. You can’t just dominate one week then have three weeks where you fall off. I think this year has been different from this defensive standpoint just because it’s been consistently dominant. The guys have been consistently making plays week-in and week-out. That’s why we are in the position that we are in today.”
The defense can only take the Rams so far, though. Too often, the offense hasn’t picked up its end and done enough to help Los Angeles win. In eight of their 16 games, the Rams scored 20 points or fewer. Unsurprisingly, they were only 3-5 in those games.
Donald knows this Rams team is about the defense, but he’s confident the offense will step up and do its job in the playoffs.
“Confident. I think we have all the pieces to the puzzle,” he said. “I think we are playing lights out on defense and our offense is doing things to a point where they can manage games and still make things happen to help us win. So, when you have that, you’re definitely going into it confident. I feel like we’re in a position to get to where we want to get to, we just have to go week-by-week and just dominate.”
First up, the Rams will take on the Seahawks, the third meeting between these two teams this season. Being the No. 6 seed in the NFC, they’ll be on the road in the wild-card round and the divisional round if they advance.
This is a team that has the makings of a Super Bowl squad, but they will need more out of the offense if they’re going to make a deep run in the postseason.