The Los Angeles Rams have one of the NFL’s premier offensive attacks — a group that ranked third in the NFL during the regular season with 30.5 points scored per game; one that also was in the top-5 in yards and yards per play, net yards per rushing and passing attempt, and points per drive. Needless to say, the New England Patriots defense will have its hands full on Super Bowl Sunday trying to stop this offense.
But how exactly will the Rams’ offensive attack look like? Let’s take a closer look at their favorite personnel packages to find out — and one thing we can see right off the bat is that the Patriots will be in a lot of nickel and dime packages on Sunday: Los Angeles runs its offense almost exclusively out of 11-personnel groups with three wide receivers, one tight end, and one running back on the field.
The team’s most-used package with a total of 281 snaps featured Cooper Kupp, now on injured reserve, as the team’s number three wide receiver. With him out of the picture, the top group Los Angeles uses now looks as follows:
QB Jared Goff, RB Todd Gurley, WR Robert Woods, WR Josh Reynolds, WR Brandin Cooks, TE Tyler Higbee, LT Andrew Whitworth, LG Rodger Saffold, C John Sullivan, RG Austin Blythe, RT Rob Havenstein
In total, the Rams used this personnel package on 264 of a possible 1,248 snaps this season (21.2%). A group that is used no matter the spot on the field or the situation, it is hard to draw any definitive conclusions from personnel alone about what kind of play is run out of it: L.A. attempted 134 passes out of this package compared to 130 runs.
The numbers were solid either way, as the Rams averaged 5.8 yards per play when using this group while also scoring 14 touchdowns and turning the football over just four times (1.5%). This variation of an 11-personnel package gained 4.5 yards per run on the ground, while also being able to gain 7.0 yards per attempt through the air. However, all three statistics rank below the Rams’ season-long averages.
On a per-pass basis, for example, the following package was more productive:
QB Jared Goff, WR Todd Gurley, WR Robert Woods, WR Josh Reynolds, WR KhaDarel Hodge, TE Tyler Higbee, LT Andrew Whitworth, LG Rodger Saffold, C John Sullivan, RG Austin Blythe, RT Rob Havenstein
Los Angeles gained 11.3 yards per pass attempt using this variation of 11-personnel, with the only difference to the group above being the use of undrafted rookie wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge over ex-Patriot Brandin Cooks. However, the package is not one regularly used by the Rams: the team employed the Hodge-for-Cooks group on only 31 offensive snaps this season, attempting a mere 12 passes.
When it comes to passing the football, the following group is more prominently featured and can be characterized as a pass-first package:
QB Jared Goff, RB Todd Gurley, WR Robert Woods, WR Josh Reynolds, WR Brandin Cooks, TE Gerald Everett, LT Andrew Whitworth, LG Rodger Saffold, C John Sullivan, RG Austin Blythe, RT Rob Havenstein
As opposed to the Rams’ most-used package, tight end Gerald Everett is on the field here instead of Tyler Higbee. Overall, L.A. trotted out this group for 137 snaps this season and on 121 of them Jared Goff dropped back to attempt a pass. Once again, however, the yardage gained per pass is below his season-long 8.2 yards per attempt as the team averages “only” 5.6 when using this 11-personnel group.
What’s the reason for this? As we discussed last week, Goff’s 2018 is essentially a tale of two seasons. His numbers before and after the Rams’ week 12 bye look drastically different when compared to his early-season statistics. One number that reflects this is the oft-mentioned yards per attempt: Goff gained 9.3 yards per pass through the first eleven games, and only 6.5 over the seven since.
There are two basic factors that played into this decline. Not only did the team face four of the NFL’s playoff teams since the team’s bye week — the Chicago Bears, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints — it also lost the aforementioned Cooper Kupp to injury. Before tearing his ACL, Kupp averaged 14.2 yards per catch and scored six touchdowns as a core offensive playmaker for Los Angeles.
With him gone, Goff lost one of his most trusted weapons. Kupp’s replacement meanwhile, Josh Reynolds, is solid when catching the football — he averages 13.9 yards per reception — but has a much lower catch percentage: while Kupp caught 72.7% of his targets before his injury, Reynolds has a season-long catch rate of only 53.1%. And while it is not the lone reason for the statistical step back L.A. and its most prominent groups has taken, it still is a factor to be considered.
But while the passing efficiency suffered over the second half of the season, the running game is still going strong — and the package with Todd Gurley, Robert Woods, Josh Reynolds, Brandin Cooks and Gerald Everett at the skill positions is actually pretty productive in the ground game, albeit not often used: on 12 rushing attempts out of this group, L.A. gained 6.3 yards per rush so far.
A more prominently used group when it comes to running the football is the following:
QB Jared Goff, RB C.J. Anderson, WR Robert Woods, WR Josh Reynolds, WR Brandin Cooks, TE Tyler Higbee, LT Andrew Whitworth, LG Rodger Saffold, C John Sullivan, RG Austin Blythe, RT Rob Havenstein
C.J. Anderson has come on strong since the Rams brought him on board in December, rushing for 466 yards and four touchdowns on just 82 attempts. When he is on the field, the team likes to run the football as the personnel group outlined above illustrates. Los Angeles used the group on a total of 60 snaps so far, with 41 of which turning into running plays — with a solid outcome on a yards-per-play basis: L.A. gains 5.1 yards a rush out of this group.
Overall, Anderson is a bit of a key for the Patriots to rely upon. When he is on the field, the play is more likely to be a run than a pass: Los Angeles attempted a rush on 60% of his snaps, which is not overwhelming in one direction but still more lopsided when compared to the usage of other groups — most prominently the one we outlined first, the Rams’ favorite package ever since losing Kupp to injury.
In general, though, one thing stands out: Los Angeles is an 11-personnel team, and capable of using it to both pass the football and run it as well. New England will likely counter with a nickel look to be safe against passing plays, but also has to put an emphasis on stopping the run game out of the package — something the Patriots have not been able to successfully do at times this year.
Ultimately, it would not be a surprise if the team used plenty of 5-1-5 alignments with the linebackers used to help set the edge and funnel plays into the middle towards big-bodied defenders Lawrence Guy and Malcom Brown. No matter how the Patriots opt to approach the Rams’ 11-personnel look, though, one thing is clear: it will be a tough test for a defense that has played impressive for stretches during the postseason so far.