Rams coach Sean McVay presumably has respect for his elders. In nine days, he’ll set that respect aside when he presides over a potential physical pounding imposed against a man more than eight years older than him.
On McVay’s 33rd birthday, he addressed the task of facing a quarterback who turned 41 in August.
“Yeah, it’s a great challenge,” McVay said regarding his looming test against Tom Brady. “I mean, there’s a reason why he’s arguably one of the greatest of all time, because he does an excellent job of identifying whatever defensive structure you’re in, whether you want to pressure, whether you want to try to put pressure with a four-man rush and play loaded zone or some man principles behind it. He’s got such an ownership on being able to get the ball out of his hand in a timely manner and then he’s got guys that can separate.
“So it’s got to be a good mixture. We’ve got to identify the things that we want to be able to stop. Any time that you can try to move the quarterback off of his spot, whether that’s interior or edge pressure, just being able to force them to move where they’re not able to just set their feet and work in rhythm — certainly easier said than done, but that’s going to be a key to try to get him off of his rhythm, which not many people have success doing.”
McVay is absolutely right. The key to beating Brady comes from an ability to apply pressure to him early and often, hitting him hard and making him think about the next hit he may take. Ideally, that pressure will come up the middle, and the Rams are uniquely positioned to do it, with Aaron Donald among the best interior defensive linemen to ever play the game and with Ndamukong Suh finally earning his $14 million salary for the season.
It’s still easier said that done. As Chris Simms explained on Thursday’s PFT Live, the Patriots will deploy a power running game aimed at putting pass rushers on their heels early and wearing them down late, so that when obvious passing situations arise in the fourth quarter, Brady will be able to get rid of the ball before a worn-out Donald and/or Suh can chase him down.