Rams receiver Cooper Kupp had 220 receiving yards against the Bengals. In his very next game, at Pittsburgh, Kupp had none.
On Wednesday, various members of the L.A. organization were asked about that stunning reversal of production for one of the best receivers in football.
“[T]here were some instances where they were doubling him,” coach Sean McVay told reporters. “You could see in some of those known passing situations, they were very aware of where he was at. That was something that we kind of anticipated. You’ve got a lot of confidence in Cooper, he did a couple things. There’s a couple plays that I think he would say he could do better on as well. That’s kind of part of the game. You’ve got to be ready to have other guys step up if that’s what the opposing defense activates. That’s why we do have five eligibles. If it’s not one of them, then the other four, we’ve got confidence to separate and get them the football.”
That’s the way it always works. The defense has eleven guys. If they focus excessively on one, others will in theory have an easier time getting free.
Quarterback Jared Goff took a very pragmatic view on the situation, and he doesn’t seem to be all that concerned by it.
“They did a bunch of things, like I talked about after the game,” Goff told reporters. “They doubled him at times — just played good defense, were able to get home, did a good job. That’s all it was. They just played well on defense, when they did have him singled up, they covered him well and when they doubled him, they doubled him.”
What the Steelers did with Kupp becomes particularly important tonight, and in 17 days. The Steelers have eight quarters of football against the Browns, and if they were able to take away Cooper Kupp, they may be able to take away, or at least to minimize, Odell Beckham Jr.
While the two receivers have different styles (and, as Simms said on PFT Live, Pittsburgh’s defense is better suited to taking away a slot receiver than an outside threat), it becomes part of the game within the game as Pittsburgh and Cleveland meet for the first of two games between them over the next two-and-a-half weeks.