When two equally matched teams battle, a close game results. When a close game occurs, it creates pressure points between the two rosters. The New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams will battle this weekend, the strengths and weaknesses of both teams working to cancel each other out like an algebraic equation. The question is: what remains when the strengths and weaknesses of both teams cancel out? Whatever remains will be the true X-factor for the Rams vs Saints matchup.
What Is The Tipping Point for Rams Vs Saints?
Strengths And Weaknesses
In order to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a team, it is usually easiest to look at their standings in offense and defense and make a comparison. However, since it is only Week 2, there is not enough data to be able to use the standings with any weight. Instead, one can only look at the recent history of both teams. Looking at last year, both teams have great offenses (Rams were ranked second in points per game while the Saints were third) and middle-of-the-road defenses. With both rosters almost perfectly intact in 2019, it would seem that both teams are in store for a similar year in 2019.
Of course, the Rams will need to score plenty of points to keep up with the Saints, who just put up 30 points on Monday Night Football against the Houston Texans (the Rams put up 30 themselves Week 1 against Carolina). While this makes the Rams offense important to keep the Rams in the game, it can only hope to keep pace with the Saints, thus canceling both offenses out.
Here is where the game will be won or lost. Both teams will be able to put up points at a steady pace but the Rams defense has an advantage against their opponent: age.
Drew Brees is 40. At his age, hits hurt more. Thus, the threat of being hit has a bigger chance of affecting throws. Therefore, if the Rams can get in his face repeatedly throughout the game, it will have a snowball effect. Even if the Rams aren’t able to get sacks, the mere presence of Rams defenders in the backfield will eventually speed up Brees’ internal clock and throw off his timing by the end of the game. This could cause the Saints to blink first, giving the Rams the chance to pull away.
That being said, the biggest question is whether the Rams pass rush can get pressure on Brees without blitzing. Since Brees is one of the most experienced starters in the league, he has seen enough defensive formations to know when a team is blitzing, which opens up a world of possibilities for the passing game. Generally speaking, if a quarterback knows that he is about to be blitzed, then he usually can pick apart a softer secondary due to fewer defenders sitting back in passing lanes.
Having said that, if the Rams were to be able to get regular pressure on Brees while only needing to rush three or four defenders, that would leave seven or eight defenders to defend against passes. If the Rams were to be able to pressure Brees while being able to leave corners and safeties back, it would tie the hands of even the best quarterbacks. Can Aaron Donald, Clay Matthews, Dante Fowler, and Samson Ebukam and the others get the job done without needing to blitz?
If yes, Brees will eventually be forced to throw blindly, off-time, and/or before being able to survey the defense. If the Rams can get pressure without needing to send extra rushers, the effect will be exponentially detrimental to the Saints. As an added bonus, if the Rams find themselves not needing to send an extra rusher to get to Brees, then Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips can simply use that extra person to create double teams on either wide receiver Michael Thomas, tight end Jared Cook, or running back Alvin Kamara (Kamara being the most likely candidate). Even if it happens to take an extra second for a light pass rush to get home, the ability to lock down one of the three main targets of Brees could make him hold the ball for just a second too long, allowing Donald and Co. to get to him.
On the flip side, if the pass rush cannot get to Brees without help, Brees will have a huge advantage in that he can attack softer-than-normal secondaries with five or more rushers and also take his time in picking apart zones on plays with only three or four pass rushers.
Can Aaron Donald and Co get to Brees without sending extra players? In the end, it will be a game of numbers. Whoever wins the numbers game will win the football game.