© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsIt wasn't pretty, but the Rams christened SoFi Stadium with a 20-17 Sunday night win over the Cowboys. Sean McVay kept Jared Goff close to the sticks to counter what was an impressive Dallas pass rush, and Goff completed 20 of 31 passes for 275 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. It was more about time of possession (the Rams had the ball for 35:38 in the game) and keeping Dallas' potentially explosive offense off the field. It was also about this HIGHLY questionable offensive pass interference call on Cowboys receiver Michael Gallup late in the game (Jalen Ramsey sold it well), but the Cowboys had other opportunities, and they couldn't take advantage. https://twitter.com/247CowboysSZN/status/1305346881782980611 Oh. and Aaron Donald is still Aaron Donald. Sheesh. https://twitter.com/AdamLefkoe/status/1305327126808272896
A few years ago Los Angeles Rams head coach was the talk of the football world. The parlor tricks of remembering sequences of plays from yesteryear or reciting the entire starting defensive lineup of the Chicago Bears captured the attention of the national media. But it was what he was doing schematically with Jared Goff and the Rams offense that deserved attention. With his creative use of motion, heavy usage of outside zone running plays with 11 personnel against light boxes - and play-action off of those designs - and some schemed throws the Rams were dangerous on offense and Goff was looking like a true number one overall pick.
But as that 2018 season wound down, some of the defenses that faced the Rams started to figure him out. First it was the Detroit Lions, then those same Bears, then the Philadelphia Eagles, and ultimately the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Their recipe? Ignore all the eye candy that McVay showed the defense presnap - usually in the form of jet motion from a wide receiver - and play quarters coverage in the secondary.
That prompted the question: How would McVay respond? Would he change his ways?
Last year was a struggle for the Rams, as they missed out on the playoffs. But they got 2020 off to a solid start with a win Sunday night over the Dallas Cowboys, and if McVay's gameplan is any indication, he's gotten right back on the presnap motion bull.
And he's going to force you to pay attention to that motion.
Take this example, the Rams' first play from scrimmage on Sunday night:
This play encapsulates basically that entire buildup. The Rams use jet motion prior to the snap, and fake an outside zone running play before rolling Goff back to the left. This is vintage McVay. But also look at the defense. The Cowboys run Cover 4 on this play, just like those teams that seemed to have McVay figured out. Only here, the vertical route from the tight end creates some confusion between the cornerback and the safety, and the crossing route that eases into the boundary is wide open for Goff. But Goff does note even need to throw that, because the flat route is also open from the backside receiver slicing underneath.
Late on this drive, McVay returns to jet motion. As I said, he is going to make you pay attention to the motion man any way he can, because it will set up everything else the Rams are going to do in Week 2 and beyond. How does he do it on this 2nd and 6 play? By throwing a screen to the motion man:
Robert Woods comes in motion from right to left, and the Rams again run a play-action design off of an outside zone running look. Goff rolls to the right, and Woods is alone in the left flat, where Goff finds him with the throw. By the time the ball gets there, some of the offensive linemen have flowed to the outside, setting up a convoy for the receiver.
Look at how this sets up for Woods: © Provided by Touchdown Wire
A simple screen throw, but because you did not pay attention to the motion like McVay wants you to, Woods picks up over 30 yards.
Again, if you are not going to pay attention to the motion man, McVay is going to make you pay for it:
Once more, presnap motion is key here, as Goff simply hands the football off to Woods on the end around. Having ignored the motion on the two previous plays, the Cowboys get burned for it on this running play. They are in zone coverage, so no one is trailing the receiver, and Woods picks up 14 yards again with a convoy in front of him.
What McVay is trying to force teams to do is play more man coverage and be wary of that movement presnap. Because back in 2018, that motion was often just that: Eye candy. Something to distract and confuse the defense before the play began. As defenses caught on and started to ignore it, they began to have success against McVay's offense. If he is going to turn the tables, he needs teams to start worrying about those presnap movements.
Which is what to watch for Sunday when the Rams take on the Philadelphia Eagles. MORE:
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