Fresh off beating the Arizona Cardinals in Kyler Murray's first career postseason start, the Los Angeles Rams must swiftly turn their attention to facing a quarterback who laps the field in playoff wins, Tom Brady.
L.A. travels to Tampa this week for a short-week showdown with the reigning Super Bowl champs, and Sean McVay knows his club will have its hands full with the G.O.A.T.
"I mean, he's got so much experience," McVay said of Brady. "He's so smart. He's so twitchy in his upper half and can beat it up. He recognizes exactly what's going on. And so, I think the best way is try to influence and affect -- move him off his spot, be able to win with your rushes. Easier said than done. It's why he's the most successful quarterback of all time."
The Rams have the beasts up front to make Brady's life difficult, with three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald wreaking havoc in the middle, Von Miller surging off the edge and Leonard Floyd creating problems.
Donald will be key Sunday. Like with all quarterbacks, interior pressure is paramount to disrupting Brady, and no one does it better than Donald. The defensive tackle ranked sixth in the NFL with 65 QB pressures this season, most for an interior lineman.
L.A. traded for Miller specifically for games like Sunday, where getting pressure on Brady with just four linemen is vital. The star edge rusher has come on strong at the end of the season, racking up a sack and three tackles for loss Monday night in the victory over the Cardinals. The Rams need a repeat performance from Miller against Brady.
"Tom sees the whole field, and we all know about Tom in the playoffs," Miller said, per the Los Angeles Times. "He's incredible, man. We have to play our best ball to have a chance."
TB12 has been a master at getting the ball out quickly. Brady was pressured on just 16.1 percent of dropbacks this season, the fewest in the NFL, including playoffs. The lack of pressure was primarily due to Brady's average time to throw of 2.48 seconds, his fastest in the Next Gen Stats era and second-fastest in 2021 (trailing only Ben Roethlisberger's 2.38). The QB's time to throw of 2.17 seconds in the Wild Card Round against Philadelphia was the fastest for Brady in any game since at least 2016.
In the Rams' Week 3 win over Tampa Bay, L.A. got zero QB pressures on 28 quick passes, and Brady went 41-of-55 for 432 yards and a TD. The secondary forcing TB12 to hold the ball will be vital in letting the Rams' pass rush win this time around. In that Week 3 matchup, L.A. generated three sacks and five QB hits when Brady didn't get it out fast.
"I think it's tremendous respect, but not fear," McVay said of the Rams' feelings toward Brady. "And so, as a competitor, he is a great, phenomenal player. We have tremendous respect for him, but we're going to have the expectation and anticipation that we're preparing to try to go win this game. And so, we know what a great challenge it's going to be. We've got to have a great week of work, and then go play to the best of our ability and let the chips fall where they may."