One of the surprises of last weekend in the NFL was the Los Angeles Rams blowing out the Seahawks in Seattle, 42-7. The Rams’ offense grabbed most of the headlines after the victory — and has gotten most of the credit for the team’s resurgent season. But the role that the defense, particularly lineman Aaron Donald, played in shutting down Seattle and throughout the Rams’ turnaround should not be overlooked.
The Rams held the Seahawks to 149 yards, thanks largely to Donald and the his teammates on the defensive line. The Rams finished with seven sacks for a loss of 70 yards, three of which were posted by Donald.
Here, Donald lines up on the outside shoulder of the right guard. The Rams run a stunt with Donald crashing into the right tackle while the defensive end loops inside. The idea of the stunt is to get the end inside before the guard and tackle peel off. But Donald makes it all irrelevant. The right tackle never recognizes the stunt, while the guard is looking to pass Donald off to him. Donald breaks through the gap easily and sacks Russell Wilson.
Donald made his presence felt throughout the game. He rushed from both sides and gave every blocker he faced a major task to deal with.
This time, Donald works against the left guard. The guard sinks back off the snap to help negate Donald’s burst, but all that does is invite Donald to work inside. He closes the gap quickly, flashing his hands to the guard before dropping them and using a swim move to skip past the guard like he wasn’t even there. Fortunately for the Seahawks, the center was able to work across to bail out the guard, doing just enough to buy Wilson time to side-step Donald.
But the play doesn’t end there. With the pocket collapsing thanks to Donald, Wilson is forced to scramble. He ends up circling back on himself, allowing Donald to work his way back into the play. He chases down Wilson and brings him down. Wilson attempts to throw the ball away, but the throw goes backward and out of bounds, leaving Donald with a sack.
Donald has so many ways to beat a blocker that it’s almost unfair to leave him one-on-one. Despite already having two sacks to his name, the Seahawks made that mistake at the start of the second half.
Like before, Donald works one-on-one against the left guard. Having been beaten inside previously, the guard positions himself to cut off any inside lane. However, all this does is open the guard up for Donald to work a speed rush outside. Donald again closes the gap and throws his hands at the guard to keep himself clean before dropping his left hand to rip through. By Donald’s third step, he’s level with the hip of the guard and, by his fifth step, he has the guard completely turned around. Wilson attempts to step up in the pocket to avoid the rush, but Donald reaches out and latches on to bring him down for his third sack.
Donald was a disruptive force in the passing game, but he also had an impact on the run game early.
Here, Donald shifts back over the right guard. The Seahawks run an inside zone play to Donald’s side, but Donald blows it up. He bursts off the snap and quickly gets under the pad level of the guard while landing both hands inside on the guard’s chest. From there, Donald has complete control of the block. He squeezes the guard down, closing any lane inside and forcing the running back to bounce his run toward Donald. Donald then disengages from the guard and grabs on to the back, bringing him down for no gain.
Donald was truly dominant against the Seahawks and was a big part of the reason they weren’t able to get anything going. His performance was just as crucial to the victory as that of any offensive player. If he continues to perform to this level, the Rams will have a legitimate shot at the NFC title.
More on the NFL: