INGLEWOOD (News4usonline) – When Von Miller broke through the Arizona Cardinals offensive line to drop Kyler Murray for a sack in the first quarter of an NFC Wild Card game at SoFi Stadium, the play set the tone on how the defense of the Los Angeles Rams would fare rest of the night.
As it turns out, Miller and the Rams dominated Murray and Arizona’s offense, limiting the Cardinals to just 40 yards in total offense during the first half. Miller had one of the two sacks that the Rams recorded in the half.
Miller and the Rams weren’t able to get to Murray for another official takedown the rest of the game, but those two sacks clearly had the third-year quarterback rattled. Murray was not the same after those two sacks.
He finished the game with 137 passing yards and only six yards rushing in the Rams’ 34-11 win. Miller ended his evening with that one sack, six tackles and one great big deposit slip. After the game, Miller talked about the Rams defense and how they were able to bottle up Murray most of the night.
“It was great, man,” Miller said. “Of course, our objective was to try to keep Kyler contained, It sounds simple but it’s really tough to do. Kyler is a helluva player, man.”
Getting to the quarterback is something that Miller does best. As current players go, no one rushes the quarterback quite as well as Miller does. During the regular season, Miller has accumulated 115.5 sacks, making him the top active pass rusher in the National Football League (NFL).
In the 15 games that he played in this season, MIller registered 9.5 sacks, along with 19 tackles for losses. That’s not too bad for a guy who missed the entire 2020 season due to a pedal ankle ligament tear. The eight-time Pro Bowl player upped his level of play in the last quarter of the season.
In the last four games of the regular season, Miller recorded five of the 9.5 sacks he had on the year. He also had eight tackles for losses during that time span.
“Von’s been outstanding,” Rams head coach Sean McVay said the day following the Rams’ playoff win against Arizona. “I think he’s really clicked it up a notch this last month. (I) thought he played great from the jump yesterday and really excited about him building on that performance.”
Miller came to Los Angeles to do one thing: rush the passer and help lead the Rams to Super Bowl LVI. Miller already has a winner’s Super Bowl ring. Now he’s trying to help the Rams add to their hardware showcase.
The franchise won their first title after ousting the Tennessee Titans in 1999 under the name of St. Loius Rams. The Rams other two Super Bowl appearances ended up on the wrong side of history with defeats to the Pittsburgh Steelers (1979) and to the New England Patriots (2018).
The Rams are pinning their Super Bowl aspirations on the wide shoulders of Miller. Sure, the trade for quarterback Matthew Stafford and the signings of wide receiver Odell Beckham and safety Eric Weddle are crucial to the team’s success in the postseason. However, the midseason acquisition of Miller gives the Rams an edge to get over the Super Bowl hump.
MIller and the Rams got a step closer to that goal after the team’s 30-27 road win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an NFC divisional round playoff game. Miller came up with four tackles and a sack in the victory. Miller and the Rams defensive line put constant pressure on Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady to nullify the explosive Buccaneers offense for most of the game.
“[I] Just want to stay in the moment,” Miller said after the game. “We played a great game tonight. We were able to get a win. You know, all the pressure that’s been put on this team…we’ve answered the bell, and pressure is a privilege, man. To feel pressure is to feel alive, man. Being in these moments you can’t blink. You just got to keep going. My team didn’t blink today.”
Miller is one of those players who adapt to pressure well. His play in the postseason is reflective of that. Leading up to the Tampa Bay matchup, Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey said Miller has brought a different vibe to the ballclub since he’s arrived.
“He brings a lot of positive energy,” Ramsey said. “That’s one thing about Von for sure, super positive guy. Highs and the lows – he tries to make sure we maintain positive and optimistic about what lies ahead of us. And then, obviously, the player he is – he’s been making big plays for us down this stretch, being more comfortable, healthy, and making a lot of big plays for us. And he’s doing it with a lot of swag and guys feed off of that.”
When the Rams traded for Miller to the Denver Broncos midway through the 2021 NFL regular season, they did so with the intent of adding an integral component to an already stout defensive unit, led by Ramsey and All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald.
Miller’s play this season, especially of late, gives McVay optimism that the Super Bowl 50 MVP is playing at the top of his game.
“I think he’s playing like the great player that he’s always played (like) throughout the course of his career,” McVay said. “I think for him, he is so tough—and that ankle injury was real—and I think you’re starting to see how he’s feeling fully recovered from that.”
“(He) did a great job of really pushing through kind of with some of those first few games,” McVay added. “And now I think you’re seeing him play where he’s uninhibited and he’s playing great football. He’s got a great look in his eye. He’s just brought such a good dynamic to our football team and his perspective and experiences are very valuable.”
That perspective showed up during the week leading up to the Rams divisional playoff game against Brady and Tampa Bay. The Rams defeated Brady and the Buccaneers 34-24 in Week 3 of the regular season. That was without the services of Miller who hadn’t yet been added to the team.
Miller’s approach to the Rams win against Arizona and how he played to how he is preparing for the team’s showdown against Tampa Bay is doing it with a grain of salt. Take the victory for what it was, learn from it, and move on.
“Monday was a great game. There’s really no way around it,” Miller said. “We watched some plays off that and then you just bottle it up, throw it in the trash can and get ready for a new week. This team’s totally different. You’re going from Kylar Murray to Tom Brady.
“You’re going from A.J. Green to Mike Evans. You’re going from (Cardinals OLB) Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt to Shaq Barrett and ‘JPP’ (OLB Jason Pierre-Paul) and Vita Vea. So all of these players, they play extremely well and they’re all different types of players.”
There is only one goal the Rams need to reach, Miller said as he talked to the media during a Zoom press conference.
“You just got to find a way to get to win,” remarked Miller. “And I know that’s been a theme of me talking to you guys today, but that’s really all it’s about. We don’t know what adversity we will be presented with on Sunday. We got to be able to navigate it whenever it presents itself.”
Miller continued, “We got to be able to take it one play at a time. Tom Brady’s going to make plays. We got to make plays as well. And whenever the time’s up, we got to make sure we [are] the ones dancing. We got to make sure we’re the ones that come out on top.”
One way for Miller and the Rams to wind up on top of the Buccaneers is to get turnovers. Against Arizona, the Rams came up with two interceptions. Winning the turnover battle is a big deal, Miller said.
“Oh, the turnovers are everything,” Miller commented. “Turnovers are everything. I think that’s why we had a lot of success in this last game that we played, we were able to get two picks. We’re able to create short fields for our offense and they were able to make it happen. It sounds simple and easy, but it’s tough to do. You can’t really overthink it. You just got to go out there and play the game long, play the game. Getting turnovers, short fields.”
The Rams lost the turnover battle to Tampa Bay, coughing the ball up four times in washing away a 20-3 halftime lead they had built up against the Buccaneers. Despite those mistakes, Miller and the Rams were still able to prevail, thanks to a 30-yard field goal from Matt Gay.
“I’m still trying to process everything. Man, that was a crazy game,” Miller said. “You know, I knew it was going to come down to the end. All the times that I’ve played Tom Brady, it always comes down to the end. So I knew no lead that we had was safe. But I’m so proud of these guys, man. Everybody’s name was called today and everybody answered the bell.”
Featured Image Caption: Los Angeles Rams linebacker Von Miller (40) stands ready to bring the rush. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline
Dennis has covered politics, crime, social justice, sports, and entertainment. He earned a journalism degree from Howard University. Dennis currently covers the NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA, and Olympic sports. Dennis is the editor of News4usonline.com and serves as the editor and publisher of the Compton Bulletin newspaper.