We all know that band who we loved as a kid or teenager. The one that released albums you couldn’t stop listening to when you were 13, but now that you’re older some of the songs don’t hit the same. However, there’s just enough of them where you can play them now and still be put back to where you were as a 13-year-old.
Well, Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford and head coach Sean McVay were playing all the hits in Sunday’s 30-13 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, and the Stafford masterpiece was incredibly fun to watch on the film. McVay and Stafford were in tune into everything that the Seahawks were doing, and it was clear that McVay has a lot of fun dialing up passing designs that he knows Stafford will execute at the highest level, without having to be Madden user’d.
Stafford was locked in at every level of the field, and one of the things McVay would do to pry open holes in the Seahawk defense was use motion as a part of the design. On this big completion to Tutu Atwell, the Rams begin in a 2×2 set, with a tight end on the line of scrimmage. Atwell goes in motion before the snap, creating a 3×1 with only the lone tight end on the LOS to one side, called a “nub” set. However, the ball is snapped while Atwell is still making his way across, so it essentially becomes kind of like an arena football play. Atwell is really really fast, so giving him a running start on this play is giving the advantage to the Rams.
Now let’s get into the design. The Seahawks are in Quarter-Quarter-Halves defense, and for them when the Rams got into 3×1 sets, they played quarter to the isolated TE side, allowing the backside safety to cut off any over routes that would come across. The Rams know this, so they send Nacua on an over route to briefly occupy the safety and backside corner. Then, instead of breaking in on this dagger-style of play, WR Van Jefferson breaks towards the sideline, opening a window for Atwell. You can see both safeties’ body language change as Jefferson breaks out, and then Stafford throws this ball through the closing window for a big play. Stafford was feeling it Sunday.
This is another big completion to Atwell, once again putting him in motion and playing with the Seahawks tendencies and rules. The Rams are in empty, but short motion Atwell into a bunch formation to Stafford’s right. The Seahawks are in Cover 1, but with the bunch, Atwell gets a free release. The Seahawks DB believes that Atwell is going to run an over route, putting himself in a good trail technique. Then, Atwell breaks back towards the sideline, and Stafford drops it into a bucket. Keep playing those hits, man.
McVay was locked in on Sunday, but Stafford was also playing at an extremely high level. Since acquiring the star QB, McVay has called a lot more hi–lo concepts to allow Stafford to mess with intermediate level defenders using arm angles and eye manipulation. This is a basic hi–lo concept out of a 2×2 formation, and the Seahawks are in Cover 3. Stafford has to get the underneath defender (#8 for Seattle) to make a decision. If he wants to hit WR Puka Nacua on this play, he has to get the defender to bite on the hook route.
And that’s exactly what happens. Chain moving first down.
You can see it on the end zone angle as well. When Stafford works his way back to the hi–lo, he gives a quick look to the TE, forcing 8 to make a decision. High, high level QB play.
Stafford was using arm angles and subtle pump fakes all game, a sign of a QB who is in the zone. This wheel route to TE Tyler Higbee is a perfect example. From the endzone angle, you can see Stafford do a quick pump fake, then lay this one in the breadbasket.
Love the little pump fake here by Stafford on this switch route vs Cover 3. Higbee runs a nice route setting up the DB outside and Stafford drops it in the bucket. pic.twitter.com/qBxNSoL0Cz
— JP Acosta (Pug Dederson Stan Acct) (@acosta32_jp) September 12, 2023
However, this was my favorite throw of the day for Stafford. Third down and 8, in the fourth quarter. The Rams send Tutu Atwell in motion and run a flood concept to Stafford’s right. Atwell runs a go route to take away the cornerback, but the nickel defender is in a great spot to break this pass up. He’s on the inside, there’s no way this play is made.
Doesn’t matter. Stafford to Nacua. Chain mover. That’s an F-U throw if I’ve ever seen one.
The Rams are in a weird spot this year, where the talent on the roster might not be strong enough to make the playoff runs we’re used to seeing from them. However, if Stafford and McVay are this in sync, they’re going to be tough to defend for any team that plays them.