Look, the ingredients to a win a Super Bowl typically remain more or less the same, and while there’s more than one way to sometimes hoist a Lombardi Trophy, Word Champion teams typically have the same three or four common themes.
So what can the Indianapolis Colts take away from this year’s Champion Los Angeles Rams:
Listen, I’m not saying Matthew Stafford was the biggest reason the Los Angeles Rams won this year’s Super Bowl, but he was definitely among them—especially late in the game.
The former #1 overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft was super clutch in the 2021 postseason all together and had one of the best throws in a championship game you’ll ever see—on the game’s biggest stage to boot:
Matthew Stafford led a game-winning drive in the final minutes of 3 straight playoff games.— Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) February 14, 2022
He has 35 fourth-quarter comebacks in his career, 44 game-winning drives.
He needs to be remembered as a legendary clutch player. https://t.co/gaDweSPsGG
Eight of the last ten starting Super Bowl Champion quarterbacks were Stafford, Tom Brady (four times), Patrick Mahomes, Peyton Manning, and Russell Wilson. Only the two remaining starting quarterbacks: Nick Foles and Joe Flacco were considered non-top quarterbacks.
With the writing more than likely on the wall with incumbent starter Carson Wentz, the Colts will presumably be looking for their 5th different starting quarterback in as many years—and have yet to solidify the position since Andrew Luck’s shocking retirement.
While the Colts don’t necessarily need a superstar quarterback per se, they need someone who plays smart, can make a few big time throws a game, and can comfortably lead his team down the field for a potential game-winning scoring drive—when called upon as necessary.
That’s still not exactly easy to find, but this early offseason, the Colts will do their darnest to try.
You can’t mention Matthew Stafford, without mentioning Cooper Kupp these days.
This year’s reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year was once again dominant, catching 8 receptions for 92 receiving yards and 2 touchdown receptions—despite seeing more than his fair share of double teams in the absence of Odell Beckham Jr., as he won NFL Super Bowl MVP honors for his game-winning heroics:
The Colts do not have anyone of the talent level of Kupp, and that’s okay, not many NFL teams actually do.
That being said, outside of soon-to-be 3rd-year wideout Michael Pittman Jr., who had over 1,000 receiving yards last season, the Colts receiving corps lacks juice collectively. Pittman is at worst a frontline WR2 on a contending team, but the Colts need someone to complement him, free up some coverage, and help make big plays in their passing game.
There’s no one that’s great enough that you expect can consistently beat a double team like Kupp or still complete an open pass to—even when he’s ‘covered’, with a defender draped all over him.
When one looks at the three last Super Bowl champions, each offense had elite weapons: Kupp and Beckham Jr. (Rams); Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski (Buccaneers); Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill (Chiefs).
The Colts don’t have anyone in that same top-tier echelon at their respective positions right now.
While the Rams could not run block to save their lives, it was a tale of two teams in the pass blocking department, where the Rams safely protected Stafford in the pocket—while budding Bengals’ superstar and fellow #1 overall pick Joe Burrow was consistently under duress:
Matthew Stafford was pressured on 5 times on 44 dropbacks in the Super Bowl, that 12% pressure rate was the lowest of any SB quarterback since PFF started charting in 2006 (of 32)— Kevin Cole (@KevinColePFF) February 15, 2022
whispers: *Goff's pressure rate was 44%, the sixth highest and higher than Joe Burrow's*
Joe Burrow was under pressure on 43% of his dropbacks vs Rams pic.twitter.com/M4ijSh0ad8— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) February 14, 2022
I’ll get more into the Rams’ dominant pass rushers later, but for now, the offensive line and in particular, pass blocking is still very important in what’s a passing driven league.
Fortunately, the Colts still have the talent to become a premier unit in this regard—assuming they can shore up the left tackle spot, and the rest of their starters play up to their ability again—after a down 2021 campaign for nearly the entire starting unit (except starting right tackle Braden Smith).
The last two Super Bowl losing quarterbacks, Burrow and Mahomes, were each always running for their lives respectively, constantly getting sacked, hit, or pressured. Your star quarterback cannot make plays, if the big boys up front can’t actually protect him.
Furthermore, Burrow looks like he might be at risk of being “Andrew Lucked” and having a promising early Hall of Fame caliber career cut way too short—if the Bengals can’t start improving their offensive line play significantly.
Cincinnati has to keep their franchise player healthy and upright—as he was almost knocked out of Sunday’s game with what looked like a nasty leg injury.
The Colts have this facet of the game potentially covered, but it’s the only such one on this list.
You can never have enough of them.
And they’re always difficult to find.
The Rams’ revved up pass rush, led by the best defensive player in football Aaron Donald, and one of the league’s longtime elite pass rushers, Von Miller, terrorized Burrow all game:
Aaron Donald generated a team-high 7 pressures and 2 sacks on 40 pass rushes (17.5% pressure rate).— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) February 14, 2022
Rams Defense (Super Bowl LVI)
41.5% pressure rate (season-high)
17.1% sack rate (season-high)#SBLVI | #RamsHouse pic.twitter.com/i22QiZTuzR
The Rams defense finished with 7.0 sacks and 11 QB hits, as each of Donald and Miller had 2.0 sacks and 3 QB hits a piece respectively.
There may never be another Donald and a team should be thanking their lucky stars to land a Von Miller ever again—still sacking opposing quarterbacks even in his late Canton-bound career.
While Kwity Paye had a rock solid rookie season and at worst, looks like a solid starting defensive end—with 2021 second round pick, Dayo Odeyingbo, also as a wildcard, the Colts don’t have a clear #1 pass rusher right now.
That could change depending on that young pair’s continued growth and development as pass rushers, but the Colts have to improve their ability to consistently get after the quarterback in the short-term too—if they’re serious about winning games in 2022.
Good luck finding an Aaron Donald, but there are some premier pass rushers potentially available in free agency—including Miller. In fact, I absolutely loved the Rams trade acquisition of Miller at the time, because it had Demarcus Ware (Broncos) vibes as a seasoned star veteran pass rusher who could still bring it off the edge—and help a team get an elusive Super Bowl ring in the process.
Like Ware before him, in impressive fashion, Miller did just that this past Super Bowl Sunday.
Bottom line, the Colts have to upgrade their pass rush going forward under new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, as his evolved ‘Cover 3’ zone defense requires it—especially for a coach who doesn’t like to call blitzes often, unless he absolutely has to.