When general manager Les Snead spoke to the media on Wednesday, he put it like this: “Ndamukong was in a spot where he had opportunities — he would have to tell you this but based on chatting with his agent, probably had more money in other places.”
Snead was referring to defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, of course, who the Rams signed as a free agent back in an offseason where Los Angeles appeared to be putting itself in the best position possible to make a run at the Super Bowl.
As that now comes to fruition, Suh confirmed Snead's inkling while standing at his locker in front of a barrage of reporters on Thursday afternoon.
“Yeah, I won’t speak of numbers, but he’s accurate in that statement,” Suh said. “And that was the case in both of my free agency opportunities — I could’ve gone to two other teams that would’ve paid me a significant amount more money.
“But, I want to win. I want to be around a good group of people, and great organization from top to bottom. And L.A. was the right choice.”
As Suh prepares to play in his first Super Bowl, that’s pretty clear. While the Nebraska product played well in the regular season — recording 4.5 sacks, four passes defensed, and a pair of fumble recoveries — he’s clearly elevated his game in Los Angeles’ postseason run. Suh has been instrumental in the Rams allowing a combined 98 yards rushing on 43 attempts in two playoff games — good for an average of just 2.3 yards per carry.
Check out photos from walk-thru as the Los Angeles Rams prepare for their matchup against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.
Recording 1.5 sacks against the Saints last week, Suh has made eight postseason tackles — two for loss — with four quarterback hits.
“Ndamukong has not only had two good back-to-back, he’s had two great back-to-back games,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said on Friday. “And I think we’re used to seeing him play well and have some good games. But I think these last two have been his best. And when he’s at his best, he’s hard to stop.”
At one point in 2018, Suh lamented the Rams’ “terrible” run defense — making it clear that it was his word, not anyone else’s. So what’s gone right in these last two matchups?
“If I steal coach Wade’s words, I think our walk-thrus and our attention to detail, obviously, just a lot sharper, a lot more focused,” Suh said. “Not saying they weren’t earlier, but just, there’s a little extra oomph that you can feel in the air from everybody.”
The Rams are going to need that in Super Bowl LIII against a Patriots team that’s averaged 165.5 yards rushing through a pair of postseason games. Overall, New England finished No. 5 in rushing offense with 2,037 yards on the ground in 2018.
“Very potent run game,” Suh said. “They’ve got multiple backs that can run the football. And they have a lot of things that they like to do out of the backfield, so we’ve got our hands full.”
“I think we have the tools to be very successful — especially up front in our front seven,” Suh added. “It’s just a matter of executing and tackling the football. We’ve said that from the very beginning, especially when we had those trials and tribulations earlier in the year. And I felt like over the last couple games — and prior to that — we started to take care of business, which is the right time to start to peak.”
As the saying goes, the Rams will have to stop the run to earn the right to rush the passer. But when you’re talking about New England and quarterback Tom Brady, that’s certainly not the easiest task — especially when Brady converted three 3rd-and-10 plays in overtime to march the Patriots offense down the field past the Chiefs and on to Super Bowl LIII.
As a member of the AFC East for three years, Suh has seen his share of matchups with Brady and the Pats. He’s recorded 2.5 sacks in eight games against New England in his career, also putting up nine QB hits and nine tackles for loss.
“I think I respect and admire just the ability for them to be very versatile,” Suh said of the Patriots. “They execute all the time. So you don’t know if they’re going to come out with a heavy running game — which they’ve been very successful this year on — or a lot of quick passes, deep balls, just depending on the personnel that they have. So you’ve got to prepare for it all, understand that. They’re going to have two weeks to game plan for that, so I’m sure they’re going to have something special for us.”
But this is a special moment for Suh, who had never experienced a postseason victory through five years with Detroit and three years with Miami. And as he prepares for Super Bowl LIII, he knows that signing with the Rams just under a year ago was certainly the right choice.
“I’m happy where we’re at right now,” he said. “But we’ve still got a lot of things to go take care of.”
Clarence Dennis contributed reporting.