THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – When Von Miller last played in a conference championship game, he delivered a disruptive performance.
His 2.5 sacks, 5 total tackles, four QB hits, interception and pass breakup made life difficult for then-Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and helped secure a 20-18 Broncos win in the 2015 AFC Championship that sent them to Super Bowl 50 to face the Panthers.
"I really don't know. I wish I had the formula, I'd do it every game that I play in," Miller said with a laugh Wednesday, when asked what it is about this stage that can bring out that type of a performance in him or any player. "There's just one thing about the playoffs and these moments, you know – there isn't another game after this unless you win, unless you perform well. And I know, for me, I get the most out of myself whenever I'm doing something for somebody else, whenever I'm playing for somebody else."
That is the drive motivating him heading into Sunday's NFC Championship game against the 49ers (3:30 p.m. pacific time, FOX), where he'll look to continue a streak of strong performances.
Including the regular season, Miller has had at least one sack in six-straight games as a Ram, including a strip-sack against Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady in last week's Divisional Round victory in Tampa Bay. He also had 12 pass rush wins against the Bucs, most by one player Browns defensive end Myles Garrett's 13 against the Bengals in Week 2 of the 2020 season, according to ESPN's Mike Clay.
Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said Miller was winning his one-on-one matchups when he first got here, but it wasn't being seen because he wasn't making the actual play. That has now turned to Miller making the play, as displayed by the sacks, forced fumbles and other ways he has disrupted opposing quarterbacks.
"I mean, this guy has been outstanding," Morris said Thursday. "His rush ability, his unique ability to set the edge, his ability to play physical, his ability to play fast, his ability to play with finesse – all of those things are something that makes him really special, that makes him the great player that he has been in this league."
If Miller is feeding off of his teammates, his teammates are also feeding off of him – and beyond the tangible ways.
Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald said Thursday that one of the best things he is learning from Miller is being more of a vocal leader.
"I always consider myself a leader, but more of a lead-by-example guy," Donald said. "One thing Von's been challenging me on a lot more with, just him talking to me, is being more vocal. Talking to guys, letting them hear my voice."
Given where he is at this stage of his career – second contract, 11 years in the NFL, multiple Pro Bowl nods, a Super Bowl championship – Miller said it can be easy to take a step back. However, when playing for somebody else, that is "what really gets the most out of me," such as helping players like Donald, offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth, defensive back Eric Weddle and others win their first Super Bowl.
"So many teammates on my team, this is really all they need," Miller said. "Aaron Donald, this is all he needs, and he has the whole shabang, you know? Andrew Whitworth and Eric Weddle and all of these guys, I want to do for them. And I feel like that is what really drives me whenever I'm on the football field."