Bengals head coach Zac Taylor remembers texting Rams head coach Sean McVay "great pickup" at the time the Rams acquired outside linebacker Von Miller mid-season. The Bengals were scheduled to take on the Broncos six weeks later, so they dodged a bullet.
Or so Taylor thought.
"Little did I know that it was really going to come back here at the Super Bowl and he'd be a part of that," Taylor said with a smile during his Monday Super Bowl LVI video conference.
Miller and the rest of Los Angeles' pass rush is very much on the mind of Taylor and the rest of Cincinnati's offensive coaching staff heading into Super Bowl LVI on Sunday.
The 32-year-old Miller helped power Los Angeles' playoff run with a streak of six-straight games with at least one sack between Week 15 of the regular season and the Divisional Round against the Buccaneers. His efforts helped the Rams defense finish with 50 sacks in the regular season, good for third-most in the league.
While Miller is six years removed from his Super Bowl 50 MVP performance, Taylor knows better than to underestimate Miller because of his age.
"I was with Von at Texas A&M, he was part of one of the most special seasons I was ever a part of there in 2010," Taylor said. "Von took over games that season and helped us beat the likes of Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas and all those teams. So I've always been very fond of Von. I'm very aware of his capabilities and how he can take over a game. I've seen it too many times to let that one slip by us."
Taylor likewise is familiar with Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald – not only from practices during his time on the Rams coaching staff in 2017 and 2018, but also preparing to go against him in 2019 when the Bengals faced the Rams in London.
Donald had 12.5 sacks during the regular season, and his pressure on 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garropolo helped make the game-clinching play in the NFC Championship.
"He's certainly one of the greatest players we've ever played against," Taylor said. "You watch other teams plan for him, and you can have great plans, he's a real problem. Somebody that you've really got to focus on."
Of course, it's not just Miller and Donald that have contributed to the Rams' pass rush success in the playoffs. As much time as one spends talking about Donald, Taylor said there are other elite players around him as well. Players like outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, defensive lineman Greg Gaines and outside linebacker Ogbo Okoronkwo have also stepped up for L.A. to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
"They've got a lot of weapons to attack you," Taylor said. "Offenses have really struggled going against this defense. A lot of teams have scored maybe on defense – you look at the Tennessee game and the Green Bay game, and that's how some of those teams have built leads against them. But their defense has played really consistently well all season long.