Los Angeles Rams

Aaron Donald shows he’s the NFL’s best defensive player

The Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs combined for 105 points, but it was Aaron Donald, the league’s best defensive player, who won the game.

Monday night’s matchup between the Chiefs and Rams was the best football game I’ve ever seen.

Those two teams were so incredibly talented and well-coached, and that is what turned this game into an all-timer. What we saw on Monday Night Football will forever change football as we know it. Teams will now construct their rosters to play in shootouts that mirror a Big 12 rivalry game.

That is how good this game was. But that discussion is for another time.

These two teams were so similar, and that is why this matchup was so much fun. Each offense can score at will and has playmakers all over the field.

The only difference in this game and between these two teams was that one squad had Aaron Donald and the other did not.

It feels odd to say this in a 54-51 shootout game, but Donald was the MVP of this matchup and anyone who watched the game would agree.

Donald made two plays in this game that resulted in a turnover for the Rams. Both were strip-sack fumbles that led directly to touchdowns; one of which was recovered and returned for a score (we will get to those plays in a bit). But it was the countless other plays that Donald makes in a game that impact the outcome of the game. He’s simply the best defensive player in the league and is in the discussion for the greatest defensive lineman of all time. His performance last Monday night was just another example of his dominance.

On Monday Night Football, ESPN showed a fascinating stat about Aaron Donald. On the season, Donald has been doubled team on 73 percent of his snaps. Yet, he still leads the league in sacks with 14.5 (he recorded another one after this stat was posted).

That is just mind-boggling to me. Teams are trying to stop Donald at on every snap, and it’s still not helping. On Monday night, the Chiefs thought they would take a few chances blocking him one-on-one, and it ultimately cost them the game. Let’s take a look at a few of those plays.

On the play below, the Chiefs were trying to run a fake jet-sweep that would hopefully open up Tyreek Hill in the middle of the field. However, the play went haywire as soon as it called for Cam Erving to try to block Donald for more than a second. Donald simply shoved away the hands of Erving and was able to chop at the arm of Patrick Mahomes.

Donald’s quickness put Erving in a bad position right away. But to Erving’s credit, he was able to recover quick enough to re-engage with Donald. Once Mahomes sensed the pressure, he bailed from the pocket, and that gave Donald a lane to the quarterback. With the Chiefs in scoring range, this was a massive play from the Rams’ star defensive tackle.

But somehow, that wasn’t even the best play of the game by Donald. Donald was able to beat Erving with his signature move; the stutter step. On the play below, Donald gets out of his stance and pauses for a split second before he makes his move. The goal here is to make the offensive lineman freeze and then use his quickness to beat him around his outside shoulder. That’s exactly what Donald did against Erving here.

Once Donald captured the edge, he used his insane balance and power to bend around the defender to chop at the arm at Mahomes. Once again, he forced the fumble that was eventually recovered for the score. This was one of his best rushes of the season when you consider the move he made in the limited amount of space he was given. It also just happened to be one of the biggest plays in the best game of the season.

All game long, Donald was putting pressure on Mahomes. It didn’t matter who was assigned to block him or how they tried to scheme around him; he was unblockable. Donald turned every single offensive lineman into a turnstile.

Eventually, Kansas City tried to double team, and that didn’t always matter. There were times he was able to split the double team and force Mahomes outside of the pocket. It’s been a long time since a player has been this dominant in one game.

At this stage of the season, the Rams do not have a good defense. They lack talent at linebacker and in the secondary. But with Donald on the field, he gives them a chance to win every game because he makes enough plays to be the difference each week. Monday night’s game was just another example of his brilliance.

Don’t be surprised if these two teams meet again in the Super Bowl. With how exciting the first game was, we can only hope. But if Kansas City wants to win the second matchup, it will need to find a way to block Aaron Donald. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, no one else in the league has had much luck either.

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