Rams star defensive lineman Aaron Donald can beat almost any scheme designed to stop him.
He is a three-time NFL defensive player of the year. A certain Hall of Famer.
But even Donald will be challenged Sunday at SoFi Stadium if the Philadelphia Eagles run a play dubbed, generally, the “Tush Push,” or, Philly-specifically, the “Brotherly Shove.”
The short-yardage play, nearly always a success for the Eagles, begins with quarterback Jalen Hurts under center and ready to take a snap from five-time All-Pro Jason Kelce. Two or three teammates line up behind Hurts. When the ball is snapped, the Eagles’ outstanding line and the 6-foot-1, 223-pound Hurts surge forward as players in the backfield push the quarterback.
“Get as low as you can,” Donald said of his strategy. “It all starts from the center. If you can get under his pads and pop him up, and then guys crowd the ball, you can stop it. But it’s definitely tough.”
Last season, the Eagles reportedly ran the play 41 times and were successful 37.
“I don’t know that anybody has an answer,” Rams coach Sean McVay said.
Numerous teams have attempted to copy the play. None have come close to the Eagles.
“A lot of people are mimicking it or trying to, but there’s just something different there,” Rams offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said.
McVay said the Rams attempted a facsimile of the play in the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks, but it failed miserably.
“It didn’t look very good,” McVay said. “It looked nothing like Philly’s. We got some other things maybe we’ll try.”
Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris respects the Eagles for conceiving the play and for executing it so effectively. But he questions why the NFL allows it.
“It’s a play that is not legal anywhere else in football,” Morris said. “To be able to push another player — you can’t do it on field-goal block, can’t do it in any other area of the game.
“So I don’t really understand what’s taken so long to get it out.”
After the Eagles executed the play so effectively last season, the NFL competition committee took no action to prohibit it.
It is expected to come up again this offseason.
On Monday night, the New York Giants attempted to run the play against the Seahawks in a fourth-and-one situation. The play did not work, and Giants coach Brian Daboll said center John Michael Schmitz and tight end Daniel Bellinger were injured on the play.
In the meantime, the Eagles are expected to continue their mastery of “a great play,” Morris said.
“I’m sure they thought it was going to be outlawed by now and it’s not,” Morris said. “So they continue to go with it, and we’ve got to do our best effort to try and push them back and knock them back and get a couple stops.”
Rams outside linebacker Michael Hoecht said the Eagles have undoubtedly gained confidence from their success running the play.
“Part of it is they expect to get it now,” he said.
But Hoecht said there is one surefire way to prevent the Eagles from successfully running the play.
“The easiest way to stop it,” he said, “is don’t let them get third- and fourth-and-short.”
Receiver Cooper Kupp (hamstring) and running back Kyren Williams (hip) were full participants in practice, per the Rams injury report. Offensive linemen Joe Noteboom (groin) and Alaric Jackson (hamstring) did not practice.