The Patriots will wrap up their two-game road trip in Los Angeles on Thursday when they kick off Week 14 in a head-to-head with the Rams. While Bill Belichick's club is riding the confidence of a 45-0 win over the Chargers on Sunday, they know full well that the Rams pose a much more difficult challenge, particularly along the front seven, where two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald resides. The defensive tackle is going to be a key area of focus in New England's preparations for L.A. with Belichick noting Tuesday that Donald can break open a game on any single play.
"He's very quick, he's very explosive and he's instinctive," said Belichick. "He's just a good football player. He recognizes things quickly and is able to quickly take advantage of leverage opportunities that are created in line and can quickly get to them."
The head coach added: "He'll wreck a game and there's no play that he's not a factor on. He's right in the middle of the defense. You can't really get away from him on any run or pass play. You've got to deal with him blocking on every play. He's definitely a major factor in the game. We'll have to do a good job on him, but that's the way it's done."
Donald has faced the Patriots twice in his career: Week 13 in 2016 and Super Bowl LIII. In all, Belichick has done a solid job at limiting how much the defensive tackle impacts the game, as he totaled eight tackles and two quarterback hits. While there will be an emphasis to limit him again on Thursday, Belichick does caution that you can't over commit to Donald to the point where you're freeing up other Rams defenders.
"You've got to be careful about letting Donald ruin the game, but at the same time, if you put so many guys on Donald, then that creates problems other places," he said. "So, it's a good defense. It's well designed. As I said, they create problems for the offense and there's no real simple answer. That's why they're first or whatever it is, second or third, in the league in just about every defensive category. So, it's challenging."
The Patriots rank 19th in the NFL in adjusted sack rate, so that unit will have to play up to the level of competition so that Donald and company don't disrupt the game before the offense can even get going.