That’s a lot of football.
Through the magic of the All-22 film available on NFL.com, MyLASports.com was able to focus in on Los Angeles Rams star wide receiver Cooper Kupp for each of those 74 snaps, where he lined up, what he did, what he did right and what it seemed he did wrong.
I think I found the real culprit on the pick-six screen that clinched the game for the 49ers. I also think I discovered that the reason Kupp is so good is that he works so hard. On the 74 snaps, I don’t think he took any plays off, of course, some plays he’s more involved in than others.
His night wasn’t perfect, but it was productive. He finished with 14 catches for 122 yards. He was targeted 19 times. He had the longest play of the game for the Rams with an 18-yard catch. The 49ers played a lot of zone. I thought they had some success when they went man-to-man on Kupp, but they got beat too.
Watching the film was a masterclass on all the different ways to get a star wide receiver the ball. The Rams move Kupp all over the field and he ran just about every pattern in the route tree except for one, which was interesting.
74 snaps. Each one a story. Each one demonstrating the brilliance of Cooper Kupp.
Where Did He Line Up?
Kupp lined up in 17 different spots in the Rams offensive set Monday night. As an explanation, split out means he’s the farthest wide receiver in the set, slot means he’s the closest to the tight end.
Kupp also went in motion four times.
Here’s where Cooper Kupp was at the snap:
- In Backfield (3)
- Bunch Right Set (1)
- Five Wide Receiver Set (3)
- Slot Left (15)
- Slot Right (7)
- Split Out Left (12)
- Split Out Right (17)
- Stack Right (1)
- Stack Left (2)
- Tight End Right (1)
- Trips Left (4)
- Trips Right (3)
- Wingback Left (4)
- Wingback Right (4)
- Motion from split left to left slot (1)
- Motion split left to split right (1)
- Motion split right to split left (1)
This is how the Rams keep the defense from locking up Kupp. They put him in just about every position on offense for a wide receiver. There were some tells though, if Kupp lined up at wingback or at tight end, it was almost always a running play. When he went in motion, he was usually a decoy.
What Happened On The Pick Six?
You know the scene by now, Rams are driving, down 17-9, having gotten a boost when the 49ers missed a possible clinching field goal. The Rams come out with two wide receivers on either side. Kupp is flanked out to the top of your screen with Tyler Higbee in the slot.
It’s a simple play the Rams run all the time, Higbee takes off to block the defensive back shadowing Kupp, and the right tackle, in this case Rob Havenstein, is supposed to take out the defender on Higbee giving Kupp an alley to run through. This play is called an ‘alley screen.’
I watched the play 10 times to see what went wrong. Higbee does what he’s supposed to do. Kupp takes two steps then comes back for the ball but there’s something odd about his leap. He shoots out his hands while his stomach stays back as if he’s bracing for impact.
Talanoa Hufanga intercepts the pass cutting in front of Kupp and takes it back for a touchdown.
We will never know, but this is my theory, Havenstein screwed up his timing. His angle is too close to Kupp and as Kupp goes to catch the pass, he sees Havenstein coming towards him and flinches. That’s why Kupp doesn’t contest the interception and jumps awkwardly. Now Havenstein might also be reacting to Hufanga coming in. To his credit, Kupp chases Hufanga down the whole field before he scores.
One of the things that has been evident about the Rams is their lack of big plays. Kupp actually had the Rams’ longest play of the night against the Rams, hauling in an 18-yard pass after running an out toward the sidelines.
It’s sort of impossible to know exactly what pattern Kupp is supposed to be running. I charted all sorts of different ones from the standard route tree: curls, 10-yard ins, 10-yard outs. I would say the most common route was basically, a hitch, just a two-yard quick step and he turns back for Stafford.
But I did notice one thing. He went deep once. That was it. He was double covered when he did. Interesting for a team looking for big plays that Kupp only went straight go one time.
The Invisible Game
So the Niners know the Rams want to get Kupp the ball and the Rams know the Niners know…you know? Part of the way the Rams ensure that Kupp is open so much is by moving him around the formation and allowing him what they call a free release, meaning, no defender in his face to jam him. The Niners rarely put anyone up in Kupp’s face at the line of scrimmage.
But sometimes the Rams make it impossible for the opponent to cover Kupp.
The Rams ran a great play on their first possession of the second half. They showed a formation they hadn’t before with Allen Robinson II and Kupp stacked split out far left. Two Niner defenders shadowed them. At the snap, Robinson II took off, while Kupp curled up after six yards. Both Niners went with Robinson, so it was an easy catch for Kupp.
However, the Niners watch film too. Later in the game, the Rams tried the exact same move with Robinson clearing him out. This time Deommodore Lenoir jumped in front of Kupp and forced an incompletion.
Kupp has a reputation for being a good blocker as a wide receiver, but raise your hand if you’ve ever actually studied every snap of a game and seen him actually block.
The reputation may be earned, but Kupp’s blocking against the Niners was not good from what I saw. His blocking skills were ineffective at best. There was a play in the second quarter when Kupp lined up at the tight end spot and he completely whiffed on the man he sought, then a few plays later, another running play. Kupp is lined up in slot and completely missed Lenior who slides in and tackled Darrell Henderson for a short gain.