As one might expect with the acquisition of Jeff Fisher as the head coach, the St. Louis Rams are a defensive football team. They are going to stay in games, and sometimes win them, solely with the outstanding play of their defense. So far this season, the secondary of the Rams has gone up against two of the elite wide receivers in the NFL (Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall) and contained them, for the most part. So far, opposing teams have not fared well against the defense, with opposing sign callers averaging a 53.1 quarterback rating in three games: Matthew Stafford (51.2), Robert Griffin III (72.3), and Jay Cutler (35.7). They have intercepted the ball 5 times and, aside from the play to Hankerson from RGII in the Washington game, have not give up a pass over 40+ yards. So, why and where are the opposing teams getting their points? Well, aside from turnovers directly resulting in point for the other team, the offense has not really put the defense in good position to keep points off the board. Here is a breakdown of where they have scored so far…
A Game Of Quarters
The Rams seem to be a team that is starts each half strong, but is worn down by the time the whistle blows to head to the locker room. So far, they have given up only 10 points in the first quarter, while allowing 24 total points in the second quarter. Going with that same trend, opposing teams have only put up 10 points in the third quarter through three games, but allowed 20 points in the fourth. Some of that could be the result of Jeff Fishers habit of deferring kickoffs until the season half, which has kept the defense on the field for much of the first quarter, and has them worn out by halftime. The Rams have given up a touchdown in the 2nd quarter of each game so far this year, while giving up only one touchdown in both the first and the third.
The real Achilles’ heal of the Rams has really been the points allowed in the fourth quarter. Against the Detroit Lions, the Rams allowed Kevin Smith to both catch and run for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. More notably, the catch happened in the waning seconds of the game, with Smith walking into the end zone on blown coverage for the win. If the Rams want to win games, the defense will need to be more than great, they need to be perfect. The transformation into an elite defense mandates that the players on the field can close out the games when it matters the most. The defense did blank the Redskins in the 4th, and only allowed two field goals from the Bears, but that type of stoppage has not been a consistent trend so far this year.
Pass, Run, or Kick?
As previously mentioned, the Rams have held the opposing QBs to a sub-55 quarterback rating so far this season. However, they have also held the quarterback’s passer rating to extremely low numbers thus far in the season, which is likely a more useful statistic to use for analyzing the defense. In fact, aside from Jay Cutler’s meltdown against the Green Bay Packers in Week 2, the Rams have helped each quarterback record their worst passer rating of the season. For an example of the difference, RGIII had an abysmal 31.0 quarterback rating against the Cincinnati Bengals this week, but had success through the air, leading to a 90.4 passer rating. Likewise, for Matthew Stafford, the 49ers held him to a lower quarterback rating (31.9, versus 51.2 against the Rams), but allowed him to have a much better day as a passer, with a 78.9 passer rating, as opposed to 69.4 against St. Louis.
That being said, the Rams have given up only 14 points through the air so far this season. Those two allowed touchdowns is tied for the lowest mark in the NFL, alongside 5 other teams (including the NFC West rival, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks). More telling of the defense’s ability to keep receivers out of the end zone, is that fact that the defense has allowed more points from field goals this season than from passing touchdowns, means that the Rams are winning battles on their half of the field. Even more telling may be the fact that the offense has given up as many points as the Rams secondary so far this season, allowing both a fumble recovery and an interception to be returned for a touchdown.
Looking to last season, the pass defense had never really been the problem. The teams was tied for the 9th lowest mark in the league in touchdowns allowed and were 7th in yards allowed through the air. The real downfall of the defense was, and still is, the inability to stop the run, which single-handed rocketed the career of DeMarco Murray last season. This year they have only allowed two rushing attempts over 20 yards, one coming from Jay Cutler on a scramble for 21 yards, and the other by Washington’s Alfred Morris for 29 yards. However, in the red zone, the Rams have given up 35 points on the ground, which is the tied for the 2nd highest mark in the NFL, behind only the 0-3 New Orleans Saints. Granted, two of those touchdowns were primarily the result of idiotic penalties (unsportsmanlike conduct) or blow calls by the refs (missing holding on Cortland Finnegan), but, even without them, the Rams would still be tied with the Kansas City Chiefs as the 12th worst in the league.
For those who want to crunch their own numbers, here is the scoring summary. You may notice that the total scores will not always match-up with the actual, final score of the game. For example, the Redskins final score was 28 points, not 21. This is because scores off of fumble recoveries or interception by the opposing defense do not count against the St. Louis defense.
|Passing TD||-||-||-||7||7||Passing Points||14||21.9%|
|Rushing TD||-||7||-||7||14||Rushing Points||35||54.7%|
|Field Goals||-||3||3||-||6||Field Goal Points||15||23.4%|
Next, the Rams play at home in their first divisional game of the season. St. Louis will be playing the Seattle Seahawks, who are coming off a
heartbreaking, last second loss emotional win against the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night. The ‘Hawks will be on a short week, giving them much less time to prepare for the Rams defense. Against the Packers, the Seattle only generated a single touchdown two touchdowns, both on passing played from Russell Wilson to Golden Tate. The Rams pass defense is much, much better then the Green Bay pass defense, so it should be interesting to see if the secondary can help push St. Louis to 2-0 at home, and 1-0 in the division on Sunday.