Los Angeles Rams Defense Not Elite

Dec 6, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) attempts a pass under pressure from St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) during the first half at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 6, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) attempts a pass under pressure from St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) during the first half at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

While watching Sunday’s games, specifically the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots game, it was hard not to realize just how good the Denver defense was. The defense single handedly took over the 4th quarter and won the football game.

As I said in an article earlier this week, it was hard not to notice just how far behind this team and how much of a gap there is between the real contenders and the Los Angeles Rams. The common misconception is that with an average quarterback the Rams would be a championship team because they have an elite defense and a solid running game. However, watch the Broncos, and then tell me that the Rams have an elite defense. You can’t.

The fact is, the Rams dont have an elite defense. The Rams defense ranked 23rd in yards allowed, 23rd in passing yards allowed, 20th in rushing yards allowed,  and 13th in points. Where in any of those stats does it say elite defense?

Yes, the Rams have talent on the defensive side of the ball. Aaron Donald is arguably the best defensive player in the league. Alec Ogletree is an athletic linebacker. Add that to a secondary that includes Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, and yes, you have one of the most talented defenses in the league.

Even with that talent however, the Rams didnt finish top ten in sacks despite having four first round picks invested in the front four and they only recorded 13 interceptions, over half of which were by Johnson, which ranked 17th in the NFL.

The Rams dont lack talent. They have seven former first round picks playing in the front seven, not to mention the second and third round picks invested in Johnson and Jenkins. Where this team lacks is coaching and execution.

The Broncos’ secondary doesn’t have mental lapses and have blown coverages. If you beat them, it’s because your playmaker made a play. When their defense needed a stop to get the opposing offense off the field, you can bet they made the stop.

After Sunday’s championship game, one of the big controversies is how Patriots coach Bill Belichick didnt take the points and instead went for it on fourth down in scoring range, not once, but twice. However, we aren’t even having that conversation if the Broncos dont make both of those critical stops.

Meanwhile with the Rams, with critical stops against the Ravens, Vikings, and 49ers, you could  argue that they win three more games in what were all decided by field goals, two of which were lost in overtime. It’s a very different season if the Rams win those games that they very well should have won.

We can play the what-if game all day with the Rams, the point is, they didnt get the job done when they needed to. They didnt execute.

Instead of blaming the coaching, many tend to blame the Rams’ offense. The offense certainly wasn’t a help this season ranking at or near the bottom of every statistical category except for rushing which ranked seventh and should have helped the defense.

Once again, taking the Broncos for example. With a hurt Peyton Manning and young Brock Osweiler, the Broncos offense was not the Broncos offense that we were used to. They ranked 16th in rushing  yards per game and 14th in passing. Nothing extraordinary, yet they still managed to have the number one overall defense.

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Taking it a step further and looking at some more in depth stats I’ll refer to the table above. As you can see while the Broncos offense wasn’t nearly as bad as the Rams offense, it was anything special. In fact, one excuse for the Rams defense not performing well is the amount of time that the defense is on the field and that the offense has too many three and outs.

Looking at the table, the Broncos actually had a higher three and out percentage ranking 30th in the NFL going three and out 26.13% of the time. Moving on to time of possession, the Denver offense only had the ball an average of two minutes per game more than the Rams.

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Im not comparing the Rams to the Broncos by any means, just using them as an example that the offense not staying on the field doesn’t have a lot to do with the defense. Where the offense could help the defense is in points scored, but even in the close games in which the Rams offense failed to score 20 points, the defense allowed game winning drives to Shaun Hill, Joe Flacco with a torn ACL, and Blaine Gabbert.

In the loss to the Redskins, the Rams allowed Matt Jones to run for 124 yards and two touchdowns. At home in a 37-13 loss against the Bears, the Rams defense allowed running back Jeremy Langford to have 73 yards rushing to go along with 109 yards receiving and two scores, not to mention a big screen play to tight end Zach Miller that went for a score.

These are things that an elite defense just doesn’t do. Missed tackles and blown coverages dont happen that often when it comes to the elite defenses in the NFL.

Sure, the Rams dealt with their share of injuries, but every team does. The Broncos lost T.J. Ward for a part of the season as well as Derek Wolfe, David Bruton Jr., and Aquib Talib,

Even with losing EJ Gaines, Alec Ogletree, Chris Long, and Robert Quinn for parts of the season, Mark Barron, Marcus Roberson, William Hayes, and Eugene Sims filled in and for the most part played well.

Barron lead the team in tackles, Roberson had an interception to go along with six passes defended, Hayes had 5.5 sacks and 53 tackles, and Sims had 1.5 sacks and 24 tackles.

Head coach Jeff Fisher has built this team to win with their defense as he has spent 12 draft picks on that side of the ball. Therefore, it’s up to him to get the defense to perform. It’s pretty clear however, that he can’t as they are still making average defense mistakes.

There is no question that the Rams have talent on the defensive side of the ball, but even four years in the Jeff Fisher era  it’s still premature to say that they are of elite status.