LA Rams pose difficult quandary: Is it due to the talent or the scheme?

Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /
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LA Rams News Brandon Staley
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Which defense actually gave up more points?

Do I think I will change anyone’s mind? I’m not that foolish. I know how it goes, and when someone decides that everything wrong with the team is because of one person, well, it takes that person to realize that they may have been wrong. All I can ask you to do in terms of takeaways is ask yourself this:

Which defensive coordinator do you know can lose a third of his defense, have no money to acquire veteran replacement talent, field one of the youngest teams in the NFL, face 28 points surrendered by a quarterback’s pick-sixes before ever taking the football field, face 30 points given up by backups because you pulled the defensive starters off the football field, and be held to such an unachievable level of play by the fans each and every week?

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The bad taste in the mouth syndrome

One of the discoveries made when compiling the 14 LA Rams resolutions to win Super Bowl LVI at Sofi Stadium article was the ability of the Rams coaching staff to make halftime adjustments. In 2020, the LA Rams defense roared in the second half, allowing nearly half the point allowed in the first half. In 2021, despite playing an extra game, the Rams were much stingier in the first half, and far more generous in the second half of games.

That effect has left the Rams fans with a false impression of this team. Keep in mind that 30 points in the second half were scored on backups who played in the fourth quarter. 27 points in 2021 were scored as a result of ‘pick sixes’ thrown by QB Matthew Stafford.

Year   Unit          Q1-2     Q3-4 16 games
2020  Rams O   182        190
2020  Opp O      189        107
2020  Opp O      189        100 (normalized for one pick-six in Q3 by Jared Goff vs SF 49ers)

Year   Unit         Q1-2      Q3-4 OT 17 games
2021  Rams O   218       242    0
2021  Opp O      174       195    3
2021 Opp O       153       159    3 (normalized for pick-sixes and 30 points scored on backups in Q4)

Those pick-sixes occurred in Q2 against the Tennessee Titans, Q2 against the San Francisco 49ers, Q3 against the Green Bay Packers, and Q1 against the Baltimore Ravens.

For the record, the LA Rams defense allowed 296 points in 16 games in 2020. The average per game for that calculates out to 18.5 points per game. Normalizing out one-pick six lowers that number to 289 points over 16 games or 18.06 points/game That Rams defense in 2021 ‘allowed’ 372 points in 17 games in 2021. But taking out four pick-sixes (27 points) plus the 30 points allowed by backups, the team allowed a normalized 315 points in 17 games in 2021. Guess what that works out to?  18.53 points per game.  And yet, the cries of Fire Raheem Morris continue to resound throughout the fanbase.

Okay, that’s a lot to process. And I don’t expect to win a lot of people over to the “Sky is not falling on this LA Rams defense!” doomsday narrative that seems to have a life of its own. But perhaps I can prompt a bit more professional skepticism among a few of you.

Did Morris do a great job? There is always room to improve. But considering that he was given 2/3rds of the 2020 defense and not a lot of infused talent along the way, I’d say a lot of folks may be stuck in the ‘too critical’ mode right now.  Which is really the key to the Rams’ success: Talent or scheme?  I know what I believe the evidence to indicate. But it is up to you.

Are the Rams coaches holding these players back? Or do they elevate the play of all? If you think that the talent > scheme, then you need to answer the next question. Which coach would do a better job with the same set of circumstances?

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