Rams-Texans study session: Defense

ST. LOUIS -- A look back at the St. Louis Rams’ 38-13 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday after reviewing the coaches’ film.

Big Play: Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree intercepted Houston quarterback T.J. Yates and returned it 98 yards for a touchdown and a 38-6 lead.

There were many big plays by the Rams defense in this one and though the game was well in hand when Ogletree made the play, it was still the type of big, flashy play that stole the show.

Houston lined up with three receivers and a tight end before running back Arian Foster went in motion to give Yates three receivers split left and an attached tight end on the right with another receiver to that side. Yates was in the shotgun.

The Rams came out with three down linemen (all defensive ends) and end Chris Long standing up on the left edge with nickel personnel on the back end. Ogletree and James Laurinaitis lined up in the middle of the field with Laurinaitis dropping back as the ball was snapped.

At the snap, Eugene Sims drops off into a short zone with Robert Quinn, Long and William Hayes going after Yates. The Rams played fairly aggressive coverage with cornerback Janoris Jenkins up on wideout Andre Johnson but really none of that mattered.

Yates never looked anywhere but in the direction of tight end Garrett Graham. Graham got a free release and ran a quick out. For as certainly as Yates was starting at Graham from the snap, Ogletree was staring at Yates and saw the whole thing develop. Yates didn’t seem too concerned as Ogletree jumped in front of the pass and caught it in stride for the touchdown return.

There wasn’t much complicated about this one other than Ogletree making a good read and following through with an athletic play.

Hidden Play: Rams defensive end Robert Quinn drew a facemask penalty on Houston left tackle Duane Brown to get the Rams a stop on Houston’s opening drive.

On third-and-12, Houston had third-and-12 at its 42 after picking up a couple first downs.

The Texans lined up with four wide receivers, three bunched to the right and another to the left with Foster in the backfield and Matt Schaub in the shotgun.

The Rams came with their basic four down linemen with the nickel package in place on the back end and Laurinaitis showing blitz at the line of scrimmage. Just before the snap, Laurinaitis bailed from the line and dropped into coverage as the Rams rushed four.

Per usual, Quinn got off the ball like he was shot out of a cannon and blew past Brown almost immediately. As Quinn bent the edge, Brown did the only thing he could to keep Schaub from getting dropped, reaching up and grabbing Quinn by the facemask.

Schaub stepped up in the pocket and delivered a pass for an 8-yard gain to Foster. The gain was wiped out by a penalty for the facemask and the Texans’ ensuing third down play netted 4 yards.

The Texans likely would have punted anyway but they did so from their 31 instead of the 50 and the Rams ended up taking over at their 35. They would capitalize on that field position with a touchdown for a quick 7-0 lead.

Other Observations:

  • It’s hard to disagree with Rams coach Jeff Fisher’s assessment that defensive tackle Michael Brockers played his best game as a Ram. He punished the interior of Houston’s offensive line and though one of his sacks came as a result of edge pressure, the eye-popping plays came against the run more than the pass rush.

  • The run defense struggled again for multiple reasons. First, the Rams continue to have trouble getting guys in the right spots. Safeties Darian Stewart and Rodney McLeod had some issues in that regard and Ogletree also had some problems.

  • One other area that has hurt the Rams there is a tendency to miss tackles and get off blocks. While his final stat line certainly looked great, Ogletree had some struggles in both areas, particularly the latter.

  • Stewart probably struggled the most. He was on the field for every defensive snap and failed to register a tackle or any stats at all according to the coach’s review of the game. I’m not really sure how that happens but from watching, it’s clear he was out of position a number of times from overrunning plays. On Foster’s 23-yard run in the second quarter, Stewart comes unblocked off the right edge as Schaub hands off to Foster. Stewart sort of awkwardly pursues Schaub and Foster cuts back to the space vacated for a big gain. He did something similar on the play after which netted Foster another 22 yards.

  • In fairness to Ogletree, the guy just finds a way to make the “splash” plays that make you see past the issues he has. His forced fumble might actually have been a bigger play than the interception. It’s a lot easier to tolerate the mistakes when a player like Ogletree taketh more than he giveth away.

  • The return of Hayes to the defensive line rotation didn’t have a huge effect right away but he still had some good moments setting the edge and helping there. More impressive was Eugene Sims, whose presence gave the run defense a noticeable push, especially in the second half.

  • Solid work from corners Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson for the most part. Both did a good job of being active in run support, which is important against a rushing attack such as Houston’s. Johnson, in particular, was helpful in that area.

  • Rough game for backup defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo, who picked up a pair of silly penalties in the second half. The game was mostly in hand at the time of the infractions but there was little reason for those to happen.

  • We have detailed the big special teams play to come out of this one but it’s worth a tip of the cap to rookie linebacker Ray Ray Armstrong for his work in coverage. He had a pair of hard-earned tackles in coverage and was able to avoid penalties. He and Daren Bates are wrecking balls on coverage. If they can continue to rein in the penalties, they’ve got really bright futures as special teams players.