Friday, November 1, 2013
Rams defense looks to replicate effort
By Nick Wagoner
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- If the St. Louis Rams could take whatever it was that their defense found Monday night against Seattle, bottle it up and keep it for the rest of the season, they would without hesitation.
A thoroughly dominant performance in which the Rams posted their best defensive output in terms of yards allowed since arriving in St. Louis in 1995 wasn’t enough to get the Rams a victory against the Seahawks.
But it was enough to provide them a blueprint for what they’ll need to do to compete every week without quarterback Sam Bradford and how they can at least try to continue that success.
Robert Quinn and the Rams shut down Seahawks QB Russell Wilson on Monday night.
“We are going to keep it up,” defensive end William Hayes said. “We’ve got to. We kind of found out what we’re good at and we’ll stick with it. We’re going to play more aggressive and we’re going to attack. That’s our bread and butter, we’re going to attack.”
Hayes’ words should serve as music to the ears of Rams fans who have been waiting for that aggressive approach to resurface since the beginning of the season.
Against the Seahawks, the Rams managed to hold them to 135 yards of offense and seven first downs while racking up seven sacks and repeatedly pummeling quarterback Russell Wilson.
On the outside, Rams cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson were more physical, coming up and playing more man coverage, pressing at the line of scrimmage.
Likewise, coordinator Tim Walton didn’t hesitate to dial up the blitz against the Seahawks, either. On Monday night, Wilson dropped back to pass 25 times and the Rams brought an extra pass-rusher or more on 16 of those occasions.
Encouraged by the defense’s performance against Seattle, Walton believes his group can continue to replicate its success.
“I think we can,” Walton said. “Guys will go out and just play with the same energy, play with the same focus. They’re having fun, they’re playing physical, they’re playing together as a group. Starting to understand things better and I think, definitely, we can continue to play well.”
Of course, the outing against Seattle has left many wondering what took so long for the defense to ratchet it up and begin reaching its potential.
Hayes points to the team’s moving parts on the back end and its relative youth at a number of spots on the defense taking some time to coalesce.
“We are playing with a lot of young guys and everybody is starting to come along now,” Hayes said. “Everybody is buying into the system and it’s working good for us.
“It’s fun because everything you’ve been trying to get working is actually starting to work now and starting to come through. Hopefully we can build another week.”
To Hayes’ point, it does seem possible that the Rams would take steps to protect young corners such as Jenkins and Johnson, not to mention inexperienced safeties like Rodney McLeod and rookie T.J. McDonald, who suffered a leg injury in Week 4.
After losing Bradford, the Rams find themselves in a spot where they don’t have much choice but to be aggressive and try to make things happen on defense. The next steps involve eliminating big plays such as the 80-yard score they gave up to Seattle’s Golden Tate and coming up with some takeaways.
Quite frankly, it’s up to the defense to keep the Rams in games to have a chance to win them late.
“I don’t know [if it can continue] but we’re going to try,” cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. “I think with the great deal of respect we have for Coach Fisher, we did that. Can it be duplicated every week? I don’t know but we’re going to try.”
It wasn’t quite enough against Seattle but at this point, the Rams defense doesn’t really have a choice.