Rams defense is 'coming together'
BY BILL COATS Posted: Sunday, October 3, 2010 8:00 pm | No Comments Posted

An 11-year NFL veteran, Fred Robbins has played on some good defenses particularly the 2007 New York Giants unit that stifled unbeaten New England in the Super Bowl.

Robbins, a defensive tackle who arrived in the offseason via free agency, is beginning to recognize some similarities in a budding Rams corps that is yielding a meager 13 points a game.

"We're definitely coming together," Robbins said Sunday after the Rams smothered Seattle 20-3 at the Edward Jones Dome. "Guys are getting better each and every week, and we're learning how to play with each other. That's one of the main things. Once you start getting the camaraderie down and learning how guys play and what you can expect ... it goes hand in hand."

Good defenses stop the run and get pressure on the quarterback. The Rams were successful in both categories as they halted a 10-game losing streak against the Seahawks.

The front four was the catalyst.

"The D-line did an awesome job," said linebacker David Vobora, who had one of four Rams sacks. "You can't ask for much more. ... When the four-man rush is getting home, that's awesome."

Rookie George Selvie, who shared a sack with fellow defensive end Chris Long, added, "We had a good rotation going. A lot of guys were fresh, so we were able to rush the passer, stop the run and get them on third down."

Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was under duress most of the afternoon, and the bulk of the pressure was provided by a four-man rush. Defensive end James Hall had two sacks, giving him four in the last three games. The Rams also registered six quarterback hits.

"They're a lot better than they've been," Hasselbeck said. "They're building something here. ... It's just really frustrating right now."

The Rams' defenders know that feeling. The club finished 29th in the 32-team NFL in total defense last year, while giving up more points per game (27.2) than all but one team.

After four games this year, the Rams have sliced that by more than 50 percent and sport one of the NFL stingiest averages. Given the rough times of the past few seasons, being among the league leaders in any defensive category is gratifying, cornerback Ron Bartell conceded.

"It definitely is," he said. "But the thing is, we have to keep it up. We can't settle; it's only four games."

The Seahawks totaled 257 yards 193 through the air and 64 on the ground. They did scant damage in the second half, getting just 83 yards overall. Seattle failed on all six third-down attempts in the last 30 minutes and was just three of 15 for the game.

"We kind of had an idea toward the end of the first quarter that if we keep going, by the fourth quarter we'll be able to take over the game," Hall said. "We felt confident going into the second half that we were going to be able to get pressure on (Hasselbeck). Guys were just tenacious the whole game getting after him."

Because the linemen rushed so effectively, defensive coordinator Ken Flajole could scale back on blitzes. That provided a big boost for the secondary.

"When you can get pressure rushing four and we get to drop and just play coverage, it makes the game a lot easier for us," he said. "My hat's off to them."

Confidence is finally beginning to build, Long noted. "It's hard to be confident when there's no evidence to fall back on," he said. "I feel now like we've built a lot of evidence as to why we can be confident."

Robbins had a hand in two plays that epitomized the Rams' defensive effort.

On a third-and-1 play at the Seattle 13-yard line late in the third quarter, he knifed through and dropped running back Justin Forsett for a loss, forcing a punt.

Then with 2 minutes, 24 seconds remaining in the game, Hall slammed into Hasselbeck, knocking the ball free, and a diving Robbins snagged it. That gave the Rams possession at the Seattle 9-yard line. They didn't score on the series, but they were able to whittle crucial time off the clock.

"On defense, we just made the big plays today," Robbins said. "All across the front, the linebackers and the back end, we didn't give them any momentum coming out for the second half. That's what it's all about. .. We played good, solid defense."

That's from a guy who knows a little something about the subject.