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Defense Makes Progress

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  • Defense Makes Progress

    Defense makes progress


    LANDOVER, Md. — Nearly two years had passed since the Rams held an opponent without a touchdown. Just a week had gone by since Seattle torched them for four TDs.

    While the Rams' defense didn't morph into the Monsters of the Midway in seven days' time, it did show at least modest improvement in Sunday's 9-7 loss to the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.

    "You can definitely take some positives away," cornerback Ron Bartell said. "But we play to win, and we just couldn't get it done. A few mistakes here and there, and they ended up costing us."

    Despite drives of 83, 74 and 64 yards, the Redskins could muster just three field goals. They finished with 362 total yards, 84 fewer than the Seahawks racked up in their 28-0 win.

    The last time an opponent failed to reach the end zone against the Rams was Nov. 18, 2007, in a 13-9 victory at San Francisco.

    "Red-zone defense is important, because offenses are talented and they're going to move the ball," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "But when it does get down there, you have to be able to stop them and hold them to field goals, and that's what we did."

    Particularly encouraging was the resistance vs. the run. Last week, Seattle rolled up 167 yards on the ground and averaged 4.9 yards per attempt. The 'Skins rushed for 125 yards, averaging 3.8 yards.

    Washington's longest run produced 14 yards, compared with a 62-yard dash to the end zone by the Seahawks' Julius Jones last week.

    If the Rams had been stingier on third downs, their numbers would've improved even more. The Redskins converted on seven of 15 opportunities, sustaining their long marches while also ratcheting up quarterback Jason Campbell's stats. He completed 23 of 35 passes for 242 yards, without an interception.

    "There certainly are no moral victories," safety James Butler said. "But iron out some details on third down and we'll be a whole lot better."

    Said Bartell: "It's a new defense for us. We're learning, and we're getting better every week. But we're going to have to overcome those small (errors), because they're killing us."

    The Rams nearly had a safety, end Chris Long sacking Campbell inches from the end zone. And they came up with a big stop on a late fourth-and-1, giving the offense one final shot.

    Trouble was, Marc Bulger & Co. had 96 yards of green in front of them, with just 1 minute, 55 seconds remaining and no timeouts available. Four incompletions later, the 'Skins took over and ran out the clock.

    Earlier, Redskins coach Jim Zorn decided to go for the first down on fourth-and-1 at the Rams' 20 with 3:47 to go, and running back Clinton Portis churned out 9 yards.

    "In a situation like that, we've got to a better job of getting our offense back (on the field) earlier, with more room," Bartell said. "We did our job stopping them, but we put (the offense) in a tough spot."

Related Topics


  • eldfan
    Finding the Positive in the Rams' 0-2 Start
    by eldfan
    by Seth Doria Seth DoriaColumnist, Featured Columnist

    Columnist Written on September 22, 2009
    In the bottom-line business that is professional sports, the most important thing that happened to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday was another loss.

    In losing 9-7 to the Redskins in Washington, the Rams are now 0-2 and two games back of the 2-0 San Francisco ***** heading into next week’s home opener against Green Bay.

    And if the Rams were a team with high expectations, falling to 0-2 would be borderline catastrophic. Three teams last year made the playoffs from 0-2, but that was an anomaly. Most of the time, 0-2 is a precursor to disaster.

    But the Rams aren’t a team with high expectations. Not even the most die-hard pie-in-the-sky Rams fan dared dream of better than 7-9 or maybe (if they were high or drunk) 8-8.

    So yes, the Rams lost again on Sunday, 0-2 is 0-2, and you are what your record says you are. But when you’re the St. Louis Rams and you’re 5-29 over your last 34 games, you learn to find the hidden positives in the bottom-line failures.

    And so it comes to pass that losing 9-7 to Washington can be considered a success in many ways.

    Red zone defense: The Redskins’ lone scores came on Shaun Suisham field goals of 21, 28 and 23 yards. Washington came close to a touchdown on one other occasion. In the fourth quarter, David Vobora stopped Clinton Portis two yards behind the line of scrimmage on 4th-and-1 from the St. Louis two-yard line.

    On each of those drives, the Rams defense held strong with their backs against their own goal-line, forcing the Redskins to settle for three rather than seven.

    Steven Jackson: Not only did Jackson finish with 104 yards on just 17 carries for a 6.1 yard average, he also got involved in the pass game with four catches for 15 yards.

    A week after not catching a single ball against Seattle, it was encouraging to see quarterback Marc Bulger take advantage of the best player on offense in more ways than one.

    The run defense: Washington did gain 125 yards on the ground, but it took them 33 attempts to get there. Not counting the three kneel-downs at the end, the Redskins gained 121 on 30 carries.

    For a team that gave up 4.9 yards per rush attempt last year and 117 yards on 19 carries to Julius Jones in Week One, it was heartening to see Clinton Portis held to just 76 yards on 19 carries.

    The pass defense: Even though Chris Cooley had seven catches for 83 yards—continuing a trend of the Rams defense getting shredded by opposing tight ends—it’s worth noting four of Cooley’s seven catches came in the first eight minutes, and six came in the first half. In a tight game that was in doubt until the end, Cooley did not have...
    -09-23-2009, 08:45 AM
  • Alec22
    Keys to the Game Answered: Seattle
    by Alec22
    1. Special Emphasis

    THE SITUATION: As the Seahawks surged to a victory last week against San Diego, there was little question that special teams was the deciding factor.

    Kickoff returner Leon Washington returned a pair of kicks for touchdowns, including the game winning score. Washington leads the NFL in kickoff returns with an astounding 63.3 yards on four attempts.

    And while Washington is extremely dangerous in his role, the Seahawks are no slouches in the punt return game, either.

    Seattle ranks third in the NFL in punt return average at 15.9 yards per attempt and is led by Golden Tate, who is first in the league in return average with 25.2 yards on five attempts.

    The Rams are 18th in the league in punt coverage at 8.6 yards per return allowed and 21st in kickoff coverage at 26.1 yards per return.

    “We’re going to earn our money this week,” McMahon said. “Everybody knows, with Leon and Golden Tate back there these guys have the No. 1 return game in both categories in the league right now, and very deserving. They’ve done a great job, and (Seattle Special teams) Coach (Brian) Schneider’s done a great job so we’ve got a handful. We’ve got to play well.”

    It’ll be up to punter Donnie Jones and kicker Josh Brown to kick carefully to both players and even more to the coverage units to make sure they get Washington and Tate on the ground.

    THE ANSWER: The Rams’ coverage units were terrific. Brown nailed his kicks and Jones was outstanding on punts. Tate had three returns for 18 yards and Jones pinned four of his seven punts inside the 20. Washington had three returns for 80 yards with none going for more than 30 yards.

    2. Third Down Doubts

    THE SITUATION: In the Rams’ victory last week against Washington, the defense held the Redskins to 1-of-10 on third down conversions. Through three games, the Rams are eighth in the NFL in third-down defense as opponents have converted just 32.5 percent of their third down opportunities.

    “I think we have a bunch of guys here emphasizing and knowing that those third downs are money downs,” middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “We’ve got to get off the field.”

    While the Rams have been excellent on third down defense, Seattle has been nearly equally impressive on third down offense. The Seahawks are 18-of-35 on third down, for a conversion percentage of 51.4.

    Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, in particular has been extremely effective. On third down, he is 18-of-23 for 139 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

    Something will have to give for one side in this game as the Rams must continue their trend of getting off the field on those all important third downs to come up with a win.

    THE ANSWER: The Rams were excellent on third down yet again, holding the Seahawks to four-of-15 for a conversion...
    -10-03-2010, 05:18 PM
  • RamWraith
    Defense does its part
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Monday, Oct. 22 2007

    SEATTLE — On their first series Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks rolled through the
    Rams for 71 yards on 11 plays and a touchdown. Over the next 52 minutes 20
    seconds, the Seahawks tacked on only 208 additional yards.

    "We kind of settled in and got comfortable," tackle Adam Carriker said. "We
    played pretty well. But obviously not well enough to win."

    Despite putting together one of their stoutest defensive efforts of the season,
    the Rams sunk to a franchise-worst 0-7 with a 33-6 defeat at Qwest Field.

    "The score speaks for itself," linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said. "As a defense,
    your job is to prevent scores. So you can say, 'Well, they didn't have a
    100-yard rusher, they didn't go over 300 (total) yards.' But they got 33
    points, and that's the name of the game: who has the most points at the end."

    With the Rams garnering scant points of their own — just three field goals over
    the last two weeks — the defense's task is heightened. "Anytime we're out
    there, there's pressure," cornerback Tye Hill said. "We all get paid to do a

    Part of the defense's job was to contain running back Shaun Alexander, who had
    topped 100 yards in each of his last five games vs. the Rams. It did that:
    Alexander mustered just 47 yards on 19 carries, a meager 2.5 yards per try.

    Part of the defense's job was to keep the Seahawks under 300 yards. It did
    that: Seattle had 289, the third-lowest total by a Rams opponent this season.

    "The defense stepped up and played," tight end Randy McMichael said. "We
    didn't. Offensively, we stunk up the football field."

    The Rams committed five turnovers — three interceptions and two fumbles — and
    the Seahawks feasted on short fields. Their longest scoring march after that
    first series was 52 yards, for a field goal. They collected points on "drives"
    of minus-6, 14, 19 and 38 yards. Seattle also scored on a 91-yard kickoff
    return by Nate Burleson to open the second half.

    "I think the defense is making a lot of improvement," coach Scott Linehan said.
    "It hasn't showed up in our record, and that's unfortunate."

    A week ago, the Rams yielded just 264 yards in Baltimore. But the Ravens
    capitalized on six turnovers and cruised 22-3. Because of injuries and a
    suspension, the Rams' 11 defensive starters going into the season hadn't been
    on the field together all year until Sunday.

    "It felt good; we're a good 'D,'" Tinoisamoa said. "But it is a bunch of guys
    coming back in. We've got to get used to playing with each other...
    -10-22-2007, 05:42 AM
  • Rambos
    St. Louis Rams Defense is Solid
    by Rambos
    St. Louis Rams Defense is Solid, Offense Still a No-Show in Loss to Redskins by Ron Clements
    Ron ClementsScribe, Featured Columnist
    45 articles written
    346 comments written
    26 fans
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    Scribe Written on September 20, 2009
    (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) The St. Louis Rams got one side of the ball playing well, while the other is still playing catch-up.

    The Rams defense held Washington without a touchdown in five red zone possessions, but the offense was limited to just 245 yards. Washington was able to get three Shaun Suisham field goals, and held off a late rally for a 9-7 win over the visiting Rams.

    Steven Jackson was the lone offensive bright spot for the Rams, gaining 104 rushing yards on 17 carries, and adding four catches for 15 yards.

    Washington dominated time of possession, slowly wearing down a solid Rams defense to control the clock late.

    Still, the Rams had a shot at a game-winning drive in the final two minutes, but Marc Bulger threw three straight incompletions on the final possession.

    Bulger completed barely over 50 percent of his passes, going 15-of-28 for 125 yards. It didn't help that Donnie Avery and Randy McMichael were plagued by drops. Avery also lost a fumble inside the Redskins' 10 late in the game.

    "I am proud of how hard the team fought," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo told the Rams Radio Network. "We are disappointed. There are no moral victories in football. We were a play or two away. There are positives here, but there are details we have to iron or else we’ll continue giving games away."

    The Rams were able to score their first points of the year as Bulger connected with Laurent Robinson for a five-yard score with 3:57 remaining in the second quarter. The touchdown was set up by a 58-yard Jackson run, and gave the Rams a 7-6 lead.

    Despite O.J. Atogwe forcing a fumble late in the first half to prevent a Redskins score, the offensive ineptitude squandered a pretty good defensive performance.

    They weren't without faults, however. The Rams gave Jason Campbell a lot of time in the pocket to find receivers. Campbell was only sacked once—by James Hall—and the Rams run defense was inconsistent.

    What hurt the Rams the most on defense was the same thing that plagued them last week at Seattle—an inability to cover the tight end. A week after John Carlson burned St. Louis with six catches for 95 yards and two scores, Chris Cooley grabbed seven balls for 83 yards.

    With Green Bay's tight end duo of Donald Lee and Jermichael Finley coming to St. Louis next week, that should make most Rams fans cringe at the prospect of what those two might be able to do with Aaron Rodgers tossing them the ball.
    -09-20-2009, 04:48 PM
  • RamWraith
    Poor tackling dooms Rams' run defense
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Sunday, Dec. 04 2005

    The Rams, who have a quirky way of making who's-he running backs look like Hall
    of Famers, were at it again Sunday.

    Much like New Orleans' Aaron Stecker, Carolina's Nick Goings and Green Bay's
    Najeh Davenport last year, Washington's Rock Cartwright ran through the Rams'
    defenders like Jim Brown in his prime. Cartwright, a fourth-year pro from
    Kansas State who had rushed for 68 yards all season, gashed the Rams for a
    career-high 118 yards on just nine carries.

    And he wasn't even the Redskins' leading rusher in their 24-9 victory at the
    Edward Jones Dome. That distinction went to Clinton Portis, who rolled up 136
    yards on 27 tries and scored two touchdowns.

    "We stuck with our bread and butter," Portis said. "The offensive line got an
    opportunity to fire off the ball, and it opened up lanes for us."

    That was a familiar refrain for the beleaguered Rams defenders, who have been
    vulnerable to the run for most of the season. This time it was worse than
    usual, though: They yielded 257 yards, which Rams publicists reported was the
    highest regular-season total by an opponent since the team moved to St. Louis
    in 1995, a span of 171 games.

    "Once again, we shoot ourselves in the foot - missed assignments, missed
    alignments, things like that," defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said. "It's very
    frustrating, especially when you watch film and you see the breakdowns. It's
    just one person out of their place or one missed tackle. We work hard to try to
    stop the run. And then to have breakdowns ... it's hard to win like that."

    After holding their first three opponents to double-figure rushing totals, the
    Rams have given up an average of 162.5 yards per game since. They went into
    Sunday's contest ranked 27th vs. the run and likely will drop another spot or

    Despite their woes, they hadn't seen two ballcarriers top 100 yards against
    them. In fact, that hadn't happened to a Rams defense in a regular-season game
    in 25 years (Detroit's Billy Sims and Dexter Bussey).

    "When two backs go over 100 yards, you have to take it personally," defensive
    end Leonard Little said. "It's really frustrating. People count on me to be the
    leader of this defense, and I have to go out there and make more plays."

    The Redskins dialed up 40 running plays, compared with only 22 passes.

    Rams interim head coach Joe Vitt cited missed assignments and poor tackling.
    "If you look at teams in the National Football League with good run defense,
    they have good tacklers," Vitt said. "We have to get...
    -12-05-2005, 04:55 AM