Rams look for answers on defense after first-half meltdown at New Orleans – Redlands Daily Facts


THOUSAND OAKS – Same uniforms. Same players. Much different defense.

The Rams couldn’t stop anything in the first half Sunday against New Orleans, and tackled as though the Saints had something contagious. Then it all flipped. After the Rams had their worst defensive half in 10 years, and allowed 35 points and 313 yards, they allowed only 10 points and 174 yards in the second half.

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After halftime, the Rams tackled better, covered better (for the most part) and got a bit more pressure on Saints quarterback Drew Brees (but still not enough). What took so long?

Rams defensive players indicated that the Saints gave them different formations and looks than they had expected, and while that’s true, the Rams got smashed. Only three other NFL games this season have had a team score 35 points in a half, and no team has scored more than 38 points in a half.

“I think with the expectations that our defense has, and that we have for them, they would expect to be better, but there’s a lot of credit that needs to go to the Saints,” Rams coach Sean McVay said in his Monday news conference at Cal Lutheran. “They’re one of the top offenses in the league for a reason.”

Certainly it’s never easy to slow down the Saints’ offense at home, but the Rams had a shocking meltdown on defense. The 35 points the Saints scored before halftime were the most a Rams opponent has scored in a half since the New York Jets dropped 40 points on the 2008 Rams. That team went 3-13.

Not since 2007 has a defense led by Rams coordinator Wade Phillips allowed more than 45 points in a game. The Rams didn’t point fingers after the game, which is good, because everyone deserved blame.

The Rams failed to record a sack for the first time in nine games this season, and Brees picked on the Rams’ linebackers and safeties in pass coverage for relatively easy completions. Top cornerback Marcus Peters took by far the most heat for being torched by Saints receivers Michael Thomas (211 yards).

“He’s a guy we have a lot of confidence in,” McVay said. “In a lot of instances, he’s isolated one on one with the other team’s best receiver. That has come up various times this season. There’s going to be an element of, those great players are going to make some plays. The standard that Marcus has for himself, and that we have for him, we expect him to make some plays, but the best part is the accountability he took.”

Then there’s the tackling. Brees and Thomas took the star turns, but the Saints got early momentum, and a lot of second- and third-and-short situations, because of running back Alvin Kamara, who averaged 5.6 yards per carry in the first half. Almost never was Kamara brought down by the initial hit, which too often was a high arm tackle.

The Rams adjusted and played a far more physical run defense in the second half, and held the Saints’ backs to a total of 39 yards.

“We know how to tackle,” Rams lineman Michael Brockers said. “We just have to wrap up. That’s an amazing athlete out there. Kamara, he breaks tackles. That’s what he does. We have to do a better job of gang-tackling and stuff like that. That’s on us. That’s stuff we can fix, so I’m not really worried about it.”

The lack of sacks, and pressure in general, was troublesome for the Rams. They recorded four hits on Brees – all by Aaron Donald – but only came close to sacks a couple times.

New Orleans’ offensive line had allowed only nine sacks in seven previous games, so pass protection has been a major strength, but for much of the game, Peters and the Rams’ secondary wasn’t helped by the fact that Brees had time to comfortably stand in the pocket and find an open target.

“Some games you get a bunch,” Donald said. “Some games you get a couple. Some games you get none. He made some good plays. I feel like that’s on us up front. I feel like I could have done better.”

NEW ADDITION

The Rams didn’t practice Monday, per usual, but did make a move, as they added rookie outside linebacker Ogbo Okoronkwo to the active roster and waived rookie linebacker Trevon Young.



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Adam Jacob

Military veteran and medically trained.

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