August 4, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Rams defense feels it should have done more vs. Seahawks

Late in the game against the Seattle Seahawks as the Rams offense and defense transitioned, Jared Goff jogged to the sideline at Lumen Field.

About seven minutes remainedand the Rams trailed 13-9 when a third-down pass Goff threw fell incomplete and forced a punt. But as he headed toward the bench, the first person he talked to wasn’t coach Sean McVay or offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell. Instead, it was cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

The conversation seemed short, with the two close enough that their blue facemasks touched, and then Ramsey tapped Goff on the helmet. Afterward, Ramsey was tight-lipped on the exchange.

“We’ll keep it in-house,” a shirtless Ramsey said after the Rams’ 20-9 loss. “But I always try to motivate and be encouraging at the same time.”

Whatever the discussion included, it illustrated the Rams’ season. When the offense struggles, the defense picks up the slack. And, even after a stout performance against Seattle, defenders felt they could have done more.

The Rams generated five sacks, and held the Seahawks to six points in the first half. The offense, meanwhile, could only produce three field goals.

But a lack of turnovers and failing to contain Seattle’s offense on key plays left the defense feeling as if it hadn’t done enough. As one of the top defenses in the NFL, it’s on them to elevate their play when the offense faces adversity, Ramsey said.

“That’s our job to pick them up,” said Ramsey, who along with star defensive lineman Aaron Donald was named to the Pro Bowl last week. “And if it’s our job to lead this team, then we need to lead even better than what we’ve been putting on the field.

“We all got to play better as a team. But defense wins championships. And if we want to be successful and be who we say we are — the No. 1 defense — we got to take accountability ourselves.”

The internal pressure comes with outward recognition. Entering Sunday, the Rams defense ranked No.1 in fewest yards passing and No. 2 in fewest yards rushing. They ranked tied for third in sacks, and Donald has made a strong case for his third defensive player of the year award. Defensive coordinator Brandon Staley also has been labeled by pundits to be a potential head-coach candidate in the upcoming hiring cycle after only one season with the Rams.

But that praise comes with an expectation to perform, defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day said. For the second consecutive week, the Rams failed to take the ball away. In nine of their first 13 games, the Rams recorded an interception. In consecutive weeks against the San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots, the Rams posted a defensive touchdown.

With that streak broken, Joseph-Day said they need to emphasize turnovers. Against the Seahawks, the lineman said there were opportunities to punch out the ball against running back Chris Carson and receiver DK Metcalf, but that didn’t happen. Securing the tackle isn’t good enough, he said.

“Just being really cognizant about it and aware about it,” he said. “Obviously that’s kind of harder done than said, but we need to keep doing it. That’s the kind of thing that led us to the opportunity that we’re at, and we have to keep striving to do that each and every day to take our defense to another level.”

Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, who sacked quarterback Russell Wilson three times in the Rams’ 23-16 win at SoFi Stadium on Nov. 15, added two more Sunday. All didn’t go well, however.

Metcalf caught only two passes for 28 yards in the first matchup, but this time had six catches for 59 yards. That included an eight-yard reception to convert a first down on a touchdown-scoring drive.

Wilson finished 20 of 32 for 225 passing yards and a touchdown. Carson, who did not play in the first meeting, finished with 69 rushing yards.

The Rams still can clinch a playoff berth with a win Sunday at SoFi Stadium against the Arizona Cardinals. Ramsey said it will take a stellar defensive effort to achieve that goal.

“You’re not going to see no smiling faces,” he said. “ We’re about business. We got to get it together ASAP.”