Fun with numbers: The Rams' defense is for real

Chris Long #72 of the St. Louis Rams pressures Matt Hasselbeck #8 of the Seattle Seahawks on October 3 2010 at Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis Missouri. The Rams defeated the Seahawks 20-3. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

I'm anxious to nerd out on the stats after this week's win, but for now, we'll have to settle for looking at the numbers for the first three weeks of the season and contextualizing that info for yesterday's game. In thinking through each of the St. Louis Rams individual and unit performances, it's hard to pick the most memorable. Obviously, Sam Bradford deserves mention. Steven Jackson was the definition of a hero. But the group that made the biggest impact was the Rams defense. For me, Ken Flajole's group is the season's biggest surprise. 

Of course, maybe it shouldn't be such a surprise. Through three weeks, the numbers back up the performance we saw on the field this week. Let's take a look.

What got the most play was just how solid the defense was on third downs. The Rams defense allowed Seattle to convert just 4 of 15 third down attempts. Seattle was 0 for 2 on fourth down attempts as well, but one of those was thwarted by the Rams special teams and the other was a Michael Robinson dropped pass. 

The Rams defense had a -37.6 percent DVOA on third downs, seventh best in the league, through three weeks. On third-and-long that number was a stunning -140.2 percent DVOA against third-and-long, third best in the league, not bad at all for a defensive line that had more questions than answers four weeks ago.

Against the run on third and fourth downs the defense has a -88.7 percent DVOA, third best in the league, and a -21.1 percent DVOA against passes on third and fourth downs. 

But wait, Seattle's offense had the league's second best DVOA, 80.6 percent, on third downs, including a 145.9 percent DVOA on third-and-long situations. The Rams shut that down. 

One of the more impressive stats from yesterday's win was that the Rams defense allowed Seattle to reach the red zone just once, forcing them to settle for a field goal. An aside on that series. If Pat Shurmur's playcalling pissed you off, just imagine how angry you'd be as a Seattle fan when they ran a QB scramble up the middle on third-and-five at the Rams 7-yard line. Am I misremembering something? Did Hasselbeck not have an open man and decide to run it in on his own? Seattle called a terrible game, which shouldn't take anything away from the fine work of the Rams defense. 

In the red zone, the Rams defense had a -87.3 percent DVOA, sixth best in the NFL, through week three. 

When Football Outsiders releases their DVOA numbers through the fourth week they'll figure in opponent adjustments, which should help us contextualize the Rams defensive performance. 

But you don't need stats to know that this is a high performing unit. 

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