Rams Get Gronk'ed in London: Defensive Review

Jamie McDonald

Hey I just met you, and this is crazy...but Craig Dahl is playing, so touchdown maybe?

I was supposed to be playing cut throat kickball (seriously, someone was ejected last week on my team), so I wasn't expecting to catch this game. Of course, the pansy commissioner of the league called the games on account of Hurricane so I was excited to watch the Rams game.

And then five minutes into the game, the excitement faded. 3k believes in parity - I would consider myself on the other end of the spectrum. I'm a strong believer that mental toughness decides football games. Teams that are mentally tough, or have mentally tough leaders (like, say, Tom Brady) win games. Teams like the Cowboys and Jets are not mentally tough, and collapse and burn even with talented players, because they don't have that mental edge. Sure, there is luck (see: Indianpolis Colts), but overall, tough teams win 3 out of 4 times.

More than once Tom Brady and the Patriots offense confused the Rams. People didn't know who to cover. Assignments were missed. Tom Brady isn't a player who will let those mistakes slide. He's going to take advantage of any opportunity he is given.

Pass Interference to extend the drive? Touchdown. Defense oblivious to a fake spike? Near Touchdown. Gronk defended by a DT? Touchdown. We all expected this game to be closer because we didn't expect the Rams to be so confused on defense.

The Rams have gone up against two offensive lines in the last two weeks that were prepared for a mere three or four man rush, and both times they came up woefully empty handed. You don't beat Tom Brady by hoping he makes a mistake, you beat him by forcing him to. The spirit of Gregg Williams was lost in London. He would have crapped his pants knowing that the Rams so rarely blitzed. Of course, against the Patriots, that strategy could've have gotten ugly. But against the Patriots, he wouldn't have given a shit, because he is going to make them play his game anyway. The physical man coverage and blitzes were dialed back in favor of trying to blanket the receivers. It didn't work. Oops.

Faulting Fletcher for the Pass Interference is tough. It was close and the refs were incredibly conservative. Should he have made a mental note not to be so aggressive after it was obvious a hint of Pass Interference would draw a flag? Yes. Point Number two. Of course, he wasn't the only corner to have a bad day. Janoris Jenkins still is giving up a freebee every game. He needs a pep talk, bad, because he's a good corner who is more than capable. If he doesn't give up that free TD every game, things dramatically change for the team as a whole.

Jo-Lonn Dunbar is the biggest steal of the offseason. He's someone I really hope the Rams hold onto because they've found a capable starter outside for the first time in a long time. Laurinaitis has been so-so, but he has been decent enough to get the job done. I wonder if perhaps changing defensive schemes (however similar they may be) has him thinking of what to do instead of merely doing it in a system he was tailor made for.

As for the line, it's tough to say they were terrible. At times, yes, they disappear. However, this is what happens against good, prepared offensive lines. You are going to have to deal with double teams. You are going to have to deal with a TE hitting you to slow you down. You even have to deal with holding calls (seriously?).

You have to look at the make up of this line. You've got a smaller, speedier guy in Robert Quinn who is starting his first year. You've got Michael Brockers, another raw, but talented, player. The word I'd best use to describe Kendall Langford is proficient, and Chris Long is a motor-style player. When all else fails, send in the dogs. The Rams have had success with sending in more than four. They obviously needed to crank it up to get to Brady, so, ya know, DO IT!

Of course, whenever you give up 45 points, you can't really say you did your job (on defense). New England may have the best offense, but last time I checked, the Rams defense was pretty good too. Isn't it time that they start playing like one?

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