If you paid close attention to the St. Louis Rams defensive formations on Sunday against the Lions, you likely noticed more than a few three-man fronts. Three-man fronts haven't been a thing in St. Louis since the bygone days of Jim Haslett trying to use a 3-4 to mask the woeful inefficiencies of the talent handed to him by Jay Zygmunt, Tony Softli and Scott Linehan. For Jeff Fisher, it was mostly about keeping the Lions' plethora of receiving options smothered in coverage.
"We've had three-men fronts from day one in our defensive package," Fisher said on Monday. "They typically are nickel pitches. They are a nickel offense on first down. That's what they are. They are basically a three-wide offense, so you're going to use sub packages against them."
The nickel package worked well until the latter part of the game, when they failed to generate much pressure at all from their three-man fronts as the Lions marched down the field. Safeties were the other weak link in the strategy, but that's a post for another time.
Sending more than three rushers was a rarity this week, and the Rams ranked near the bottom of the league sending five or more on the blitz in Week 1. Mike Sando shared the stats for five or more rushers in this post. The Rams did it on 22.9 percent of all their defensive snaps, with nearly the same rate on three downs.
Hindsight is always 20-20. Leaving so many players in coverage paid big dividends in the first three quarters of the game. Remember, there was even a point in the second half, late in the second half, where Calvin Johnson hadn't even caught a pass. But when you go back and look at that final drive, one more successful blitz on Stafford might have been enough for the win.
Also notable on that list from Sando is that the Redskins did it on 38 percent of all snaps and on 50 percent of the third down snaps they faced against the Saints offense. The Rams offensive line will have its hands full this week.
That strategy will change this week against the Redskins and Robert Griffin III.