Rams defense struggling on third downs

Ralph Freso

The Rams defense had a terrible time keeping the Cardinals offense off the field last week, thanks to a woeful defensive effort on third downs. Needless to say, Jeff Fisher was none too pleased.

Jeff Fisher did not have positive things to say about the St. Louis Rams' defensive performance this week against Arizona.

"We've got to get better," Fisher said on Monday evening. "We've got to do better up front. It's a total defensive effort."

The coach was especially frustrated with the defensive effort on third downs in Sunday's loss to the Cardinals.

"If you look at one area in particular, it's third down," Fisher said. "That's where I'm not impressed or pleased right now, to say the least, in our third-down efficiency defense. We've got to get better there."

The Rams defense, now coordinated by former Lions secondary and third down package coach Tim Walton, allowed the Cardinals to convert 57.14 percent of their third downs. Carson Palmer did most of the damage on third downs, along with his receivers that nobody in the Rams secondary seemed able to stop.

Palmer was 10-for-12 with 114 yards on third downs. All but three of his completions on third down resulted in a new set of downs. All together, the Rams allowed the Cardinals to convert eight of 14 third down attempts. It was their second worst third down performance of the season, after allowing the Bears to convert 60 percent of their third downs two weeks ago.

Here's a look at each third down from Sunday. One third down play didn't count because of a Janoris Jenkins pass interference penalty.

First quarter

3-5-SL 18 (11:13) C.Palmer pass short left to L.Fitzgerald to SL 3 for 15 yards (J.Jenkins)
3-11-ARZ 43 (3:32) (Shotgun) C.Palmer pass short middle to S.Taylor to SL 48 for 9 yards (J.Laurinaitis; T.McDonald)

Second quarter

3-3-SL 42 (12:58) (Shotgun) C.Palmer pass short middle to L.Fitzgerald to SL 27 for 15 yards (Q.Pointer)
3-4-ARZ 26 (3:09) C.Palmer pass short middle to M.Floyd to ARZ 39 for 13 yards (T.Johnson)
3-3-SL 38 (1:11) (No Huddle, Shotgun) C.Palmer pass short middle to L.Fitzgerald to SL 34 for 4 yards (R.McLeod)

Third quarter

3-4-ARZ 45 (11:13) A.Ellington up the middle to ARZ 45 for no gain (K.Langford)
3-4-ARZ 28 (7:45) C.Palmer pass short middle to A.Roberts to ARZ 36 for 8 yards (W.Hayes)
3-17-ARZ 29 (6:28) (Shotgun) C.Palmer pass short middle to A.Ellington to ARZ 38 for 9 yards (R.McLeod, J.Laurinaitis).
3-7-SL 32 (1:18) (Shotgun) C.Palmer pass incomplete short left to A.Roberts (J.Jenkins)

Fourth quarter

3-2-ARZ 38 (13:28) (Shotgun) C.Palmer pass short right to L.Fitzgerald to ARZ 46 for 8 yards (T.McDonald)
3-6-50 (11:27) (Shotgun) C.Palmer pass short middle to S.Taylor to SL 49 for 1 yard (A.Ogletree)
3-7-SL 41 (6:04) (Shotgun) C.Palmer pass deep left to J.Brown to SL 9 for 32 yards (J.Jenkins)
3-6-SL 6 (4:35) (Shotgun) C.Palmer pass incomplete short middle to M.Floyd (J.Laurinaitis)
3-6-SL 6 (2:00) A.Ellington up the middle for 6 yards, TOUCHDOWN

"We're just not making plays whether it's a penalty or it's a complete pass or it's a missed tackle," Fisher added. "We're doing a lot of different things. Coach Walton's doing a lot of different things and we're just not making the plays.

"Good defenses, their third down efficiency's usually in the low 30s and that's got to be a goal to for us."

For the season, the Rams defense is allowing a third-down conversion rate of 40.88 percent. The league average is at 38.25 percent. Only eight teams are allowing a higher third-down conversion rate than the Rams, including such illustrious units as the Jaguars, Cowboys and Falcons.

Detroit leads the league in third-down stop percentage at a minuscule 30.18 percent. That's a pretty sizable jump from last season, when current Rams defensive coordinator Tim Walton oversaw the team's third down packages. That Lions team had a 36.54 percent third-down rate.

With just three games left to play, Fisher was showed no intention of letting his defense off the hook for its third down performance.

"That's got to be a big area of emphasis here as we finish up the year."

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