When you go back and revisit the St. Louis Rams first four games this season, you may remember the the first half of those games, thanks mostly to the defense, having a little potential...before going to hell in handbasket.
Yesterday, in the discussion about the Rams DVOA, GrnGyant asked about breaking down the performance of the Rams defense between the first and second half of games. Well, we aim to please here at TST, and the finding is pretty interesting. (Again, DVOA, Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, is a system that breaks down every single NFL play and compares a team's performance to a league baseline based on situation in order to determine value over average). Take a look:
Rams defensive DVOA with rank in parentheses.
That pretty much confirms what we've seen all season. The Rams defense limits opposing offenses early in the game. Opponents have scored an average of 12.5 points against the Rams in the first half of games so far this season. Green Bay was the only opponent to score more than half of their total points against the Rams in the first half of a game this season. And really, points-wise it's better than that when you consider that the 49ers only scored against the Rams in the first half of last week's game thanks to a gaff on special teams.
Now, let's break it down by quarter, with rank in parentheses.
Remember, for defenses, a negative DVOA is desirable, indicating a negative likelihood of opposing offenses running successful plays. Look at that first quarter number. The Rams defense has been stout. Opponents have scored an average of 3 points in the first quarter, two teams have been completely shut out in the first fifteen minutes (Seattle and San Francisco) and no team has scored a touchdown against the Rams in the first quarter this season. That's impressive.
So what's the problem? Let me sum it up with another number, the Rams offensive DVOA from the first quarter this season:
That number points to the utter failure of the Rams offense in the first quarter this season. That failure to get any points on the board early and make it a competitive event or to keep the defense off the field for any significant amount of time has contributed to the one number that really burns: 0-4.