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Questioning the Rams defensive strategy against New Orleans

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Head coach Steve Spagnuolo of the St. Louis Rams watches the game against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on December 12 2010 in New Orleans Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Head coach Steve Spagnuolo of the St. Louis Rams watches the game against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on December 12 2010 in New Orleans Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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One of the more frustrating things about the St. Louis Rams week 14 loss to the Saints was their inability to generate a blitz. Drew Brees pretty much has his way with the Rams defense for four quarters. 

The Rams sacked Brees just once and put hits on him just three times. Though this is a piece about pressure on the QB, it's worth mentioning too that the Rams' defense had just one tackle for a loss. Without pressure, the responsibility for shutting down the Saints' mighty passing game was left to a banged up secondary, without top cornerback Ron Bartell and key role player CB Justin King

Good QBs can beat good coverage most of the time, and that was certainly true for Brees on Sunday. They key to stopping the bleeding in those situations is a strong pass rush. Had you landed on earth sometime in the last two years, you can be forgiven for being unaware that it was the same Steven Spagnuolo whose aggressive defense with the New York Giants upset Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl with a potent pass rush. 

And yet, this week, the Rams, led by that same Spagnuolo opted to make coverage the emphasis of their defense. Why?

You have to give some credit to New Orleans' offensive line and their pass protection. They've been one of the top units all season, allowing just 18 sacks. Conversely, the Rams defense has been one of the league's most prolific units for getting to opposing quarterbacks, with 36 sacks on the season and a 7 percent sack rate, 10th best in the league. And those sacks aren't coming exclusively from the front four; 11 of those 36 sacks have come from players other than the front four, including 5 from the safeties. 

Rams S Darian Stewart had the only sack of the game, but the Rams mostly left the job of pressuring Brees to the defensive line. 

As others have said, there's no surprise in losing to the Saints. They're the defending champs and it was plain to see why on Sunday. No, the most disturbing thing was the playcalling on the defensive side of the ball in this game, the decision to rely so heavily on coverage when the Rams clearly needed to be aggressive against a superior opponent.