clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Rams-Chiefs: Does the Rams' Rushing Defense Have the Edge?

On Sunday, the Rams face the Kansas City Chiefs and their potent rushing attack, led by Jamaal Charles. The Rams have contained star RB's all season, yet are near the bottom of the league in rushing yards allowed. The Rams' ability to "set the edge" may hold the key to winning this game.

Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

In 2013, the Rams' rush defense was markedly improved, ranking 9th in the NFL (102.9 yards per game). Through 6 games in 2014, the run defense has regressed, allowing 145.0 yards per game (28th in the league). Why are the Rams having trouble stopping opponents' rushing attacks?

Earlier this week, Joe McAtee put the Rams' rushing D woes into context, and drew the following conclusions:

"Here's the bottom line: the Rams are doing a very good job at containing running backs when the gameplan calls for it. They're doing so at the exclusion of other parts of the defense."

To improve their run defense, ESPN's Nick Wagoner suggested on Friday that the Rams need to "Anchor Down":

"To get better in time for Chiefs running backs Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis and quarterback Alex Smith, setting a consistent edge on the outside is the first order of business."

This season, the Rams have been quite successful at shutting down some of the premier running backs in the NFL: Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore, and Marshawn Lynch. They've been less successful at shutting down the run outside the tackles, especially attempts made by "secondary" ball carriers like WR Cordarrelle Patterson and QB Russell Wilson.

The accompanying chart presents the rushing statistics for the 5 premier running backs the Rams have faced this season, plus the rushing statistics of "secondary" ball carriers in 4 of those games:

Opponent Player Att. Yards Player Att. Yards
Vikings Adrian Peterson 21 75 Cordarrelle Patterson 3 102
Cowboys DeMarco Murray 24 100
Eagles LeSean McCoy 24 81 Darren Sproles 7 51
Niners Frank Gore 16 38 Colin Kaepernick 3 37
Seahawks Marshawn Lynch 18 53 Russell Wilson 7 106
Totals 103 347 20 296
3.37 YPC 14.8 YPC

Looking deeper into the statistics, Wagoner makes a pair of illuminating observations:

  • The Rams have been effective in shutting down the run between the tackles. In 6 games, opponents have run the ball 127 times between the tackles for a total of 485 yards (3.82 YPC - 10th in the NFL).
  • The Rams have been less effective in stopping an opponents' rushing game outside the tackles. In 6 games, opponents have run the ball 48 times outside the tackles, gaining 391 yards in the process (8.15 YPC - worst in the NFL).

On Sunday, the Rams face the Kansas City Chiefs, and their potent rushing attack, led by Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs are averaging 140.3 yards rushing per game (3rd in the NFL). The emergence of Knile Davis gives the Chiefs another dangerous ground weapon to attack defenses with. The Chiefs have been quite effective running the ball outside the tackles, with 51 carries totalling 304 yards (5.96 YPC - 4th in the NFL). The Rams must figure out a way to neutralize one of the Chiefs' biggest strengths, with an outside rush defense that's been one of the Rams' biggest weaknesses.

The accompanying chart lists the players the Rams should be keying on in Sunday's game, and their rushing totals to-date:

Player Attempts Yards YPC
Knile Davis 83 352 4.2
Jamaal Charles 64 290 4.5
Alex Smith 24 138 5.8
De'Anthony Thomas 2 22 11.0
Totals 173 802 4.64

Maintaining gap integrity, sure tackling, minimizing over-pursuit, proper execution, and making correct reads all play a role in "setting the edge", and limiting gains outside the tackles. And responsibility for setting the edge lies with many on the Rams' defense. As LB James Laurinaitis notes:

"It’s just discipline. Sometimes if you are holding the edge, sometimes those guys get greedy. And we are all taking part. It’s not just D-ends, a lot of times you think it’s outside ‘backers, D ends but there’s always a guy assigned to keeping the edge."

"I’m encouraged when you look at Gore’s numbers, you look at Lynch’s numbers ... but when you look at the big picture, it’s got to go way down. It’s something we have got to continue to work at."

Let's hope the work the Rams are putting into fixing their run defense pays off with a victory against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Successfully setting the edge just might give them the "edge" they need to win this game.