The Los Angeles Rams run-defense had their best outing against the run last Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. Ezekiel Elliott was held to 47 yards and the Cowboys only recorded 50 yards as a team. It was a statement for a unit that’s been pedestrian all year.
While that may leave some feeling confident about the Rams rematch with the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship game, there is still a cloud of doubt hovering over the LA pass-defense.
Taking the joy out of Joyner
The Cowboys’ game was not a banner night for Joyner. He allowed a big touchdown catch against Amari Cooper in one-on-one coverage and spent a majority of the night playing the underneath ball, which allowed Dallas some big gains and helped them cut the LA lead down to eight points in the third quarter.
Joyner hardly faced any one-on-one matches. But on the rare chance he did, he was burned. Cooper (second from the top) takes a slight left step before cutting right, which throws Joyner on a spin cycle before Dak Prescott makes the throw for the touchdown.
On above play — a 10-yard gain which sets up Dallas for a fourth-and-one conversion — Joyner stares Prescott down the entire play and is still late on the jump. LB Corey Littleton drops back to play the sideline, having WR Michael Gallup go by.
Gallup stays in front of Joyner and he’s the only receiver in Joyner’s zone.
Littleton couldn’t see Gallup on the comeback, but Joyner did.
But through most of the game, Joyner struggles weren’t solely on one-on-one matchups or defending what was in front of him. Towards the end of the game, he was left with the short end of the stick in terms of coverage responsibilities. In the Rams’ zone coverage (they played in zone nearly every snap), Joyner would defend the short routes. Dallas recognized this and Prescott found his targets through the gaps of the defense, often to Joyner’s side.
After the Cowboys cut the lead to eight points and defense stopped the Rams on the ensuing drive, Prescott went 3-for-5 and threw for 43 yards when he targeted receivers in Joyner’s zone.
Miscues, miscommunication and Marcus
Throughout the game, Peters played soft zone-coverage, which allowed for some big gains.
This 27-yard gain was the first strike on Dallas’ second scoring drive. Rams have both CB’s playing about seven yards off the line, but Peters plays like he has underneath help. Nickell Robey-Coleman takes the tight end on the short out route, so Peters is all alone. Once the receiver makes the catch, Peters then follows that up with the lamest arm tackle in existence.
This play — a first-and-20 situation — in the third quarter is still a mystery as it looks like the bottom half of the field is playing man-coverage while the top half (except for Peters) is playing zone. Joyner looks like he believes there is help behind him. But Peters is fixed on Cooper and defending the underneath ball.
Joyner’s lack of awareness allows for a massive gain to put the Cowboys on the doorstep of the end-zone.
Credit where it’s due
Give it up for Samson Ebukam.
Ebukam was targeted three times and allowed a whopping -2 yards. On this WR screen to our boy WR Tavon Austin, Ebukam almost immediately recognizes what’s coming and slips his shoulder underneath the blocker for the tackle.
I was surprised Tavon didn’t deke the hell out of him and finally become the dynamic do-everything-but-run-3-yard-sweeps receive. Very surprised.
This was just a great dropback from Ebukam.
Drew Brees is not Dak Prescott
The Saints did what the Cowboys couldn’t — complete a comeback. Led by Brees, the Saints offense marched back and scored 20 unanswered points. WR Michael Thomas had 12 catches for 171 yards and Brees completed 73 percent of his passes.
There’s no doubt that Brees learned a lot from the Saints’ 10-point win over the Rams earlier this season and he’s probably dissected the Rams-Cowboys tape a few times. The Rams need to address the gaps in their zone-coverage and fix the miscommunications.
And for God’s sake, someone teach Peters how to tackle.