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How the Rams 2021 defense compares to last season’s unit through seven games

Do the numbers tell the truth about this year’s Rams defense?

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Much has been made of the Los Angeles Rams performance on defensive this year when compared to last season’s unit. The 2020 L.A. defense ranked first in multiple categories, including both yards and points allowed. Unfortunately, the 2021 defense has not terrorized the league with the same vigor. So how do the two units compare through seven games?

The biggest thing that jumps out while looking back at the first seven weeks last year is the fact the Rams played all four NFC East opponents early in the year. That division was a complete dumpster fire in 2020.

The Rams really padded some of their numbers against those teams, especially when they traveled to Washington in Week 5. They were flat out dominant, allowing less than 150 yards of offensive and holding Washington to 15 percent on third down. They also racked up eight sacks that week.

This season, the Rams defense was a victim of stat padding via the now 7-1 Arizona Cardinals. Arizona rushed for 216 yards, over a quarter of the rushing yards L.A. has allowed so far in the 2021 campaign.

Just looking at the numbers, which can be very misleading without considering the big picture, the most striking difference is the performance on third down. An increase from 34 percent to 43 percent is borderline alarming. That’s a lot of extended drives, potentially leading to more points for the opposing offenses. The Cardinals were an outlier in this category as well, converting on third down nearly 20 percent higher than the Rams’ 2021 average.

While the 2021 unit has generated more turnovers, including interceptions that have sealed wins against the Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks, and Detroit Lions, we cannot ignore the eye test.

The numbers analyzed here show that this year’s defense is not far off the pace from last year. Anyone who has watched Los Angeles this year knows that is not the case at this point in the season. Or at least it doesn’t feel that way.

The confidence that the defense is going to smother the opposition is not there this year. After this Sunday’s showdown with the Houston Texans, the schedule will begin to get much tougher with contests against the Tennessee Titans, Green Bay Packers, a rematch with the Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, and two contests with the San Francisco 49ers. Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris will need to dig deep into his bag of tricks in order to be victorious against this gauntlet of mostly playoff teams.