The Los Angeles Rams defense has had its ups and downs to start the season. However, after a tough start in the opener against the Buffalo Bills, they bounced back in Week 2, taking on the Atlanta Falcons.
Through two weeks, the Rams defense ranks first when it comes to stopping the run. At -38.9 percent, Football Outsiders has the Rams with the best run defense. The Rams’ -.466 EPA per play against the run and 79.7 run defense grade on Pro Football Focus also rank first.
On Sunday, the Rams defense locked up the Falcons run game. Cordarrelle Patterson and Tyler Allgeier combined for 20 carries for 71 yards and Mariota added 16 yards with his legs on six attempts.
The Falcons offense came into Week 2 with the eighth best rushing attack according to Football Outsiders and ranked 12th in EPA per play. Patterson rushed for 120 yards against a good New Orleans Saints defense that just held Leonard Fournette to 2.7 yards per carry. Mariota also had 72 yards rushing in Week 1.
Stoping the run was a primary focal point heading into the game against the Falcons. Arthur Smith has one of the most creative run defenses in the NFL and Patterson is a true offensive weapon. The Rams accomplished just that.
As it stands, Justin Hollins leads NFL edge rushers with a 48 percent run-stop win-rate according to ESPN Stats and Info. A’Shawn Robinson also ranks fourth among defensive tackles at 54 percent. As a team, the Rams’ 41 percent run-stop win-rate currently ranks second.
Despite the Falcons finishing with 27 points, realistically only 10 of that was actually on the defense. A Matthew Stafford interception put the Falcons immediately in the red zone and Atlanta also scored a special teams touchdown.
While the Rams have been great against the run, where they need to improve on defense is in the passing game. The Rams’ 44 percent pass-rush win-rate only ranks 11th in NFL. It wouldn’t be surprising to see LeS Snead make a move for an edge rusher before the trade deadline.
Additionally, the Rams pass defense ranks 27th in DVOA and 29th in EPA per play. Teams have a 58.3 percent success rate when throwing against the Rams which is currently 31st. That leads only the Arizona Cardinals who the Rams face this week.
Just two weeks into the NFL season, this is still a very small sample size. The Rams started slow on defense last year before picking it up late in the season just in time for their playoff run. This is a group that should get better as the season goes on.