Denver Broncos | News

Breaking down the Rams defense

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ST. LOUIS -- *Just over a month ago, the Rams lost to the San Francisco 49ers on *Monday Night Football, and the focal point of discussion was their pass rush -- or the lack thereof. Expected to be among the game's elite, spearheaded by last year's sack champion, Robert Quinn, it ended that game with just one sack in five games and 142 pass plays.

Since then, the Rams' pass rush has been what was expected at the start of the season -- better, actually. But their head coach, Jeff Fisher, sensed that the sacks would eventually arrive in bunches, even through the drought.

"We knew the sacks were going to come," Fisher said. "We didn't have a shortage of hits and pressures on the quarterback in the first four weeks."

According to ProFootballFocus.com, only three teams force hurries more often relative to pass plays than the Rams.

But in the last four games, those hurries have become sacks -- 16 in all, and one every 9.69 pass plays. (That would lead the league if the Rams had that rate the entire season.)

One key has been the emergence of first-round pick Aaron Donald at defensive tackle. Donald became an elite run defender from the start of the season, using his lightning first step to burst through the line.

"I really liked him (in the 2014 draft)," Broncos Head Coach John Fox said. "He's explosive and very quick. He can be a matchup problem inside because of that quickness."

In recent weeks, he's grown more effective as a pass rusher, working to free Quinn, and getting the defensive end back to his normal sack-happy ways.

"Moving Aaron has helped, pairing him up with Robert," Fisher said.

"He started at nose tackle and they moved him over to three-technique," said Fox. "That seems to be a better place for him."

Defusing Donald will be as important as neutralizing Quinn on the edge. ProFootballFocus.com credits Donald with 14 quarterback hurries, all in the last six games. That has helped him rocket up their metrics, to where only Detroit's Ndamukong Suh has a higher rating among defensive tackles and nose tackles.

"He's been nothing but disruptive," said Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase. "In the run game I don't think since maybe Seattle we've seen a guy that penetrates like this that really causes a lot of havoc."

And as a result, the Rams' pass rush is back where many pundits expected it to be -- and a dangerous threat to an offense with a line personnel grouping in just its second week together.

KEY STATS:

TOTAL

  • Yards per game: 358.6, 17th
  • Yards per play: 5.80, 24th
  • Takeaways: 17, 23rd
  • First-down rate: One every 3.43 plays, 20th
  • Third-down conversion rate: 42.73 percent, 19th

PASSING

  • Yards per game:234.8, 13th
  • Yards per pass play: 7.10, 27th
  • Sack rate:One per 17.47 pass plays, 15th
  • Touchdown rate: One every 22.85 pass plays, 15th
  • Quarterback hurry rate (per ProFootballFocus.com): One per 2.94 pass plays, 3rd
  • First-down rate: One per 2.80 pass plays, 26th

RUSHING

  • Yards per game: 124.2, 25th
  • Yards per rush:4.32, 21st
  • First-down rate: One every 4.63 carries, 17th
  • Touchdown rate: One every 28.78 carries, 25th

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