RAMS' DEFENSIVE FRONT TO TEST BRONCOCS
Last season, Robert Quinn racked up 19 sacks. During the Rams' first five games of 2014: zero.
In his last four games, he has six sacks. He, along with the rest of the defensive front, are now living up to expectations with 16 total sacks in the last four games, including eight on Colin Kaepernick.
"They are very athletic, great pass rushers up front, very disruptive in the run game," Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase said. "I think they are second in the league as far as negative runs that they force. They've kept a lot of teams in second-and-eight-plus, and as far as their pass rush goes, everybody knew last year that was a special unit, and they just didn't get going early for whatever reason. Maybe teams were getting the ball out quicker on them.
"It seems like they are hitting on all cylinders now and that linebacking corps is getting better and in the back end they've shuffled a couple guys around, but for the most part it's a good defense and they pose a lot of challenges for us."
Aaron Donald, the rookie out of Pittsburgh, currently sits second on the team with three sacks. He worked his way up into the starting lineup for the Rams and is a defensive rookie of the
year candidate. He is tied with Quinn for 11 tackles for loss on the season.
Gase is impressed with his impact on the Rams' line.
"It's one of those things when you're on offense and you really don't know—when guys come out in the draft, you really don't pay attention to defensive players—and then all of a sudden you're going 'Hey, so what was about this guy, what was his deal?' So you start asking personnel guys and you start asking defensive coaches and they talk about what a good player he was and he's been nothing but disruptive, 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."
While the Rams' 3-6 record isn't optimal, the defensive line's resurgence is certainly a bright spot as it helped them defeat the Seahawks and 49ers. The Broncos will certainly face a difficult challenge on Sunday as they continue to shuffle their offensive line and look for their ideal starting five.
On Sunday, the Broncos' game-changing spark came from Bradley Roby. On third-and-two, Derek Carr was under pressure and attempted to find Mychal Rivera. Roby got in front of the tight end and picked off Carr.
After that play, it was all Broncos.
Roby has quietly become one of the best defensive rookies in the NFL. Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said Roby's development has been gradual and he believes that the rookie will continue to get better.
"I think he's been very solid in terms of coming in and working hard," Del Rio said. "There's so much to learn at that position, such a challenging position, in particular with the way things are called nowadays, what you can and cannot do going from the college game to our game. I think he's done a nice job working hard and fitting into the secondary and playing a variety of roles for us. He played inside, played outside, made some big stops throughout the year. And there's some things he's got to get better at that he will get better at. So it's been a good start for him for the first half of the year."
This wasn't Roby's only game-changing play of the year, however. In Roby's first NFL game, the Colts picked on him as they tried to forge a comeback. On fourth-and-six, Andrew Luck attempted a short pass to Reggie Wayne, but Roby forced the incompletion, sealing the win for the Broncos.
Roby sits behind Brandon Marshall in solo tackles with 39 and has ten passes defensed. He has earned significant playing time this season and has two interceptions and one sack.
Del Rio is pleased with Roby's start to his career.
"One of the first things I did with him was talk about the talent of that room and the fact that he would have to work a certain way to have a chance, and I didn't want him to be frustrated come this time of year if he wasn't playing," Del Rio said. "… We've got a good group. We've got depth there. And he had to work hard in order to have a chance to even be considered in the rotation and he's done a nice job and kind of earned his way, and like I said, we've still got a long way to go and a lot of improving to do yet, but I like the way he's started the year."
QUALITY GAME DESPITE GARBAGE TIME TD
With five minutes left in Sunday's game, the Broncos had only allowed the Raiders 125 total yards. But, the Raiders were able to get one last jab in and hurt the Broncos defense's stat sheet with a 97-yard touchdown drive in garbage time.
While the Broncos were safely ahead, Del Rio still doesn't like giving up that yardage and the score.
"Some of those garbage yards, I mean it's just one of those deals," Del Rio said. "Some of those yards there, or points there keep it from looking like it truly was. What's most important is that we focus on what we need to do to get better in each and every area and that just makes it a little easier to come in and get their attention."
While giving up a touchdown at the end, with the Raiders' other ten points coming off of turnovers, was disappointing, that doesn't take away from the otherwise spectacular performance. Oakland gained just 30 yards on 15 rushing attempts and the Raiders' leading receiver on the season, James Jones, had just 20 yards.
"I never want to get to the point as a coach where I don't enjoy the good," Del Rio said. "I think if I do that it'd be time to retire. So you need to enjoy the success, enjoy the good, appreciate the effort that's being put forth. I think the preparation, the way we go after each opponent has been very strong."