Even though the St. Louis Rams are on a rare two-game winning streak at the moment, there are still plenty of areas where the team needs to see some improvement. In this week’s version of the suggestion box, there were plenty of possibilities from the club’s continued offensive struggles to their penalty-prone play. One suggestion beat all of the others out however heading into their week 14 game and which is the fact that the Rams’ third down defense must improve if they want to keep on winning.
Last week provided more evidence than necessary to show that the Rams must step up on third downs defensively. The team allowed the San Francisco 49ers and Colin Kaepernick to convert on 50 percent of their third downs going 8-16 in the contest. Their number for the season is just 38.5 percent conversions surrendered, but the critical moments in games are where this team seems to struggle.
This young defense must learn to get off of the field as soon as possible. Decreasing the amount of plays that a defense is on the field for keeps everyone fresh and allows the offense to maintain a better rhythm as well instead of standing on the sidelines for an extended period of time. There are plenty of capable pass rushers on the Rams’ defensive front who can pin their ears back and get after the opposing quarterback on third downs so the schemes need to cater to those advantages.
When the Rams visit the Buffalo Bills this week, they must make the home team work for first downs and if they have them in a third and long situation, force the check down throws and get off of the field. The Bills are not a particularly effective third down offense converting 38.9 percent of the time. If they can force the ball into the hands of Ryan Fitzpatrick and take the running down and distance away from the Bills it will definitely play into their hands.
For a team that was just 2-14 last season, it’s nice to be able to nitpick and zero in on smaller weaknesses on a week to week basis. If Head Coach Jeff Fisher and his staff can get this defense off the field more often on third downs in the coming weeks, the Rams have a real chance to make a playoff push during the month of December.
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