Coming into their battle with the Indianapolis Colts it was widely assumed that getting pressure on quarterback Andrew Luck would be the deciding factor for the St. Louis Rams remaining competitive on Sunday. Not only did the Rams validate my gameday focus by ravaging the young signal caller early and often, but their pressure forced Luck into several bad decisions that resulted in points on the board or points being taken off the board for Indy. This type of pass rush is exactly the recipe the Rams need to use to continue their success as the season pushes on and remain relevant down the stretch.
Many left the Rams for dead after starting quarterback Sam Bradford tore his ACL to end his season, but what most didn’t realize is the St. Louis offense was relatively ineffective even with the starter under center. Kellen Clemens may not be the best backup quarterback a team could ask for, but he is capable of being the game-manager this team needs to win games with defense.
And even though that defense was just as suspect as the offense for much of the year, the Rams have found a new lease on their defensive life with their powerful pass rush. Robert Quinn’s sack fumble was scooped up and returned 45 yards for a score by fellow sack-master Chris Long in the first quarter against the Colts to really establish just what kind of a game plan the Rams would need to succeed. Quinn would notch one more sack while Long would get one himself throughout the remainder of the game. Although those were the only sacks the Rams were able to put up, the constant pressure forced the Indianapolis quarterbacks into four total interceptions (Luck 3, Matthew Hasselbeck 1).
It seemed like the effectiveness of the pass rush also fed into the run defense really bottling up the Colts in every way possible as well. The trade for Trent Richardson is looking like an absolute steal in the complete opposite way most expected when it took place. Indy coughed up a first round pick to the Cleveland Browns for a running back capable of producing just two yards on five carries on the day against a run defense that allowed career days by DeMarco Murray and pretty much every running back they have faced this season. In total the Rams surrendered just 18 total net rushing yards as the Colts were forced to pass in playing from behind.
What happened in this game highlights a vicious cycle that Rams could force opponents into by getting an early leg up with their pass rush, using the running game to control the clock, and making teams drop back and pass over and over with mistakes bound to follow. The season hasn’t gone according to plan for St. Louis in many facets, but the team has to be encouraged by the signs showed from the defense against the Colts that they could be more than competitive down the stretch. If the pass rush can continue to force mistakes by opposing quarterbacks there’s no doubt the Rams could be a difficult team to take back as long as they avoid self-inflicted wounds by managing the game offensively.