The 2013 season really hasn’t been a successful campaign for the St. Louis Rams. Over the first seven weeks of the season, the defense was giving up around 28 points a game. Over the last four, they have given up an average of 17.75 points per contest, including last Sunday’s game when they faced an offense that was averaging 28 points this season and gave up 21.
The defense is still surrendering too many yards on the ground, as evidenced by Matt Forte‘s 77 yards. Most of Forte’s yards came in the first half before the Rams started to pull away.
They also allowed backup QB Josh McCown to throw for 352 yards and two TDs. The Chicago Bears screened the defense to death all game long, and it was working for the most part. Those screen plays were killing the Rams’ soft defense that gave them time to set up blocks and create space to run.
With all of the weakness and big plays St. Louis gave up, their defense still held strong when it mattered. Rookie Alec Ogletree came up with a huge goal line stop on McCown’s scrambling attempt. Ogletree led the Rams in tackles as he has most of the season with 11 tackles.
The Rams forced three turnovers on Sunday, and would have had four if Brandon McGee hadn’t drawn an unnecessary illegal hands-to-the-face penalty on Janoris Jenkin‘s jump ball pick against Brandon Marshall. It was a heck of a play by Jenkins to out-muscle Marshall for the ball. Trumaine Johnson forced his second turnover in the last two games by stripping Forte on a run play in the red zone.
Johnson would leave the game after suffering a concussion in the second half, forcing McGee to play even more. McGee still has a lot to learn after drawing three horrible penalties that extended drives for the Bears. Safety Rodney McLeod came up with his second interception of the season.
Robert Quinn didn’t rack up sacks against the Bears, but he was constantly in McCown’s face, forcing him to make quick throws. Quinn did have the Rams’ lone sack for his 13th on the season. As usual, Quinn was able to make his sack/forced fumble combo work, striking the ball out of McCown’s hand to find the ball at his feet for a scoop and score. It was a huge play late in the game that helped bury the Bears beyond the point of return.
It was Quinn’s sixth forced fumble of the year, and teams don’t seem to be learning that he is force to be reckoned with on the blindside. He isn’t just going for the sack off the edge. He was able to alter a throw earlier in the game with swing of his right arm that tipped the ball and caused the pass attempt to fall well short of its target.
Michael Brockers might be the most upset Ram after the game when his monstrous sack was called back thanks to a bogus roughing-the-passer penalty. This might be the first time a player was penalized for hitting someone in the chest in the NFL. The call gave the Bears a second life late in the game, allowing them to score a touchdown during the series. The Rams only tallied the lone sack on the day, but they recorded five QB hits against an offense that was throwing nearly everything short on slants and screens.
Realistically, the Rams’ defense could have been much better if the refs didn’t blow the call on Brockers, and if McGee wasn’t defending receivers on the outside. It was still a solid performance by a defense that buckled down when it needed to and got to the QB time after time like they have done all season. If St. Louis could get healthy on the defensive side, they could become an even better unit.