A couple of days before the Los Angeles Rams entertained the New York Giants at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Sean McVay talked about some of the things he liked about the way his defense had played through the first three weeks of the NFL season.
Of course, there are things that McVay, the Rams head coach, said he’d like to see his unit improve on.
“I do like the way that we communicate amongst one another,” McVay said. “I like the different things that we’ve done in terms of how aggressive we get to the football. We’re a physical unit.”
There are things, of course, that McVay would like to see improve on that side of the football.
“Now, there’s been some instances where I said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to be able to tackle better collectively.’ You do take into account that some of the great players we played at have forced some of those missed tackles, but I just liked the fact that there’s a lot of good things going on,” McVay added. “There’s a lot of leadership, a lot of players really stepping up. I think these guys have really delivered at the most important moments in a handful in a couple of these games so far and been really impressed with the resilience of this group.”
After being down 28-3 on the road to the Buffalo Bills, McVay’s defensive unit began locking down the Bills’ offense, enough for the Rams to take a temporary 32-28 lead in an eventual 35-32 defeat, the team’s only blemish on their record this season. That resiliency McVay alluded to turned into fruition in the Rams’ narrow comeback loss to the Bills.
“I think that was demonstrated last week,” McVay said. “I think a lot of the things that occurred last week were more a result of some of the short fields that I’ve put that our defense in some bad spots. Then for them to get a couple takeaways and really get that momentum back in the team’s favor. I think that’s something that we can carry on to this week if we use it the right way.”
Well, it turns out that kind of momentum swing the Rams’ defensive unit came through within the second half of their ballgame against Buffalo swung all the way around to the team’s home game against the Giants. The Rams recorded eight tackles for losses and registered five sacks of Giants quarterback Daniel Jones in their 17-9 win on Sunday.
“Defense, that’s why we’re out there,” Rams cornerback Darious Williams said after the game. “No matter how rough it gets, we’re the backbone. We’ve always got our offense’s back. At the end of the play, just to seal the deal. No matter how the game is flowing offensively or defensively, we’ve always got each other’s backs.”
Fittingly, the outcome of the NFC contest would be settled by the Rams defense. Jones, who only threw for 195 yards, lead his team down the field for a potential game-tying touchdown and a two-point conversion. Williams ended the Giants threat yards in front of the goal line when he made a diving attempt to pick off a pass thrown by Jones.
“You know, I’d like to go back and look at the tape there and see that play,” Jones said. “But I think I may have had the opportunity to run and have to learn from it and move on.”
Williams wound up making the play of the day, snagging in Jones’ pass into his belly to claim the interception with 52 ticks left on the game clock. Aaron Donald said the Rams defense has the ability to come up with momentous plays when they need to make them.
“Guys just stepping up and making plays,” Donald said. “You have multiple guys that are coming out when we need big plays and they’re stepping up and making those plays for us. We have 11 guys on the field that at any time one of these guys can make a big play, make a game changing play – you tend to continue to close out games and make a big play like that when we need it.”
When Williams came up with his interception it marked the fourth pick he has recorded as a pro. Donald, universally regarded as the NFL’s top defensive player, has high praise for Williams. now in his third season in the league.
“I think (DB) Darious (Williams) has been playing great,” Donald said. “He’s a young guy, but he has a lot of potential to be a really good player in this league. He’s a playmaker. He’s stepping up and making big plays for us. He has to continue to do that, continue to get better. Being 3-1, it’s a good start. I’m pretty sure that we made mistakes here and there, definitely today, but I’d rather build off and fix the things off a win than off a loss. We’ll continue to get better.”
The effort put forth by the Rams defense was notable when you consider how they up with the rest of the league. The Rams rank 18th in rush defense and 21st in pass defense. Overall, the Rams defense makes the league’s Top 20 spot, coming in at No. 19. After holding the Giants to 295 total yards, it is likely the Rams will improve in those areas.
Jared Goff, the Rams starting quarterback, lauds how the Rams defensive unit has played well as of late.
“They’re playing well,” Goff said. “They played really well today and I think if we had scored more points, they would have actually had a chance to really get going downhill and making a lot of big plays, but I thought they picked us up repeatedly all day and it was really good to see that from them. To see (CB) Darious (Williams) make that play at the end after what happened last week, how disappointed he was, to see him make that play was awesome. He deserves that. He’s a great player and that was a hell of a play by him.”
The Rams offense didn’t exactly set the world on fire with their performance against the Giants. The Rams rushed for 58 yards, while the passing game accounted for 200 yards.
“We just couldn’t get into a rhythm offensively, but defense did a great job,” McVay said. “You know, you win as a team and thought they made enough plays to be able to win. You could kind of feel the momentum.”
Editor’s note: Top image of wide receiver Cooper Kupp appears courtesy of the Los Angeles Rams