Examining the Rams’ Defensive Dominance in Blowout Win Over Bears

Rams defense

Getty A trio of Los Angeles Rams defenders make the gang tackle during the Sunday, September 12, season opener of both them and the Chicago Bears at SoFi Stadiu,

New coordinator, new captains, new starters…and the same dominating defensive display by the Los Angeles Rams on defense to kick off the season.

The league’s top unit from one year ago stifled the Chicago Bears throughout the night in front of their fans in the first regular season game to allow occupied seats at SoFi Stadium, just one year after fans were forced to watch at home due to the threat of coronavirus. The Rams not only dominated the Chicago Bears 34-14 on Sunday, September 12, through the cannon arm of Matthew Stafford and the burning speed of wide receiver Cooper Kupp, but the home team turned to a familiar blueprint that carried them to the playoffs one year ago: Defense.

And they did it with Raheem Morris replacing Brandon Staley as the master defensive play-caller. Plus with second-year safety Jordan Fuller wearing the “C” for captain patch and finally, David Long and rookie Robert Rochell getting action and helping cover Chicago’s 100-catch threat Allen Robinson.

But what was supposed to be a new-look Rams defense instead looked like the one that frustrated offenses in 2020. And on this evening in Inglewood, the Rams sent the Bears into frustration and back to the drawing board. Here are some key moments the Rams defense accomplished.

Bears Forced to Play the Short Passing Game

Chicago, as anticipated by the Rams, went with Andy Dalton and rookie Justin Fields behind center.

The latter threw for 10 total passing yards. The former didn’t even have a pass stretch beyond 10 yards.

According to Next Gen Stats, Dalton’s 206 aerial yards were still without any deep throw as the Rams put the safe on “Red Rifle.”

In looking closely at the graph by the Next Gen Stats Twitter account, what’s notable are six particular completed passes Dalton made: The six that were completed at or behind the line of scrimmage.

One of those stops for a loss was a play read perfectly and later blown up by All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey. In what was supposed to be a screen pass with Ramsey blocked out of the play, the 26-year-old CB instead immediately jumps on the intended receiver Darnell Mooney and drops him for the loss.

Mooney was limited to 26 yards on five catches. Also, the Bears’ top 100-catch threat Allen Robinson? He was bottled to six catches for 35 yards.

Ramsey wasn’t the only CB making big plays.

Going ‘Long,’ But a Different Version

The defense set the tone early on a major goal-line stop.

A stop that stalled the Bears’ opening drive and came from the hands of Kenny Young and the man who finished off the drive, David Long.

With an empty set (no running backs in the backfield) on third down with six yards to go, the linebacker Young drops into coverage but stays in his drop zone. Dalton tried to lob the football over Young’s head, but the 6-foot-1, 234-pounder leaped to the air and tipped the ball. And who came down with the ball in the end zone? The former L.A. high school star Long for his first career interception.

The Rams realistically kept it simple on this third-down situation. They opted not to blitz and brought four rushers while dropping seven in their 4-2-5 look to counter the Bears’ five receiving options. Long is playing the furthest CB to the left on this play but responds quick to the Young tip.

Later on that evening, rookie Robert Rochell delivered the first of what could be many pass breakups. This one, though, came during a crucial sequence: Fourth-and-15.

A.D.’s Impact

Folks, we can’t talk about the Rams’ defense without mentioning Aaron Donald.

Stat-wise, A.D. had a quiet night (two tackles, one solo), but his presence in the trenches was anything but quiet.

Prime example: Donald takes on the one-on-one block by attacking with an arm extension then rips away, best known as a push/pull hand move defensive linemen use. Donald doesn’t complete the sack, but fortunately, OLB Justin Hollins is there to finish what Donald started.

Donald, however, doesn’t lose his grip on Dalton on this play that helped seal the win. The 6-foot-1, 280-pounder hit his blocker with his explosive first step and a jump/chop move to get the sack.

If there were any highlights the Bears had against the Rams defense, their time of possession (35:14) was better than L.A.’s (24:46) and Chicago’s 24 first downs were more than the Rams’ 18.

However, the Bears were bottled to an average of 4.7 yards per play, surrendered three sacks and lost the football twice…all against a unit that began the 2021 season with luring in the momentum of 2020’s dominant showing.

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