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Mark Ingram’s 146 yards, 14 attempts, and two touchdowns (one receiving touchdown) performance highlighted the Rams’ inability to stop the Saints ground game on Sunday.

In total, the Rams allowed 555 yards, 27 first downs, and 49 points to the Saints.

Jeff Fisher expressed his frustration with the Rams’ performance with an impromptu confrontation with Rams defensive coordinator, Greg Williams, after the Rams allowed a 21-yard touchdown on a screen pass to Mark Ingram on third down and 17 yards to go, putting the Saints up 35 to 21 at the start of the third quarter.

The Rams defense was a mess in every way on Sunday, and because we looked in large part at the Rams secondary last week with our breakdown of DeVante Parker, it seemed appropriate to focus on the play of the front-seven against Mark Ingram in this week’s breakdown.

Week 12 NFL Breakdown

Were they that bad?

In going through and looking at every rush attempt the Saints had last week, what surprised me is that the Rams were not as hapless as their numbers made them out to be.

Aaron Donald made a play on the Saints first possession that made you say “[enter language that expresses enthusiasm]”…

And then he casually did it again later…

Alec Olgletree made one of those hits that reminds you how violent football really is…

And T.J. McDonald corralled Mark Ingram one-on-one in open field after he had already torn apart the Rams defense for the better part of three quarters…

The issue on Sunday was that the Rams were consistently in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Where They Went Wrong

The Saints were regularly able to create a numbers advantage against the Rams defensive fronts.

For example, take this run from early in the 1st quarter:

  • The Saints lineup with four blockers to the run side of the formation.
  • By the time the ball is snapped, the Rams have four defenders to the play side.
  • The nose tackle slices out of the play and allows for a successful Saints run.

In the run game, when the offense has as many blockers as the defense has defenders, there isn’t anyone left to make a play on the ball carrier, and this equals an advantage for the offense.

An even more pronounced example of the Saints’ ability to out scheme the Rams happens at the start of the second quarter:

  • The Saints motion a tight end away from the play side.
  • Once the ball is snapped, the same tight end comes back play side as an additional blocker. This is called a split zone technique.
  • The Rams defender that follows the tight end across the formation pre-snap has to run around second level defenders post snap and is late to recover. He is only able to get a hand on Mark Ingram as he runs past him.

The last example that we’ll look at of the Saints ability to outwit the Rams comes on the first offensive snap of the second half:

  • The Saints come out in unbalanced line, and position right tackle Zach Strief to the outside of the left tackle.
  • This completely throws off the Rams. Because they don’t know how to react, the Rams have four players lined up to guard three rush lanes on the week side of the formation. Through the play call, the Saints create five rush lanes (including the lane the fullback creates) to the play side of the formation, and the Rams only have four defenders to guard against these lanes.

After Ingram successfully makes it through a hole that you could drive a semi truck through, he does a good job to make the safety continuously change directions and tack on additional yardage.

These are just three examples of the Rams’ failure to schematically matchup against the Saints. Unfortunately for the Rams, these miscues come at an inconvenient moment as they look to square off against the Patriots next week. The type of schematic debacles shown above is fodder for Bill Belichick as he puts together a game plan. The Rams have the talent to put together a competent defensive unit; now they need to be put in the right place to act like one.

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Devin Jordan

Devin Jordan is obsessed with statistical analysis, non-fiction literature, and electronic music. If you enjoyed reading him, follow him on Twitter!
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