The St. Louis Rams‘ run defense has been horrible lately, even though the personnel’s pretty much the same. It’s becoming a weekly sore spot for rookie coach Steve Spagnuolo, who built his reputation on stopping opponents.
On Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks more than doubled their NFL-low average with a season-best 170 yards in beating the Rams 27-17. Before that, the Rams (1-10) gave up a season-high 183 yards to Arizona, and 203 yards to the Saints.
To defensive end Leonard Little, the numbers are disgraceful.
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“I’ve been doing this since I was 5 years old,” Little said. “If you don’t know how to tackle, then you might not need to be in this business.”
Justin Forsett, a seventh-round pick last year, had a career high 130 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday while the Seahawks averaged 5.5 yards per carry overall. Tim Hightower has 480 yards for the Cardinals this season, 110 of them with a 7.9-yard average two weeks ago against St. Louis.
“There were situations where we had them at the line of scrimmage and whatnot and they broke tackles,” defensive end Chris Long said after losing to the Seahawks. “I don’t think they outschemed us, I think we should have tackled better.”
Just like last week and the week before that, Spagnuolo cites a combination of poor tackling and mistakes across the board in gap responsibility. Regarding the mistakes, he said it’s not something that can be pinpointed, except for the fact it’s not a case of getting physically manhandled.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” Spagnuolo said. “I keep saying that, but I’m not lying to you. If I thought it was one person every time, that person would be out. That’s not the case.”
Rams coaches revise tackle counts from the Sunday statistical sheet after reviewing game tape, and credit rookie linebacker James Laurinaitis and safety O.J. Atogwe with 10 tackles apiece along with Laurinaitis’ first career sack. Laurinaitis, a second-round pick, leads the team with 106 tackles, 25 more than any other player.
Revised totals do not include missed tackles, and Spagnuolo declined to reveal the count from the Seahawks setback.
“I’m not going there,” Spagnuolo said. “We had enough that caused us to not play good defense. Too many.”
Players are not shirking responsibility after losing their 11th in a row at home and 10th straight against the Seahawks. St. Louis is 6-37 the last three seasons.
“All that matters is the next snap, and we’ve got to have that mentality,” Long said. “Nobody is going to dig us out of a hole except ourselves.”
Running back Steven Jackson, who had a full load against the Seahawks after missing three days of practice with lower back spasms, is likely to get light duty this week before Sunday’s game at Chicago. Jackson fell short of a fifth straight 100-yard game but had 89 yards rushing and totaled 116 yards from scrimmage.
“He’s not looking to take any time off, but we’re going to be careful,” Spagnuolo said.
Jackson said after the game the back bothered him throughout the game.
“A lot of people questioned why did I play,” Jackson said. “Well, I play because I love to play.”