PITTSBURGH –Against a Steelers team with a defense that has quickly developed a knack for creating takeaways this season, it was reasonable to expect that the Rams would need to do the same in order to come away with the victory Sunday in Pittsburgh.
While it didn't lead to the desired result in a 17-12 road loss, L.A.'s defense still played a pivotal role in keeping the matchup at Heinz Field competitive.
"They were great," Rams head coach Sean McVay said. "They got a safety, they got a touchdown, I mean, what else can you say about the defense today?"
The unit wasted little time making an impact, as it took just 14 seconds for them to record the latter of the two scores.
On the third play of the game, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey delivered a snap too high for QB Mason Rudolph to handle. The ensuing fumble was scooped up by Rams LB Dante Fowler, who returned it 26 yards for a touchdown for the game's first points and an early 7-0 Rams lead.
Fowler knew as soon as he recovered the loose ball that he was taking it to the house.
"Saw the endzone, to be honest with you," Fowler said, when asked what he saw on the fumble return. "It was super cool. Cool moment for me to be able to put up points on the board for my team."
Early in the fourth quarter, the defense would again add to the scoreboard after DT Aaron Donald and LB Clay Matthews combined to sack Rudolph in the endzone for a safety. It cut L.A.'s deficit to two with 12:40 left.
"It was a big play," Donald said. "Thought we had momentum, (would) find a way to get down there (in the endzone on the following drive), but we didn't. We just kept playing, kept trying to find ways to get the offense the ball."
The only regret, at least according to Fowler, was not creating more opportunities of those chances throughout the game. Los Angeles' defense managed just one other takeaway, also a fumble recovery, while Pittsburgh's defense had four (three interceptions, one fumble recovery).
Still, Fowler said he thinks the unit has momentum going into the rest of the season. And considering it accounted for 75 percent of the Rams' points on Sunday, it's fair to say he's right.
"We put up nine points as a defense, can't ask for much more from that standpoint," Fowler said. "I just loved the way that we kept going."