Five Takeaways: Run Defense Improves as Rams Beat Broncos

The Rams remained undefeated this season with a 23-20 victory over the Broncos on Sunday. Combatting frigid temperatures, injuries, and a stout Denver passing defense, L.A. was still able to come away with a victory in a hostile environment.

As the team gets on to preparing for San Francisco, here are five takeaways from Week 6.

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1) RUN DEFENSE STEPS UP

If there was facet of the game the Rams' defense knew it had to improve for Sunday's matchup against Denver, it was stopping the run. The Broncos entered the game averaging a league-leading 5.6 yards per carry, whereas the Rams were No. 29, allowing 5.0 yards per carry.

Something had to give, and Los Angeles came out on top because the club allowed just 60 yards on 17 attempts — which works out to 3.5 yards per carry. The Broncos' longest run of the day was only nine yards.

"Just being in our gaps and play how we play, I thought we did a good job up front of doing certain things and eliminating the run," defensive tackle Aaron Donald said postgame.

"Well, I think the guys did a great job," head coach Sean McVay said. "I thought [defensive coordinator] Wade [Phillips] and the coaching staff put together a great plan and I thought we played physical up front. … I just think it was all 11 playing together, keeping their gap integrity and I thought we played violent and hit blocks the right way up front."

Los Angeles' performance on Sunday brought the club's opponent yards per carry average down to 4.8.

2) ABILITY TO WIN IN DIFFERENT WAYS

For good reason, running back Todd Gurley was the main story to come out of Sunday's game. The running back because the first Ram to rush for at least 200 yards since Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk in 2001.

Gurley has been a threat to go off in each and every game since he was drafted back in 2015, and McVay has especially taken advantage of that as an offensive play caller since he arrived in 2017. But this was a game where Gurley truly showed how special he was, and as quarterback Jared Goff noted, it's an indication that L.A. doesn't just have one path to scoring points on offense.

"I think it just shows that we can win in multiple ways," Goff said. "I talked to Todd about this in the locker room briefly, there's sometimes where I'll have a big game, sometimes where he'll have a big game, or [Robert] Woods, Brandin Cooks, Cooper [Kupp], you know [running back] Malcolm [Brown] has to step up. It's great to see guys that have to step up and really be relied on to win the game and today that was Todd. Moving forward, you never know who it will be, but you hope it kind of switches off as the weeks go on."

Goff is right in noting that L.A. has displayed a variety of ways to move the ball. In six wins, Gurley has led the team in yards from scrimmage three times (Week 1, Week 3, Week 6), while Cooks has led the club once (Week 2), Kupp once (Week 4), and Woods once (Week 5).

Check out in-game photos from the Rams Week 6 matchup against the Denver Broncos.

3) BROWN SUCCESSFULLY STEPS IN AS NEXT MAN UP

Since returning from his two-game suspension to start the year, offensive lineman Jamon Brown has been patiently waiting for his opportunity to compete. That came during Sunday's game when left guard Rodger Saffold had to exit the game with a knee injury.

Brown ended up playing 17 of Los Angeles' 74 offensive plays (23 percent) at right guard, with starting right guard Austin Blythe flipping over to left guard for the remainder of the game.

"Jamon did a nice job," McVay said. "He's a starting-caliber player and we feel like Jamon is a starting guard. Really just because of the way that he's had a lot of reps at that right side — that's what he started at all last year — then with Austin having the ability to play really any of those three interior spots, we felt like [playing Brown on the right] so that Jamon could play at the spot he's comfortable with. And then you get Austin over to that left side because he's [got] some position flex and he's comfortable with that. That's what went into that decision and I thought he did a nice job stepping in and doing a great job in both phases that ended up leading to us be able to get a win."

While Saffold was unable to re-enter the contest in Denver, McVay said on Monday that Saffold is expected to start Sunday's game against San Francisco.

4) WHAT HAPPENED IN PASS PROTECTION?

Heading into Sunday, Goff had been sacked only six times in the 2018 season. The Broncos nearly doubled that number in Week 6, bringing down the QB five times.

Rookie outside linebacker Bradley Chubb led the way with 3.0 sacks, outside linebacker Von Miller had 1.5 sacks, and safety Darian Stewart had a half-sack.

McVay said that upon reviewing the film, he feels like there were some strong individual defensive performances along with some poor play calls by him that led to the issues in pass protection — rather than anything the offensive line did or didn't do.

"I think the tendency is to have sacks always pegged on the lineman and I really didn't think they were responsible for really any of them," McVay said. "I thought those guys did a great job being able to get there. They've got great players on the perimeter. They've got great edge rushers. Von Miller, we know what a phenomenal player he is. I think Chubb's a top-five pick for a reason. He's going to be a great player in this league. I thought they had a bunch of other guys that affected and influenced the way that you have to go about your plan.

"I think again, it goes back to some of the selections by me and then just trying to be in the frame work of the timing and rhythm," McVay continued. "But I do think it's unfair to the linemen to think that those were a result of their actual production when in fact, most of those to me are pegged on some of the plays and spots that I put our guys in."

5) MOST RUSHING YARDS SINCE…

So Gurley became the first Ram since 2001 to record 200 yards rushing — we've already been over that. But as a team, the Rams rushed for 270 yards, which is a number the club hadn't reached in a similarly long time.

While L.A. rushed for 244 yards last year against Seattle in the second matchup between the two teams, and had 258 against the Bears back in 2013, the Rams last rushed for at least 270 yards in a 48-14 blowout victory over the Panthers on Nov. 11, 2001. In that game, Faulk rushed for 183 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and Trung Canidate added 145 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

All told, the Rams had a stunning 337 yards rushing in the victory.

Guess that's something to strive for in the future.

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