After the Rams' 35-30 victory over the Cowboys in Week 4 — during which Los Angeles allowed only six points in the final two quarters — the common refrain was it appeared the club's defense had turned a corner.
Five games later, it's clear that was, in fact, the case.
Since that victory over Dallas, L.A. has surrendered an average of 11.4 points per game, with no opposing team scoring more than 17. While the Rams' top-scoring offense has undoubtedly been stellar throughout the season, the last five games have propelled the team to No. 4 in scoring defense at 18.0 points per game.
With Sunday's 26-point victory, Los Angeles is also leading the league in point differential at 134, outscoring teams by 14.9 points per game.
That's a significant part of what has propelled the Rams to a four-game winning streak and a 7-2 record.
"I can't stress enough how huge the defense has been," quarterback Jared Goff said. "I don't think they get nearly enough credit because of how much we're scoring on offense, but they've been the backbone of this team."
"We're just playing well. Everybody is making plays from the guys up front, to the guys in the middle, to the guys in the back," defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. "You have guys that are all over the field that are making a lot of plays, you'll win a lot of games in the NFL."
Middle linebacker Alec Ogletree echoed that sentiment, saying the defense's confidence continues to grow every week.
"The more you play, the more you communicate, the better you feel about going out there and playing together," Ogletree said. "We just continue to work and know what we have to do in these upcoming weeks."
"They have to be the No.1 defense in the last 5-to-6 weeks. Those guys have been playing lights out," running back Todd Gurley said.
One way the defensive prowess manifests itself is through takeaways. After recording three against the Giants, the Rams got four against the Texans to bring the L.A. to a league-leading 19.
"It helps us to win games," Donald said of the takeaways. "Gets the ball back to the offense and lets them keep rolling so, as long as we keep playing as a team like this, we will win a lot of games."
"Our philosophy right now is just attack the ball. It always has been," outside linebacker Samson Ebukam said. "But that's what we do — we attack the ball and try to get it away from the opponent just so that we can give it to our offense so that they can score. We know that they're going to score, but we just have to keep the opponents from scoring."
The Rams have scored 84 points off of turnovers in 2017, including 13 in Sunday's game. That got started early with defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who recorded a strip-sack on the game's opening drive for the second week in a row.
It's the first time in franchise history a player has accomplished that feat.
"He's a special player, special person," Rams head coach Sean McVay said. "He continues to kind of epitomize a lot of the things that we talk about in terms of what you want your players to look like — the way that they prepare and then it shows up on game day. He's doing a lot of other things that might not show up on the stat sheet that end up freeing up some other guys that are making plays on the defense. But, Aaron has done a great job, been a huge part of why our defense has played so well, and very happy that he's on our team."
The takeaways kept coming, as inside linebacker Mark Barron recorded his third interception of the year inside two minutes in the second quarter, wiping Houston points off the board. The Rams scored a field goal off of that turnover.
Then in the third quarter, Ebukam took down Savage for his first career sack, forcing a fumble in the process that defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker recovered. Wide receiver Robert Woods scored his second touchdown of the quarter off that takeaway.
And safety Blake Countess rounded out the four takeaways with his first career interception in the fourth quarter.
With heavy pressure coming through the second half, the Rams did feel like at a certain point they had rattled Savage. That, in turn, likely helped in the club forcing him into four turnovers.
"We got a couple of good hits on him and we were able to get the ball out and create turnovers," Ogletree said. "That's what you want to do when you have an offense like we do, is to try and get them as many possessions as possible."
Getting takeaways and turning them into points is often a sign of a successful team. And the way the Rams have been rolling lately, there's no doubt the offense and defense have been solidly working in tandem to produce victories.
"For us to go out there and just feed off the defense, those guys are doing a great job," Gurley said.
"They're guys we can rely on and know, 'Hey, we need a three and out,' and it's coming," Goff said. "Or we feel like we might need a turnover here and they're ball-hawks out there now and they've done a tremendous job."