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Rams defensive touchdown streak powered by "plus-one" mindset

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Meeting with the media at the virtual podium less than an hour after returning an interception for a touchdown in the Rams' 24-3 win over the Patriots on Thursday Night Football, linebacker Kenny Young was explaining the unit's connectedness.

His pick-six was the Rams defense's third-straight game converting a takeaway directly into points and saw defensive lineman Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey sprint downfield as lead blockers to help him reach the end zone. A reporter pointed out that it seems as though every member of the unit swarms to the football in pursuit.

"We try to do plus-one in everything," Young said in his postgame video conference. "Plus-one in tackling, plus-one in communication, plus-one in owning when you mess up, plus-one in tackles, interceptions, turnovers, one-on-ones. However you look at it, we take pride in being plus-one. You do it enough, you do it on a consistent basis with the energy that we play with, you're really unstoppable, and I say that in a modest way."

You reap what you sow, or so the saying goes. For the Rams, that's especially the case and is illustrated by that mindset: Place an emphasis on takeaways during each week of preparation, it's bound to produce the desired result on gameday.

So far, Los Angeles' defense has created 21 takeaways (13 interceptions and 8 fumble recoveries), tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills for fourth-most in the NFL entering Week 15.

L.A. has had four games with two interceptions this season, its two most recent such games kicking off a streak of five-straight with at least one. Overall, they've had at least one interception in nine of their 13 games so far.

When it comes to fumble recoveries, they've tallied eight – tied with the Cardinals and the Steelers for 10th-most in the league. For proper context, the Panthers lead the NFL with 13 fumble recoveries, the Ravens are second with 11, the Giants and Browns tied for third with 10, then five teams are tied for fifth with nine.

"You can't be considered a great defense if you don't take the ball away, it's just part of great defenses," Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley said during his video conference Wednesday. "It's not an isolated stat. It certainly defines your success as an NFL team each and every time you play. That's a part of our DNA."

That mantra being so deeply engrained is evident by the way the Rams practice, including, but not limited to, defensive players rehearsing stripping the ball loose and linebackers routinely practicing scooping up loose footballs rolling on the turf.

Los Angeles by no means is the first team at any level to make this part of their weekly preparation, but it proves doing so consistently can manifest it into a habit and produce streaks like three straight games with a defensive touchdown.

"(Head Coach) Sean (McVay), one of the staples of his program is, 'it's all about the ball' and we work on it every single day," Staley said. "Today, Wednesdays, are 'All about the ball Wednesday' for the Rams. Then we also do more meetings defensively throughout the week and I think that mindset is permeated throughout our team, on all three phases of the game."

The Rams defense produced takeaways at a high rate in the early days of training camp in August, but it was fair to wonder whether that had more to do with the familiarity facing the same offense several times than the defense's execution alone. Four months and 21 takeaways later, perhaps more credence should've been placed in the latter than the former.

"I mean that's our job, really, on defense. We want to be a defense that takes away the ball," Rams cornerback Darious Williams, who was one of those players creating takeaways in camp and has since snagged a team-leading four interceptions in the regular season, said during a video conference Wednesday. "Coach Staley does a real good job of instilling that in us, to get to the ball, always be around the ball, create turnovers in general. I feel like that's our motto, to cause turnovers."

For Staley, the formula for that motto is simple: "When technique meets aggressive, that's when you get takeaways."

"When you're playing with fundamentals and then you're really sure of the game plan, have scouted your opponent well, that's how you can become aggressive," Staley said. "You hear that a lot in press conferences with players, 'Hey, we were aggressive tonight.' Well, you're aggressive because you prepare and when that technique meets that aggression, that's when you create the takeaways and that's what we've been able to do recently, and we've got to keep doing that."

"Just trying to get the ball, turn the ball over and have more tunovers than the opposite defense and keep feeding our offense the ball," Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald said. "When we do that, we know good things are going to happen. When you're making those big-time plays, we feed off of that as a team, so we've just got to continue to play like that."

The Los Angeles Rams were back to practice on Wednesday as they prepare for a home matchup against the New York Jets. Check out some of the top shots from practice!

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