Two weeks ago, the Rams faced a two-pronged rushing attack in the Saints' Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. While Kamara did rip off a 74-yard touchdown run — and caught his share of passes out of the backfield — Los Angeles was able to make enough adjustments to keep New Orleans' run game from being too much of a difference maker.
Even last week, L.A. allowed 85 yards rushing in the second quarter, which led to a pair of Arizona touchdowns. But again, the Rams made adjustments, holding the Cardinals to only 14 yards in the second half.
This week will represent another challenge to the Rams' rushing defense, which enters this week No. 27, allowing 122.8 yards per game on the ground.
The Eagles enter Week 14 No. 2 in rushing offense, racking up 143.3 yards per game. While the club lost Darren Sproles to a torn ACL and for the season after just three games, Philadelphia has still established a three-pronged attack with running backs LaGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, and rookie Corey Clement.
"[T]hey run the ball really well. We've had that come up several times," defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. "We've had some big plays against us, but it's the same as last week. I mean, they had 18 yards rushing in the second half. So, did we stop the run good enough? Yes, we did to win the game and that's the important thing. We've got to stop the run well enough to win the game. We hadn't been dominating against the run, but we've also not given up many points and that's the No. 1 thing."
A year after leading the league with 18 rushing touchdowns for the Patriots, Blount has been the primary rusher for the Eagles. He currently is No. 1 on the tea with 684 yards rushing, averaging 4.7 yards per attempt. While quarterback Carson Wentz is No. 2 on the team with 283 yards rushing, undrafted rookie Corey Clement is next on the list with 266 yards and actually leads the Eagles with four touchdowns.
But former Dolphin Jay Ajayi has been a clear difference-maker for the team. He's averaging 7.9 yards per carry in his four games in Philadelphia since being acquired from Miami at the trading deadline, with 229 yards on 29 carries.
"Big, powerful guy. Aggressive guy — he's a downhill runner," Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said this week. "Great vision and just adds another element to our run game that gives us a little shot in the arm with him and LeGarrette. LeGarrette's a little bigger back and powerful guy as well, but Jay, as we seen so far can definitely stretch the defense and just his aggressive nature. It's just the way runs. He runs so aggressive, so aggressive that he doesn't shy away from too much contact and obviously has the speed to make some explosive runs there."
"He just brings another explosive running back. We have a handful of them and we're very fortunate about that," Wentz said. "But Jay just brings — he's got some unique cutting ability and some vision that is pretty rare amongst running backs. I think between him and LeGarrette and Corey, those guys – they all kind of bring a different element in the back field and they all do a tremendous job."
Defensive lineman Michael Brockers will be one of the players tasked with slowing down the ground game, and mentioned that L.A. has done a nice job of adjustments to halt opponents throughout the year under Phillips. That's as the Rams have gotten deeper into the season everyone has gotten more familiar with the system.
"At first it was a new defense. Now everyone has been in it enough to know what their job is and I think it's about how people attack this and understanding the way they attack us and how to defeat that," Brockers said. "It's all about the little adjustments. They're not big things, they're little things — find out your gap, hand placement here and there. So, I think that's the good thing about this defense is that we're adjustable but it's not a big adjustment. We're not doing different things. We're doing our same things, just a little tweak."
It's those little things that will certainly be key against a strong Eagles offense that has multiple ways to attack a defense with the run.
So what does L.A. need to do to stop the run?
"We've got to do our jobs," defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. "We had the opportunity to play the New Orleans Saints that had a good duo. So we know what to expect. We've got to go out there and stop the run so we get an opportunity to get after the quarterback."