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With Broncos Offensive Strengths, Rams Must Play Gap-Sound Run Defense on Sunday

All week, the prominent conversation surrounding the Rams' defense has centered on the unit's ability to stop the run.

Making it clear he was speaking for himself and not necessarily using language the team had discussed, defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh said the club's run defense had been "terrible" over the last couple weeks.

"I think our terrible run defense over the last two weeks is primarily due to our own stuff," Suh said. "Give credit where credit is due — Seattle has great running backs … But at the end of the day, it came down to us not being disciplined, not making the correct plays — especially when you go back and look at the film. And, really, all we have to do is go back to the basics. Tackle, first and foremost, and be where we're supposed to be."


When Suh says "be where we're supposed to be," that's a reference to playing gap-sound football. One of the most important aspects of trying to stop the run is having each defender plug the proper gap. So when the defense lines up, each player must know if he has the gap between the center and guard, the guard and tackle, and so forth.

And if players aren't where they're supposed to be — as in, trying to make a play in the gap between the guard and tackle instead of just staying home between the guard and center — that's when long runs can break off.

That's what the defensive personnel focused on this week when answering questions about the lackluster run defense — which is ranked No. 29 in surrendering 5.0 yards per carry. Sure, everyone wants to make a stop. But defense has to be about all 11 playing the same scheme at the same time.

"Well, that's pretty much with everybody. We just tell them, 'Hey, play the defense called. Don't play 3-4 [defense] on your own,'" coordinator Wade Phillips said "Guys want to make plays. You've got to trust the guys on your team. You've got to trust the calls and trust the guys on your team. If everybody does their job, then you can do yours better. So, that's always been the philosophy in football."

Check out some of the best shots from practice leading up to the Rams' matchup against the Denver Broncos.

"Honestly, I just think everyone has to do their job," safety John Johnson said. "I think a lot of us try to do too much, where we expect a lot out of ourselves. So I think if everyone stays in their gap and just does each individual job, we'll be fine."

"So that's all it is — little mistakes that's going to get fixed, that's fixed now," defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. "So we're itching to get back on that field to show the adjustments we've had and the way we're supposed to play."

And it's paramount for the defense to make those adjustments this week because of the upcoming opponent. Denver is No. 3 in rushing this season with 685 yards on the ground — averaging a league-leading 5.6 yards per attempt. They have two rookies in third-round pick Royce Freeman and the undrafted Phillip Lindsay who have been quite effective through five games. Lindsay actually leads the club with 328 yards rushing on 57 carries — good for an average of 5.8 yards per attempt.

"They have one of the younger backs [Lindsay] that likes to run in-between the tackles, but also can get to the edge very fast," Suh said "Another one [Freeman] that's a little bit similar to what we played last week is very downhill, running tough between the tackles. So we've got our work cut out for us."

"They run the ball. They run the ball hard. They can hurt us if we let them," Donald said. "So that's our main focus is stopping the run. And if we do that, then we'll get after the quarterback. So our main focus is just stopping the run first."