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Can The Rams Defense Hold Seattle?

The St. Louis Rams coaching staff and head coach Steve Spagnuolo have put a lot of faith in their defense to hold leads late in games by folding the offense into a conservative shell and it has worked a few times and faltered a few times.  Let’s take a look back at the season to see which leads held and why.

Week 1 – HOME v Arizona – The Rams punted to the Cardinals with a 13-10 lead with 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter.  This game is a little bit different than the other defensive collapses because the Rams offense had two frantic drives at the end of the game to try to win that ended in interceptions.  And of course, if Clifton Ryan had not fumbled at the 1 yard line for a touchback, the Rams would have held on and won this game.

Week 2 – AWAY v Oakland – The Rams lead this one 7-3 at halftime and Bruce Gradkowski lead the Raiders for the come from behind victory.  The Rams defense didn’t falter at the end, but instead during the 3rd quarter.

Week 6 – HOME v San Diego – The Rams defense held up thanks to a late blocked FG and a converted Rams FG that pushed the lead to two scores before San Diego got a lightning-quick touchdown drive.  Here lies the key for the Rams.  Get the margin to two scores before sitting on a lead, especially against a high powered offense like San Diego.  The Rams defense held on here because they received help from the offense.

Week 7 AWAY v Tampa Bay – The Rams lead 17-6 at halftime and folded up the tent for the entire 2nd half and the Bucs eventually wore down the Rams defense and got the winning TD with 18 seconds left in the game.  If the Rams had received even 1 field goal in the second half, they would have won this game.  In the 4th quarter, both of the Rams drives were self-destructed by false start penalties and the Bucs wore down the Rams defense with 3 long scoring drives in the second half.

Week 10 AWAY v 49ers – Just when we thought it could not get any more excruciating, the 49ers game happens.  The Rams offense had 4 (four!) different 3 and out possessions in the 4th quarter before the 49ers got the ball on their final drive to take the lead including their first drive of the 4th quarter which started on the 49ers 34 yard line the next possession after Steven Jackson’s dramatic touchdown and resulted in ZERO points.  Once again, 1 field goal on any of those 4 drives wins the game for the Rams.

Week 12 AWAY v Denver – The Rams held a 36-20 lead with 10 minutes left in the quarter and were able to barely hold on to the lead despite the offense going 3 and out three drives in a row.  The Rams had the ball with 9 minutes, 5 minutes and 2 minutes to go and punted on all three occasions.  Credit goes to the defense for finally stiffening in the form of a Chris Long sack and a Chris Long QB hit that ended Denver’s chances.  The Rams defense finally held like Coach Spags wanted them to, but it was much later than we all hoped.

Week 16 HOME v San Francisco – The Rams refused to go for the jugular up 5 points with a long kickoff return to the 12 yard line.  They ran 3 tame running plays and kicked a field goal to keep the game a 1 score game.  Once again, Chris Long proved the coaching staff correct with a gigantic strip sack of Alex Smith to effectively seal the game.  However, once again, the Rams offense did not put the game away after that fumble and San Francisco’s last gasp effort fell way short.  But, an important point to note here, the Rams were able to ADD points in the 4th quarter regardless of the score.

What did we learn from this?  The Rams defense can protect leads, but not without the help of the offense especially away from home.  This will become very clear this week at Seattle.  The Rams cannot and must not go into an offense shell hoping the Rams defense can stop Seattle over and over again at the end of the game when the game is with in 1 score.  The Rams do not need to put the game away, but continually adding points when in the lead helps the defense do their job because it puts more pressure on the opposing offense.  A bunch of other games were not listed here like Carolina or Seattle because the offense was able to score in the 4th quarter to put the game outside of a doubt so the defense could close the deal.

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