Rams' dominant defense focuses on creating more turnovers
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Although the Rams' defense has been largely outstanding this season, Alec Ogletree is still searching for ways to improve while Los Angeles' losing streak stretches on.
The middle linebacker thinks the defense could take a big step forward by forcing more turnovers.
The Rams (3-5) visit the New York Jets (3-6) on Sunday with a four-game skid, endangering their hopes of returning to the playoffs during their homecoming season.
While Los Angeles has a struggling offense, its outstanding defense is currently ranked eighth overall. But the Rams have forced just one turnover during their four-game slide, and they haven't intercepted a pass since Oct. 2 at Arizona.
''We've just got to keep doing what we're doing, but make attempts to get the ball,'' Ogletree said. ''We've had opportunities and haven't made plays. We had a chance for two interceptions last game and just didn't get them.''
The Rams have forced 10 turnovers this season, ranking in the middle of the NFL pack. That's not what Los Angeles expects from a defense that excels against the run and the pass, ranking in the league's top 11 in both categories.
With the combined pressure of the losing streak and the offense's continued struggles, it's no surprise the Rams are ratcheting up their determination to take the ball away this week.
''We have to gear it up and have a sense of urgency when we go after the ball,'' safety T.J. McDonald said.
The Rams say they repeatedly came close to getting turnovers against Carolina last weekend, but came up empty. The Panthers managed just 244 yards despite keeping the ball for more than 34 minutes, but the Rams' offense didn't score until midway through the fourth quarter of a 13-10 loss.
''We had a chance for two interceptions in that game, and we just didn't get them,'' Ogletree said. ''It's frustrating. We have to keep pressing forward.''
The defense's success and the offense's ineptitude could create an awkward dynamic around any team, but the Rams insist that isn't the case. The defense has remained staunchly supportive of an offense ranked 31st in the NFL after its tame effort in the last two games.
''Every time we break it down, we break it down together,'' McDonald said. ''We know that these guys are over there working. We know they're going to turn it around.''
Los Angeles was limited to 10 points in each of the last two games, making it nearly impossible for the defense to win by itself. Quarterback Case Keenum has been unspectacular, while running back Todd Gurley is struggling mightily to replicate his rookie season.
The struggles have led to boos from the Coliseum fans who just got the NFL back in their lives a few months ago.
''Fortunately, I've got a headset on, so I don't hear it,'' offensive coordinator Rob Boras said Wednesday. ''My wife and kids will tell me. No, of course, it's frustrating. I get it, we get it, and I'm not trying to make light of it, and I know it's not something to make light of. It's our job to score points. It's frustrating to all of us.''
The offense's job would be easier with good field position created by fumbles or interceptions, but the Rams haven't been able to get them. Their chances should improve this weekend against the Jets, who have already committed an NFL-worst 19 turnovers this season, including 14 interceptions.
''If we get a couple of turnovers a game defensively, and things are different, those are more opportunities for our offense,'' Los Angeles coach Jeff Fisher said.
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