After bashing from Brees, Rams' defense regroups for Brady
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) The Los Angeles Rams' defense isn't often embarrassed, and it is rarely humbled.
Its veterans have been one of the NFL's best units for the past few years, and they've been among the best again this season. Even after the past 64:02, they're still ranked ninth in the league in total defense.
And that's remarkable, considering everything that's gone wrong over the past 64:02.
The Rams (4-7) flew to New England on Friday after a week of rededication and recovery from their most humiliating defensive performance in years. Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints dropped 49 points and 555 yards last weekend in Los Angeles' sixth loss in seven games.
''It's going to tell a lot about us this week,'' said cornerback Trumaine Johnson, the Rams' highest-paid player. ''After that game last week, hopefully we go out there and compete. Man, I really don't like going back and talking about it. But everything wasn't working, as a whole defense.''
Combined with the Miami Dolphins' two long touchdown drives in the final minutes to win a game otherwise dominated by Los Angeles' defense two weeks ago, the Rams have given up nine touchdowns and 707 yards on their opponents' last 15 drives.
Johnson realizes that's an inauspicious way to go into another long road trip and a cold-weather game against Tom Brady. The Rams can't change much about their personnel or schemes in such a short time, but Los Angeles is hoping the embarrassment will spark a return to form.
''Sometimes you get a wake-up call,'' defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said. ''We've been pretty dominant for four or five weeks, and all of a sudden, that wakes you up. I haven't had any problem holding their attention in the meetings this week.''
The numbers are grim: New Orleans' 555 yards were the third-most allowed in the 80-year-old franchise's history. It was easily the Rams' worst defensive game under Williams, the third-year coordinator, or head coach Jeff Fisher, who needs a huge finish to avoid his fifth straight losing season. The Saints' 49 points were the most allowed by the Rams since 2002, and one fewer than Los Angeles had given up in its previous four games combined.
The reasons for the problems are varied. Middle linebacker Alec Ogletree acknowledges his defense wasn't lined up properly on several key plays, while Williams alluded to young players making positional mistakes that cost the Rams dearly.
But if the Rams' mental toughness was dented by the failures, they haven't indicated it during the week of practices for the Patriots.
''We definitely were mad about it, and disappointed,'' defensive lineman Aaron Donald said. ''But we know what we've got to do. We've got to eliminate the mistakes, and we've got to play better. That's not the way we play. We know that.''
Johnson and the Rams' secondary realize they've got the most work to do. Including Miami's final two drives, the Rams have yielded nearly 20 percent of all the yards passing they've allowed in the entire season over the past 4 1/2 quarters.
Even without Rob Gronkowski as a target, the Rams understand the challenge they face in their first meeting with the Patriots since Fisher's first season in charge in 2012. Brady passed for 304 yards and four touchdowns that year while New England shredded St. Louis 45-7 in London.
''We've got Tom Brady this week,'' Johnson said. ''We couldn't feel sorry for ourselves. It's another great quarterback we're facing. We expect it to be a challenge.''
NOTES: The defense might not have DE Robert Quinn, who is in the NFL's concussion protocol. He missed practice all week, but is listed as questionable for Sunday. .... Tavon Austin, the Rams receiver and kick returner, is doubtful after missing the week's practices with a chest injury. ... C Tim Barnes (foot), OT Andrew Donnal (hip) and OG Rodger Saffold (hand) practiced on a limited basis Friday.
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