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Notebook 10/31: Run Defense Looks to Build Upon Success

Posted Oct 31, 2013

Perhaps more than most teams in the league, the Rams have faced more than their share of high-quality backs through the season’s first eight weeks.

Early on, it was former Ram Steven Jackson in Week 2, to Dallas’ DeMarco Murray, to San Francisco’s Frank Gore and Houston’s Arian Foster. The St. Louis run defense yielded mixed results against those backs, though found their legs against what may have been their stiffest test yet—Seattle and what was then the league’s second-ranked rushing offense, led by RB Marshawn Lynch.

With that success still fresh in mind, the Rams look to build upon it, while not dwelling on one strong week. They will receive another difficult challenge this week in Tennessee’s Chris Johnson, who is seeking his sixth consecutive 1,000-yard season to begin his career.

“We’re not where we need to be yet,” LB James Laurinaitis said. “We’re making progress, but you have to do that week-in and week-out. I think we put too much of that consistent stuff out there early in the season to say we can expect this every week. We’ve made progress for a couple weeks, but you don’t want to be a flash in the pan. This is a running back this Sunday that, if you screw up your gaps, that’s going to be touchdowns.”

Laurinaitis has first-hand experience with Johnson’s ability. In the last meeting between the two teams, in Nashville in 2009, Johnson piled up 117 yards on 28 carries with two touchdowns. He also caught one touchdown pass that day. Laurinaitis was in his rookie season, and Johnson’s day still hasn’t been forgotten.

“He had two long touchdowns, a long run and a swing pass. If you give him huge lanes, he’s going to hit his head on the goal post faster than you can turn around.”

As a unit, however, the strides the Rams made against Lynch and company have certainly given reason to be encouraged. The Seahawks’ 44 yards on the ground were the second fewest the Rams have allowed this year, surpassed only by the 36 yards they held the Jackson-led Falcons in Week 2. For defensive coordinator Tim Walton, last week was the type of performance the defensive unit had been looking forward to.

“I think we can (replicate it). If guys go out and play with the same energy, play with the same focus. They’re playing together, playing physical, playing as a group, and if we continue to do that we can play well.”

Injury Report:

Rams:

G Harvey Dahl (knee), S Darian Stewart (foot), QB Brady Quinn (hip), CB Brandon McGee (illness) and Robert Quinn (illness) did not practice. RB Daryl Richardson (foot) was limited. T Jake Long (knee), RB Zac Stacy (foot), C Scott Wells (thigh), WR Austin Pettis (thigh) QB Kellen Clemens (right shoulder) and RB Benny Cunningham (ankle) practiced fully on Thursday.

Titans:

LB Moise Fokou (knee), S Michael Griffin (quadriceps) and DE Kamerion Wimbley (not injury related) did not practice Thursday. T David Stewart (shoulder) was limited. DT Jurrell Casey (ankle), LB Patrick Bailey (hamstring), DE Derrick Morgan (shoulder), DE Ripati Pitoitua (calf) and WR Dustin Hunter (finger) practiced fully on Thursday.

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