Only one team (Denver) has sacked the QB more times than the Vikings opponent this week. The Rams 26 sacks trail Denver by just three and are the same amount another perennially good defense – the New England Patriots – has registered on the season. Suffice it to say, the Vikings offense will have its hands full on Sunday in dealing with the Rams pass rush and the pressure packages deployed by head coach Jeff Fisher and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, both notoriously aggressive play callers and very good coaches.
The good news is the Vikings offensive line is continuing to improve and is coming off a game in which it allowed just one sack at Soldier Field, a marked improvement on the road compared to games at San Francisco (5 sacks allowed) and at Denver (7 sacks allowed). There's no doubt the group is developing more synergy now that they have seven games of playing together under their belts. Remember, this is a group that is playing with two new starters with RT Phil Loadholt and C John Sullivan suddenly lost to injury right before the regular season began.
But back to the Rams. If you take a closer look at how the Rams have rushed the passer this season, you'll become even more impressed. Here are a few notes to consider.
A baker's dozen of rushers
There have been 13 different defenders who've registered at least a half-sack, more than any other team in the League. The defensive line leads the way for St. Louis with 19.0 of the team's 26 sacks. DE Robert Quinn leads the team with 5.0 and DT Aaron Donald is right behind him at 4.5. Six other DL have chipped in on the position group's sack total. Secondary players for the Rams have 4.0 sacks, with CB Lamarcus Joyner leading the way, and the LBs have 3.0
Fisher and Williams aren't afraid to come after the QB. Their front four is good enough to generate QB pressure, but they still like to bring LBs and safeties to the party. The Rams have brought 5 rushers on 14 of their 26 sacks this season. The defender who comes most often is S Mark Barron. Although listed as a safety, the Rams are using him more like a LB since LB Alec Ogletree (2.0 sacks) was lost to injury.
3 can still be a crowd
The Rams base defense is a 4-3 front. When healthy, the Rams starting defensive line is comprised of four 1st-round picks. That's a lot of talent coming at an offensive line every snap. But sometimes the Rams elect to put a three-man front on the field. That's the exotic nature of Gregg Williams coming into play. But just because there's one less down lineman doesn't mean the job gets any easier for the offense. The Rams have tallied 12 of their 26 sacks with a three-down front, but the Rams also rushed 5 defenders on 10 of those 12 sacks. All it means when the Rams use a three-down front is that it's more difficult for the QB and offensive line to figure out which second-level and/or third-level defenders are coming once the ball is snapped.
Yes, the Rams are excellent at rushing the passer and they can do it in many different ways. But it's not impossible to slow it down. Both Green Bay and Washington held St. Louis to just two sacks, and both Green Bay and Washington won their games against the Rams. It will take a group effort, according to offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
"To me, again, they've got an excellent scheme but the whole key to their scheme is the personnel," Turner said. "They create individual matchups, one-on-one matchups and they're really good and they're really hard to block. We have to handle it as a group. We have to handle it with the line, with the backs, with the quarterback, with the receivers, everyone has to be on the same page so we execute what we're trying to get done."