THOUSAND OAKS — Like any good defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips anticipated Tuesday’s attack.
“What’s wrong with the run defense, right?” Phillips deadpanned, moments after he reached the podium to start his weekly news conference. “We’re upset about that, but we’re going to do something about it.”
Phillips, with 40 years of experience in the NFL, knew better than to sugarcoat anything. The Rams were cotton-soft Sunday, when they allowed 229 rushing yards in a loss to Washington. No opponent had run more on the Rams since November 2011, when Arizona put up 268 yards.
“Well, it’s all on coaching, number one,” Phillips said. “If we didn’t play well, it’s me.”
Things were supposed to be different. Phillips arrived in January with a reputation for being a turnaround wizard, and expectations were raised further in the season opener against Indianapolis, when the Rams defense dominated all facets of the game. But was that impressive effort a mirage?
Now the Rams (1-1) must prepare for Thursday’s game against San Francisco, and a 49ers team that shockingly ran for 159 yards against a Seattle defense that typically is stout against the run.
“They’ve got to be licking their chops,” Phillips said of the 49ers.
That’s an old coach being coy. Phillips knows his defense still has a clear edge over the 49ers (0-2), who haven’t scored a touchdown in eight quarters. That’s not to say the Rams should be unconcerned. The errors against Washington, both in preparation and in execution, raised some concerns.
Phillips essentially admitted that he expected Washington to come out throwing, and was surprised at the ground-heavy attack. Coach Sean McVay said Washington broke more runs to the outside than expected.
The Rams’ front seven also was ineffective, particularly in the first half. Even with the return of Aaron Donald, Washington’s offensive line won battles. The Rams improved in the second half, when they allowed 62 rushing yards, but that’s when Washington running back Rob Kelley was out with an injury.
Is chemistry an issue? Several Rams defensive starters missed all of the preseason and most of training camp with injuries. Everything appeared to be fine in the season opener against Indianapolis, when the Rams allowed only 75 yards and forced four turnovers, but the Colts played without their starting quarterback and center and largely looked lost on offense.
Perhaps Washington exposed some things. For instance,…