Don’t look now, but the great defense that supposedly has become a trademark of the vastly improved NFC West is suddenly showing some disturbing cracks on three of the teams in the division.
Let’s start with the Rams, who laid an industrial-sized egg across the pond, getting their behinds handed to them in embarrassing fashion by Tom Brady, who was like a man — literally — against boys, considering the Rams’ youthful makeup.
My sources in St. Louis tell me the team was pretty befuddled over its complete ineptitude against the Pats, particularly the lack of any kind of a pass rush from DEs Chris Long and Robert Quinn, the young cornerstones that were totally dominated by the Patriots offensive line.
Rams rookie CB Janoris Jenkins, meanwhile, continues to mix good plays with really bad ones, and he was really, really bad defending against ex-Ram Brandon Lloyd (two TD catches) and lately appears to have regressed pretty significantly.
Then we have the Cardinals, who continue to look more and more like dead men walking, except for Daryl Washington, who may be the real NFL Defensive MVP in the making (eight sacks — which is unheard of for an inside 'backer — and a zillion tackles) instead of either J.J. Watt or Clay Matthews. But even Washington had problems filling gaps vs. the Niners last Monday night, as Ray Horton’s defense has suddenly become pretty ordinary, giving up all kinds of yardage up the middle, much of it coming on yards after catch by opposing receivers.
Former first-rounder Patrick Peterson, meanwhile, showed just how much he remains a work in progress as a cornerback by getting torched all night by Michael Crabtree (Peterson hasn’t done squat as a returner, either, really).
Finally, it appears an updated prognosis on the Seahawks’ “D” is in order, with one extremely major flaw — failing on third-down situations — starting to take its toll. The Lions converted 12-of-16 third downs in their win over Seattle last Sunday. While the Seahawks' defense remains strong against the run, its supposedly excellent back seven has also become increasingly vulnerable up the middle.
Here’s a factoid worth noting: Opposing teams have converted 43.9 percent of their third downs against the Seahawks. Compounding the problem is the fact the offense is converting only 32.7 percent of its third downs.
Interestingly, as is the case with the Rams, it appears the Seahawks aren’t quite sure how to remedy the problem. Not having Jason Jones last Sunday, an unsung force in the interior D-line who opens up pass-rush opportunities for DEs Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin, might be one reason Seattle’s "D" looked out of sorts in the Motor City.
Whatever the case, this is not a team capable of being 8-0, like Pete Carroll foolishly said earlier this week. Truth be told, they are just as capable of being a 0-8 team, with one of the smallest margins for error in the league.
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