Fixing the issue is not complicated. It’s really pretty simple, according to Rams cornerback Marcus Peters.
“We just gotta just go back to fundamentals,” Peters said. “Everybody just do their job and line up and just play our ball.”
Peters was talking about a defense that made short work of opponents’ passing attacks during the first three games but now is longing for a return to form as the Rams prepare for an NFC West home game Sunday against the unbeaten San Francisco 49ers.
Peters was left chasing receivers on both long plays but coaches and teammates said the two-time Pro Bowl selection was not solely responsible.
Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans got behind Peters for the 67-yard pass that was perfectly delivered by quarterback Jameis Winston after a play-action fake. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said his coverage call was to blame, not Peters.
Against the Seahawks, receiver DK Metcalf ran past Peters and caught a 40-yard pass from Russell Wilson after a play-action fake. Safety Eric Weddle said he was to blame, not Peters.
“I got sucked up on run,” Weddle said. “I’ve got to be underneath it, and to buy M.P. time to get there. And I didn’t do that.
“Everyone looks at M.P. It’s like, ‘Nah, it’s I didn’t help him at all.’ It wasn’t his fault. More so mine than anything else.”
Winston mainly stayed in the pocket and torched the Rams for 385 yards passing and four touchdowns. Wilson made plays from the pocket but also was devastating outside of it while passing for 268 yards and four touchdowns.
Now the Rams face 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who has passed for seven touchdowns, with four interceptions, while directing an offense that leads the NFL in rushing.
Garoppolo completed 20 of 29 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns in the 49ers’ 31-3 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Monday night. Garoppolo’s longest completion covered 22 yards, but speedy receiver Marquise Goodwin is an ever-present deep threat.
So the Rams secondary could be tested again.
The Rams traded for Peters, 26, before last season. He is earning a little more than $9 million this season playing on a fifth-year option. The Rams have yet to offer him an extension. Fellow cornerback Aqib Talib, 33, also is in the final year of a contract that pays him $8 million.
Coach Sean McVay said that he and Peters have a “constant dialogue,” that is consistent with his communication with other players.
“I’ve always appreciated and respected the way that he’s been receptive to our conversations,” McVay said, “whether it be good or we are talking about, ‘Hey, let’s do something at a better level.’ ”
Asked how defensive backs can fix what happened the last two games and move forward against the 49ers, Peters noted it was a collective effort.
“I don’t think it’s just as far as the defensive backs,” Peters said. “It’s the defense, period. Just all of us, just harping on it, just how to play better defense overall. How do we get off on third downs. How we can create some more turnovers. And just how we eliminate the big balls.
“The big ball’s the thing that’s been occurring these last few weeks, and just eliminate it.”
The Rams are tied for third to last among 32 teams with a minus-four turnover margin. The defense has seven takeaways: Four interceptions and three fumble recoveries. Quarterback Jared Goff has had seven passes intercepted and the offense has lost four fumbles. The 11 giveaways are tied for the most in the NFL.
“We’ve got to do a better job there,” McVay said, “and then we’ve got to take it away.”
Turnovers typically come “in bunches,” said Weddle, a 12-year veteran. The Rams have no need to panic, he said.
“Sometimes, we’ve been out of position, the last couple weeks, trying to do a little too much on the back end,” he said. “Just as a defense as a whole, we’ve just got to get back to the little things, the details, the communication.”
The Rams would do well to show the type of resiliency that Peters displayed against the Buccaneers. A few minutes after Evans scored on the long touchdown pass play, Peters intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown.
“For us to play this position that I play, and the rest of the group, I mean you got to have short-term memory,” Peters said, emphasizing that mistakes, “can’t affect you and take a toll and effect on your play going forward.
“So it’s got to be the next-play mentality.”
As he crossed the goal line against the Buccaneers, Peters was hit hard in the head by lineman Donovan Smith. No penalty was called but Peters was evaluated for a concussion. Smith was later fined $28,075 by the NFL for unnecessary roughness.
“It looked bad, man, but I mean I don’t blame him,” Peters said. “He was going and finishing the play.”
Peters said that he knows Smith, and that they spoke after the game.
“I’ve been playing the game since I was 5,” he said. “I understand what comes along with the game of football. You just got to be ready to move forward.”