Q. What happened on the blown coverage in the first touchdown to Washington TE Logan Thomas? (Jeff McLane)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Exactly that. It was blown coverage. You’ve known me long enough that I don’t assign blame in the media. That’s a defensive breakdown. All defensive breakdowns go to the defensive coordinator.
They put a lot of layers onto our calls with jet motions, all those different things, which really forced a lot of quick, precise communication. I was really pleased for the most part in the game with how we handled that, with the big exception of that one play.
That was a critical play in the game, third-down-and-three, chance to hold them to a field goal after the offensive turnover, maybe go in with a 17-3 lead at the half. End up giving up that touchdown.
That was one of the handful of plays in this game that we’d really like to have back, whether it’s a dropped interception or miscommunication.
The way those go, you can be 95%, which pretty much any grading sheet is an A, but that one error at a critical time can be the difference between a win or a loss. That’s sort of the edge we had to play with in that game.
Whether it was a third-down-and-eight play, when Snake [LB Nathan Gerry] almost got that ball, the guy was able to fall back for a first down, or fourth-and-one in the red zone where we’re a quarter of a second late triggering and they gained a yard and a half. All those plays made a difference in this game. That’s a play we can’t allow to happen in the future.
Q. With the communication, you did say for the most part it was pretty good. Have you found obviously new faces in the secondary, and the absence of Malcolm Jenkins, has that been an adjustment for you? Has that made it more difficult to make sure the communication has been right? (Jeff McLane)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Malcolm doesn’t play here anymore. We can’t judge anything on how he would have done in those situations. We have our guys this year. You don’t get graded on the curve because you got new guys out there or it’s the first game of the season or anything else.
Like I said, a lot of times you’re pleased. 19 out of 20 on those plays, you’re feeling good. But that one play is the critical play. Red zone play, traditionally over the last four years, we’ve been a really good red zone team. Part of that comes from never making a mistake. We made a mistake on that play, and we’ll learn from it. We paid a dear price for it.
Q. With the injuries at defensive end right now, how much are you going to have to rely on DE Josh Sweat, how ready for that expanded role is he right now? (Dave Zangaro)
JIM SCHWARTZ: You guys saw him in training camp. He’s one of our most improved players. I thought [DE] Vinny [Curry] was playing really well in this game. The combination with those guys, keeping a good rotation, trying to keep all those guys fresh, was working out pretty well.
Sweat was able to come in on some third downs and be fresh, look speedy and explosive. It was a hot game. There were a couple times we were back on the field after one play. It was important to stay fresh in that game.
We have other guys. We’ll see where all those guys get to. It’s only Monday as far as injuries go. We’ll see how those guys go. We’ll see where our guys that missed this last game trend. We’ll have a good plan come Sunday.
Q. You skipped a year last year playing this Rams team. How are they different from what you’ve seen so far compared to when you faced them before? (Jimmy Kempski)
JIM SCHWARTZ: They made some adjustments ’18 after we played them. I thought we did a pretty good job against some of the things they were doing. We borrowed a little bit of stuff that the Lions were doing, some of the stuff we had success with in our Super Bowl year. Patriots laid down some pretty good stuff in the Super Bowl. What the Rams do, just like any good team, they made adjustments to that.
We really didn’t see those things last year, like you referenced. We didn’t play them. So seeing those things now, now we have to take another step. We can’t stay the same just because what we did might have been successful two or three years ago, doesn’t mean it’s going to be successful now.
They took some steps. They expanded their options a little bit more in some of their run and pass game. We’re going to have to make some adjustments based off of that. No different than any team. Probably a little bit more high profile.
Like you said, didn’t play them for a whole year, so it’s probably a little bit more noticeable than if you just had played them four weeks ago or half a season ago.
Q. When you talk about Rams head coach Sean McVay’s offense, a lot of movement. You talked about the communication issues. Do you have to emphasize that more this week? Does that differ when you have a coach like that? (John McMullen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Oh, for sure. I mean, what we saw from Washington was a lot of that kind of stuff. But when you’re talking about the Rams, you’re really talking about the OG team as far as doing that kind of stuff. Again, that’s one of those things: you play perfect nine out of 10 times, that 10th play can be a difference maker.
It’s something we’ve dealt with since that stuff has been around, really going back to Washington in ’16. We started seeing a lot of that stuff with Sean. There’s been some other stuff, wildcat-type stuff, way back in the early 2000s that had some of that similar type motion.
Nothing we haven’t dealt with. It’s just that the number of times they bring it, it just keeps the pressure on the defense. It’s up to us to respond to that. We have to be able to play lights out, mistake-free football.
Q. How helpful both to him and the rest of the corners is CB Nickell Robey-Coleman’s familiarity with their receivers, particularly Rams WR Cooper Kupp? (Paul Domowitch)
JIM SCHWARTZ: That’s a guy they practiced against. I think probably his familiarity sort of goes out the window after training camp because they’re probably working different sides of the equation.
But certainly he knows not just Cooper but [Rams WR Robert] Woods, [Rams WR Josh] Reynolds, all those guys. That information will be helpful. Just little tips on how they like to run a certain route or different things like that.
I wouldn’t make too big a deal of it. But there might be a few things here and there we can pick up from it.
Q. Rams ran the ball 40 times the other day. Do you anticipate that you’re going to face something like that? How did you feel your linebackers played Sunday, how do you feel about that matchup? (Reuben Frank)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Our backers in general, I thought we did a pretty good job against the run last week. I don’t even know what day it is, couple days ago, whatever it is. But we did allow one run to squirt through us for about 20. Again, a little bit like all that other stuff, maybe that didn’t go as noticed because it wasn’t in the red zone.
There was a lot of stuff to try to handle, different running backs flying different directions and everything. Thought those guys did a good job along with our safeties of fitting all that stuff.
I was also happy with our tackling. We talk about the first-time live tackling. For the most part I thought we tackled pretty well in that game. We didn’t miss often. If we did, we had a lot of guys there to clean it up. That sort of showed through in the run game. We lost one on a quarterback scramble for about 20. Those were sort of the plays.
But as a group, I thought they did some good things. Again, that wasn’t an easy opener as far as complexity of scheme and what the offense presents. It’s going to be no different this week.
What was the first part of the question?
Q. Just about the Rams’ running game. (Reuben Frank)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Well, I mean, I think a lot of that just depends on us, if we’re doing a good job… They’re committed to the run, I think they always have been going back with [former Rams RB and current Falcons RB] Todd Gurley. They just leaned on him. They have a different cast of characters now, but it really hasn’t changed their philosophy.
If you don’t stop the run, they’re going to keep on running it. They controlled that game on Sunday with about 150 yards rushing, all those attempts. I think a lot of that is in our hands. They’re going to stay committed, but how committed they are is really going to depend on how well we’re doing against it. If we’re doing a good job on that, and also in conjunction with that not giving up big plays down the field.
It’s easy to sell out on the run, but at what expense? Do you give up big plays down the field as a result? That’s not a good formula either, so we have to balance both of those. If we’re doing a good job stopping the run, I think that can sort of change their opinion of it a little bit.
Q. What have you seen from Rams QB Jared Goff? What have you seen from him now and how he’s grown up since you last faced him? (Kristen Rodgers)
JIM SCHWARTZ: One of the things I’d probably say that really stood out more when we started watching him was his increased mobility. They’re using a lot more bootleg passes. He’s not just easing into those. Sort of in years past he would run the boot, but he was just really sort of buying time to find guys that were open. Now he’s getting up on the boot and he is sprinting full speed, really putting a lot of pressure on the width of your defense.
I think that’s probably the biggest change. He’s an outstanding play-action passer, always has been. That’s been a big thing. He really executes those fakes really well. It makes it difficult on the defense if they’re looking at the wrong thing. They look at him, you’re not going to be able to tell the difference between run, boot and play-action.
I think he has, a little bit like we talked about their scheme taking a step in the last calendar year or so, he certainly added to his game. He’s not afraid to scramble. He’s hard to hit because he’ll just slide and get down. Doesn’t subject himself to a lot of hits.
But his mobility is an added thing that sort of puts pressure on the defense.
Q. Back to the red zone. It was an odd game Sunday in that Washington never drove the length of the field on you, but went three-for-four in the red zone, which is unusual for your defense. What happened? Why was that such a problem? (Les Bowen)
JIM SCHWARTZ: I mean, it was four times we gave up three-for-four. We talked about the one. We have a third-and-three. We make that stop, they’re probably kicking a field goal, probably taking the points. Now you’re talking about 50%.
We had a fourth-and-one opportunity to make. If we make that, which, I mean, we’re close, but close doesn’t make a difference. It’s a binary outcome win or lose. We didn’t win that.
I think you’re right, we have traditionally been a good red zone defense. But just because we have over the last four years doesn’t mean that’s where we are right now. We have some work to do. That’s always been a big goal for us, holding teams to field goal attempts in the red zone. If we can do a better job of that, that will take us a long way this year.
Q. You played a lot of guys on defense on Sunday beyond just the defensive line rotation. Was that a plan going in because of the lack of pre-season, keeping guys fresh, or is that what you expect from the defense moving forward? (Bo Wulf)
JIM SCHWARTZ: We did have one situation where one of our linebackers was cramping on the sideline. We had to go to replacement there. We also had some four linebacker packages. That was more game plan and/or sort of an injury situation that we went to there.
As far as our nickel and dime, we had four different groups in the back end as far as personnel groups with different guys. Whether it was Eppsy [S Marcus Epps] or Strap [CB Cre’Von LeBlanc], whether it was Robey [CB Nickell Robey-Coleman], you saw some different things there. That was more just game plan oriented than trying to keep guys fresh or doing any of that stuff.
Q. Your first time seeing CB Darius Slay in your system. How do you think he did? (Zach Berman)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Probably one play he’d like to have back, that slant, and missed tackle there. When he was in coverage on 17 [Washington WR Terry McLaurin], I think he allowed two completions for about 28 yards or 26 yards. We put a lot of pressure on him. We were probably about, of our 60 some plays in this game, about 50 plays man-to-man, which is not something we’ve done in the past. Most of those plays he was on him. Some of the other completions that McLaurin got were either zone or a different side or something like that.
He matched him most of the game. Got a little bit sort of slow to match on the red zone play he gave that one up on. Wanted to make sure the linebacker was clear underneath of him.
We had that one turnover. Right away I blitzed because I didn’t want the offense to hold the ball long to try to take a shot at the end zone. The other side of that is you blitz and they throw quick, you got to be able to make the tackle. That’s probably the only one I thought — he did some really good things.
We put a lot of pressure on him. All our corners, playing that much man-to-man, put a lot of pressure on those guys. Didn’t give up a lot of big plays down the field, which I thought was encouraging. Doesn’t change the result. Like I said, binary game. You don’t get any bonus points for how one individual played or how one group played. But I was pleased with what he was able to do with some tough duty.
Q. Getting back to Josh Sweat. Where have you seen his biggest strides from rookie year to last year now to this year? (Ed Kracz)
JIM SCHWARTZ: Just consistency of what he’s doing. I think it was regarding Josh that I threw that baseball analogy, the pitcher, the repeatable motion. You guys know I have a lot of baseball analogies. I think that’s right on. Those guys that their motion looks different all the time, they can have a great pitch, then all of a sudden throw four balls, walk the bases loaded. And you just don’t know what you are getting.
I think Josh has really taken that to heart. I think that Coach Burke [run game coordinator/defensive line coach Matt Burke] and Coach Washburn [director of player personnel/senior defensive assistant Jeremiah Washburn] and Coach Ollie [assistant defensive line coach Nathan Ollie] have really emphasized that kind of stuff, that repeatable motion, consistency of their stance, and get-off, those things. It’s really shown through for him.
He’s always had a lot of ability, but like a lot of other players he just needed to refine his game a little bit more. I think he’s going to be a big contributor for us this year.