Phillips, Rams look to extend scoreless streak vs. Rivers
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips found a box of doughnuts at his desk on Monday morning as a reward for shutting out Arizona 34-0.
The treats have become a tradition for Phillips when his defense keeps the opposition scoreless, one that has even extended to West Sioux High School in Hawarden, Iowa, as the Falcons let Phillips know on Twitter this week after their varsity and junior varsity teams each recorded shutouts.
Earning another box of doughnuts this week will be a much more difficult task when the Rams host quarterback Philip Rivers and the Chargers on Sunday.
Phillips was the defensive coordinator in San Diego when the Chargers drafted Rivers in 2004. Now in his 14th season starting for the Chargers, Rivers is the same savvy player Phillips remembers working with in the Senior Bowl at the start of the evaluation process.
“You can’t fool him,” Phillips said Thursday. “He’s going to know what you are in, and that’s where he excels over most quarterbacks and makes him an elite quarterback.
“Any kind of blitz you run, he’ll audible to the right protection, all those things. He basically throws to the weakness of the defense on every play. He’s been doing that for a long time and he continues to do that.”
Rivers’ understanding of defenses negates some of the advantage Phillips’ tactical acumen provides and puts more pressure on Rams players to win their one-on-one matchups.
Phillips hopes his defensive front can take advantage of a Chargers offensive line that will be without right tackle Joe Barksdale because of a knee injury, allowing the secondary to keep Rivers, who has completed 73.1 percent of his passes for 680 yards and six touchdowns with one interception, in check.
While the defensive line of Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers have combined for one sack through two games, Phillips is largely pleased with how they are performing.
Phillips said the trio is creating pressure, but Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford and Oakland’s Derek Carr were effective in throwing the ball quickly to prevent sacks.
Phillips is also getting contributions from outside linebackers Samson Ebukam, Dominique Easley and Matt Longacre. Ebukam brought down Bradford for the Rams’ second sack of the season, and Easley drew a holding penalty.
Knowing that Rivers will be more willing to test the Rams with a vertical passing game than their first two opponents, Phillips hopes his pass rush will be able to impose themselves more forcefully.
“He’s like every quarterback that gets a lot of pressure, it’s going to be tougher for him,” Phillips said. “Sometimes those windows are down the field and take some time. If we get in the right defenses where he has to throw down the field and we get some pressure, then it’s an advantage for us.”
The Rams had the edge against Arizona, limiting them to 137 yards and five first downs. The defense has not allowed a point in six consecutive quarters, but Brockers said the streak has not been a factor in their performance.
“We haven’t really focused on the ‘oh man, let’s keep them scoreless,’” Brockers said. “We just going out there to execute. If we execute the calls, coaches feel like they should get anything, and that’s what’s been happening.”
Instead, Phillips believes the quality of Rivers and the Chargers offense has been the best motivation for the Rams this week.
“I think them having such a prolific offense, it’s not as hard to say ‘these guys can really play’ because you can see it on the film,” Phillips said. “That challenge for good players and guys that want to be good players, they want to play against somebody that is a challenge. And this is going to be a huge challenge.”
If it leads to more doughnuts, Phillips will take it.
“They’re hard to come by, those zeros in this league are hard to come by,” Phillips said. “I haven’t had very many in my career, and I’ve had a long career. It’s an accomplishment, no matter who you are playing, to hold somebody to zero in this league.”
NOTES: C John Sullivan (ankle) did not practice, and Brockers (shoulder) was limited. However, coach Sean McVay expects both Sullivan and Brockers to play this week. “It’s more just maintenance with these guys,” McVay said.