Wade Phillips' Rams defense dominates Cowboys, Jared Goff

Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is a master at disguising pressure with his outside linebackers and down linemen. Kevin Sullivan/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

IRVINE, Calif. -- Trumaine Johnson jumped a curl route from Robert Woods and came up with an easy red zone interception. Kevin Peterson did the same on the far side of the field. Troy Hill scooped up a tipped ball in the end zone just before it hit the ground. Lamarcus Joyner and Mike Jordan had their chances, too, but dropped them. Jared Goff, the 2016 No. 1 overall pick who needs to take a big step forward in Year 2, threw three interceptions in Monday's practice and should've actually thrown five.

Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay merely called it "a great job by the defense, forcing a lot of turnovers. They did a great job creating pressure."

It's easy to look at it that way, too.

The Rams' defense has been dominant all summer, even while its best player, Aaron Donald, continues to hold out. It was evident against a struggling Goff on Monday and on display for four quarters against the shorthanded Dallas Cowboys on Saturday. The Rams' defense held the Cowboys to nine first downs and 248 net yards in a 13-10 win. They forced three fumbles and delivered eight hits on the quarterback, one of which resulted in a strip-sack. They looked like they had been running Wade Phillips' defensive system for four years, not four months.

"We put in the work," Rams inside linebacker Alec Ogletree said. "When you work really hard, you expect to see results. There wasn't a game plan or anything; we just went out there and called plays, tried to execute them as best as we could. And I felt like we did a really good job of doing that."

Phillips, in his 48th year of coaching, has instantly made defenses significantly better basically every time he has taken over, and he expects no different with the Rams.

Phillips is implementing what is generally referred to as a 3-4 base system, but it still features a one-gap penetrating front, which is what the Rams were used to under former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Phillips is a master at disguising pressure with his outside linebackers and down linemen. He typically lets his inside linebackers roam, puts his defensive backs in man coverage and forces opposing quarterbacks to make throws in tight windows while under duress. It's a system that is difficult for opposing offenses to crack, but simple for his own players to digest.

Rams coach Sean McVay, still learning the nuances of the defensive system himself, said Phillips keeps things "very clear and simple" and that his players "have an understanding and ownership" for their role. The defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs are "tied together," McVay said, and "the calls are very clear and concise," which allows his men to play fast without second-guessing their assignment.

Phillips already has the Rams clicking.

"I feel like everybody's done a great job of studying and pretty much getting everything down, and the coaches have done an incredible job of explaining it to us," said Ogletree, a captain last year. "He was just calling plays [Saturday] on whatever he thought we needed to work on, and we were ready for it."