Defensive tackle Aaron Donald burst into the backfield for a career-high-tying four sacks and linebacker Troy Reeder added three more as the Los Angeles Rams dominated the Washington Football Team 30-10 on Sunday at FedEx Field to complete an NFC East sweep in style.
All of the their victories thus far have come against the embattled division, and the travel-weary Rams can rest satisfied after winning two of three games played on the East Coast over the last four weeks.
The Rams improve to 4-1, as first-year coordinator Brandon Staley’s defense begins to hit its stride just in time for division play to begin next Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
“Our defense kept playing well,” said Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who passed for 309 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception, against Washington. “And I think that, again, it can’t be understated how well they’re playing right now. I mean, 10 points. I believe they had, I don’t know what, 120 yards of offense? When the defense does that, it makes it easy for us.”
The defense performed even better than Goff realized.
The Rams held Washington to a season-low 108 total yards, including 38 rushing yards. The defensive backs combined for five pass deflections and the unit limited Washington’s longest play to an 18-yard catch-and-run by running back Antonio Gibson.
The Rams twice sacked starting quarterback Kyle Allen, who exited the game with two minutes remaining in the first half after a helmet-to-helmet collision with cornerback Jalen Ramsey, then sacked Alex Smith six times.
“Unbelievable job by our defense,” Rams coach Sean McVay said.
Through five games, the defense is allowing an average of 18 points per game, the best mark in the NFC and third-best in the NFL through Sunday’s action, behind only the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts.
On Sunday, the Rams’ eight sacks, which also included the first career sack for outside linebacker Jachai Polite, amounted to a single-game high in the McVay era. Defensive lineman Michael Brockers credited the sack party to playing disciplined, assignment football until they stretched the lead.
“Then we can let it loose,” said Brockers, who had six tackles. “It’s all about playing it true up front at the beginning of the game and then once we’re up we can pin our ears back and go get it.”
Donald’s four sacks matched a career high set in Week 7 of 2018 against the 49ers. The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year made his first takedown Sunday look easy when he blew past left guard Wes Martin to wrap up Allen.
“That’s an igniter-type play,” McVay said. “But that’s how Aaron is all the time.”
The 6-foot-1, 280-pound Donald also reintroduced Smith — who was sidelined for 693 days following a gruesome injury on Nov. 18, 2018, that nearly resulted in his leg being amputated — to football by sacking him on Smith’s third play after replacing Allen.
Donald entered the game with 3.5 sacks, while Reeder had yet to record one as a pro despite starting eight games in 2019.
After playing only special teams in the first three games this season, Reeder started Sunday in place of linebacker Micah Kiser, who was inactive because of a groin injury. A former undrafted free agent from Delaware, Reeder smiled when asked about going sack-for-sack with Donald throughout most of the game.
“It’s something that I’ve worked on a little bit more in the offseason. It’s something I didn’t really do a lot in college, I did more and had to do more once I got to the NFL,” said Reeder, who also had a team-high 10 tackles. “But it is funny, you watch guys like Aaron all the time as effective as he is, I mean, it is — you guys really have no idea how impressive it is with all the attention he gets and then go out there and have three or four sacks is pretty unbelievable if you actually watch the games and see how much attention he gets week after week.”
Reeder credited the defensive line and pass rush for flushing the quarterback from the pocket throughout the game.
“As the next guy in there,” Reeder said, “[I] capitalized on it.”