Dante Fowler Jr.: Rams’ defense ‘really different’ since earlier meeting with Saints

Dante Fowler Jr., remembers the Los Angeles Rams’ 45-35 loss at New Orleans on Nov. 4 for two major reasons.

One, it was the defensive end/outside linebacker’s first game with the Rams after they acquired him from the Jacksonville Jaguars for a third-round draft pick this year and a fifth-rounder in 2020. Two, it was a turning point, of sorts, for the Rams’ defense when it came to addressing its tendency to allow too many of what Fowler called “explosives” (plays of 20 yards or longer).

‘We were going through that phase of just trying to figure out what we need to do to get rid of all those (explosive plays)’

How different is the Saints’ D now as it prepares for Sunday’s NFC Championship Game at New Orleans?

“It’s really different,” Fowler told Bruce Murray and Brady Quinn on the SiriusXM Blitz. “I remember, when I first got here, that was my first week and that game, we just gave up a lot explosives and that’s when we were going through that phase of just trying to figure out what we need to do to get rid of all those explosives, because we felt like that was the thing that was hurting our defense.

‘(Aqib Talib) definitely sets a tone in being our captain that he brings that defense to another level’

“We actually buckled down on in it we settled down and really emphasized that part of handling explosives and it made our defense even better. And, of course, we got Aqib Talib, our Pro Bowl corner back (from injury), with championship experience, he’s going to always help. So he definitely sets a tone in being our captain that he is brings that defense to another level.”

“You’ve just got to be accountable and just be ready for him, doing whatever we can to get to the quarterback as fast as we can. Not even sack him, just to disrupt him.”

If the Rams and their defense are to have more success this time around, they’ll need to minimize Drew Brees’ ability to generate those “explosives.” His ultra-quick decision-making has a major impact on a pass rush.

‘(Drew Brees) has age on him, but he still has those young legs and can still get out of situations’

“Oh, man, it changes a lot,” Fowler said. “Just the intensity of the way you rush. He has age on him, but he still has those young legs and can still get out of situations. … Super hard (to defend), but at the end of the day that’s what’s so special about his game. There’s a lot of great players and he’s definitely one of the greatest to ever play the quarterback position as well, especially going against quarterback that’s been in these moments. I know he’s ready.

“You’ve just got to be accountable and just be ready for him, doing whatever we can to get to the quarterback as fast as we can. Not even sack him, just to disrupt him. Get him off his plant foot for when he throws. Maybe get him on his back foot and things like that. Kind of just get him off his throws, because once he’s on point, nine times out of 10 he’s usually going to make the throws, he’s going to make that play that he needs.”

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