Saints' Andrus Peat on Rams D: 'It starts up front'

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METAIRIE, La. -- The Los Angeles Rams defense had their way against the 10th-ranked rushing offense in the Divisional Round.

Anchored by interior defensive linemen Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers, the Rams held Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott to 47 yards rushing on 20 carries en route to a 30-22 win.

Rams coach Sean McVay during a Wednesday teleconference credited his defense, which finished the 2018 season ranked 23rd against the run, for doing an "outstanding job" of maintaining gap integrity and overall tackling.

The Rams will need to replicate the effort in Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the New Orleans Saints, owners of the sixth-best rushing attack in the league. But McVay knows there is a looming test at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram await.

"Any time you got two elite players at the running back spot with Alvin and Ingram, it presents a great challenge," McVay said. "And the different personnel groupings, the way that Coach [Sean] Payton mixes it up, you just know it's a great challenge and there's a reason why they're the [No.] 1 seed and they have the best record in the league, and they're playing at home for the conference championship."

In the Week 9 meeting between the two teams, the Saints ripped off 141 total yards rushing during a 45-35 win. Kamara paced the attack with 82 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 19 carries, adding 34 yards receiving and a touchdown on four catches. Ingram chipped in with 33 yards rushing on nine carries.

Despite the Saints' success in the regular-season meeting, how the Rams shut down Elliott, who led the league in rushing in 2018, has the attention of the Saints' front five.

Starting left guard Andrus Peat said the Rams' defense, which finished the regular season ranked 19th overall in the league, closed out the year with strong performances and it carried into the playoffs.

"It starts up front," Peat said. "Their inside guys -- Donald, Suh and Brockers -- are really talented players. I feel like those guys always do a good job of being physical up front and it's about matching what they do and executing."

Starting right guard Larry Warford agreed on the importance of executing in the trenches, adding he and his fellow offensive linemen will need to stay true to their blocking technique and trust each other against the Rams' defense.

"We know that we can run the ball," Warford said. "We know that it's an extremely important part of the game to keep a defense honest, and that's our whole deal. Our offensive line, we run the ball, so just trust each other and keep it rolling."

Warford further adds having two proven running backs with unique skill sets presents problems of their own against opponents.

"Both Mark and Alvin are great runners," Warford said. "They got their complementary styles, so they can mix it up. It's going to be a challenge, but I think we're up to it."

If the first matchup between two of the NFL's best teams proved anything, one of the keys to the matchup will surround stopping the run and making the opponent a one-dimensional offense.

The formula worked for the Saints after shutting down Todd Gurley in Week 9, but the second time around for New Orleans won't be taken lightly knowing what the Rams' defense did to the Cowboys' rushing game.

"They're a good team, clearly," Ingram said. "They got a good defense, explosive offense, great coach. So, we're going to have to get our game plan together, look at the tape what we had success on, what we didn't have success on and try to prepare to have a good game."

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