St. Louis Rams: 5 Keys to Victory in Houston
5 Keys for St. Louis Rams Victory
Going into last Sunday, the St. Louis Rams new they needed to find a running game to help take pressure off of Sam Bradford and they did just that with RB Zac Stacy. Zac Stacy looked to be a solid option for the Rams against the Jacksonville Jaguars gaining 78 yards on 14 carries. The Houston Texans run defense has not been great this year giving up 126 yards a game on the ground. However, their pass defense has been the best in the league at holding down their opponents passing yards. The Rams are really going to need their run game in this matchup to open up the passing game. If Zac Stacy can't fight for yards, the Rams offense will be in for a long day of watching Bradford get hit by DE J.J. Watt and company.
In addition to keeping the running game going, the Rams will have to shut down Arian Foster all game. Foster can run out of the backfield and be used as a receiver just as well. He has proven himself to be one of the best backs in the league when healthy, so the Rams must always know where he is on the field. Matt Schaub has faced struggles all year and the Houston fan base have turned their backs on him. Schuab will either be out there with something to prove or he will be afraid to force passes in fear of throwing another pick six. St. Louis should look to put as much pressure as they can early to rattle Schaub and prevent DeAndre Hopkins or Andre Johnson (probable) from taking over the game
5. Zac Stacy Must Gain Yards After Contact
Zac Stacy was effective last week picking up 45 yards after contact. This is a key for the Rams as their line has struggled to open up holes early for the running game. If Stacy can continue to bulldoze his way forward, he provides something that Darryl Richardson fails to do when he gets the ball. The Rams will need to get the ground game going to keep the Texans defense honest against Sam Bradford.
4. Sam Bradford: Take Shots Downfield
This is the game where Sam Bradford will have to step up against the top pass defense in the league. He won't be able to nickel and dime the Rams to victory. At some point, he will have to start finding his deep threats in Chris Givens, Brian Quick, Tavon Austin or Jared Cook to find success. The Texans pass defense is tenacious, but Bradford needs to prove he throw the deep ball with zip and accuracy.
3. Janoris Jenkins: Shut Down Hopkins and Johnson
The Rams pass defense has looked lost at times this year giving receivers 10 yards of cushion off the line. Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson will have to play to their potential in order to keep DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Johnson in check all day. Andre Johnson only caught three passes last week and is listed as probable this week. At the end of the day, he is still an elite receiver with great hands and physical ability. Tight End Owen Daniels is out for the foreseeable future making things a bit easier on the Rams defense.
2. Alec Ogletree, No More Arm Tackles
Looking at the stat sheet from last week, you would think rookie Alec Ogletree had a good day. If you watched the game closely, you would have seen him attempt to arm tackle Maurice Jones-Drew several times. Hopefully, he learned his lesson that NFL running backs are not brought down easily. Foster may not be as big as Maurice Jones-Drew, but he makes people miss at a higher rate. I'll be watching for Ogletree to see if he does a better job at wrapping up tackles this Sunday.
1. Get Tavon Austin the Ball in Space
Tavon Austin has not been what the fans in St. Louis expected thus far. He was drafted to be a playmaker for the offense, but he has not picked up many yards after the catch this year due to poor usage. In order to give Austin the space he needs, the Rams need to give him a more varied route tree. Getting him the ball on intermediate routes will keep him from being surrounded by linebackers and allow him to outrun his man. He has looked great on punt returns, but all of his biggest gains have been called back by penalties. If squad can clean up their play on returns, look for Austin to gain more confidence receiving and returning.