What the St. Louis Rams Need To Do In Week 7 To Be Victorious
What The St. Louis Rams Need To Do In Week 7
The St. Louis Rams are facing a tough matchup in the Carolina Panthers in Week 7. The Panthers own a 2-3 record, but they have a strong running game, averaging 135.8 yards a game. Teams have been able to abuse the Rams this year using the running game to control the game and move the ball up the field. St. Louis is going to have to perform at a much higher level to shut down the Panthers and earn the win. The re-addition of LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar did not work to slow down Houston Texans RB Arian Foster. St. Louis will have to slow down DeAngelo Williams and Cam Newton in the run game as either can break off a big run at any time.
The two offenses matchup pretty evenly with St. Louis averaging 23.5 points per game and Carolina averaging 21.8 points per game. Carolina has a tendency to lean on their strong run attack (135.8 yards/game), while the Rams have leaned on Sam Bradford most of the year. St. Louis has experienced a surge in the running game since Zac Stacy took over the starting spot in Week 5. This trend must continue for the Rams to win against the Panthers.
Carolina's defense has been on top of its game most of the year giving up 13.6 points per game. Their defense is in the top 10 in points allowed, passing yards allowed and rushing yards allowed per game. The Panthers have shut down opposing team's running backs all season, giving up 88.8 yards per contest. That is the fourth-best average in the NFL this year. Stacy could be in for a tough day if the offensive line fails to open holes. St. Louis will need to control the ball on Sunday and move the chains using a balanced offensive attack.
Zac Stacy Keep Trucking
Zac Stacy has made Rams fans believers in his two starts by powering through tackles. What he lacks in height, he makes up for in strength and unwillingness to go down. The Panthers feature a strong defensive line and a group of linebackers that attack the gaps stopping runs short. Stacy will have to repeat his performance against the Texans where he drives through the line and pushes the opposition back a few extra yards each time. DT Star Lotulelei and MLB Luke Kuechly pose big problems as run stoppers. This will be Stacy's biggest challenge yet. If he proves himself this week against the Panthers' stingy defense, he will make a believer out of more than just St. Louis fans.
Robert Quinn and Company Must Get After Newton
Robert Quinn is proving himself to be an elite pass rusher in the NFL. He has six sacks and four forced fumbles on the year. Quinn can prove to be a difference maker again this week if he can catch Cam Newton and bring him down. The rest of the line will have to pressure Newton all day, but with that pressure, they will run the risk of him taking off. They will have to collapse the pocket around him and prevent him from finding an open lane to run through. Newton has been sacked 16 times this season in five games. The Rams' defensive line can provide the team a spark if they get to Newton and bring him down.
Force DeAngelo Williams Inside
St. Louis has an obvious weakness against backs who can get to the outside and take off. The Rams are going to have to force Williams back to the middle of the field if they have any hope of slowing the Panthers' run game. Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Alec Ogletree had a lot of tackles in Week 6, but too often they let Arian Foster bounce runs to the outside and burn them for 141 yards. If the Rams are going to have any success this week, Dunbar and Ogletree will have to beat Williams to the outside and wrap him up quickly, or else they will be chasing him all day.
Continue Taking Care of the Ball
St. Louis has done a pretty good job of not turning the ball over in 2013. They have a +6 turnover ratio on the young season. Sam Bradford has done his job only throwing three interceptions. One of which bounced off of an unsuspecting Darryl Richardson while under pressure. Bradford is experiencing one of the most efficient stretches of his career over the last two weeks throwing six touchdowns and zero interceptions. If he continues, this trend in the Rams' offense will set themselves up for continued success.
A resurgence of the defense we saw last year made a reappearance and helped the team pull away to a big win last week in Houston. St. Louis forced four turnovers in Houston in the form of two fumbles and two key interceptions in the red zone. One of the fumbles was forced on special teams and returned for a touchdown by rookie LB Darren Bates. Both interceptions took place when the Texans' offense was in a good place to put up points. Instead, Alec Ogletree jumped in front of a pass and ran it back 98 yards for a TD. Then, Janoris Jenkins was hit between the numbers for the second pick of the night. Winning the turnover battle will always give a team a chance to win, so the Rams should strive to keep it going.
Stop Committing Penalties on Punt Returns
Special teams have been a killer for the Rams all season long, especially punt returns. In Week 6, the kickoff coverage provided a real boost forcing a fumble and recovering it for a TD. Greg Zuerlein has been a perfect 9-for-9 on field goals, while Johnny Hekker has been a solid punter. Tavon Austin has been an innocent victim of 12 penalties on his punt returns. It seems like anytime he puts the offense in good position, a penalty has killed the momentum. Good news for Rams fans, the punt return team did not have a single penalty. That could be due to the fact that there were no punt returns to commit a penalty on. In order to give the offense a chance, the Rams are going to have to improve their average starting field position on their own 22-yard-line. Punt returns have been the only opportunity for Austin to have space and use his speed. The penalties have to stop in order for the Rams to succeed.