6 Keys To a St. Louis Rams Win
6 Keys To A St. Louis Rams Victory
The St. Louis Rams are riding a wave of momentum stemming from their back-to-back blowout wins. St. Louis has won their last two games by a total of 50 points. This is the first time since the early 2000s that the Rams have looked truly dangerous on offense. One thing that should be pointed out is that the Rams receivers still have a lot of room to grow.
St. Louis has a lot to prove in this Week 4 rematch against the San Francisco 49ers. Week 4 was a another poor showing for the Rams' run defense as Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter ran for 212 yards and two touchdowns. San Francisco flat out dominated the entire game controlling the ball for nearly 32 minutes and outgaining Rams' offense 370 yards to 188. You have to remember that this was a point in the season where Zac Stacy hadn't really seen the field and Tavon Austin was struggling to find big plays. With Stacy's health questionable for Sunday the Rams' offense looks to be in trouble again.
The Rams will have to be creative on offense and defense to keep the 49ers off their game. But the Rams are coming in fully confident in themselves while the 49ers are lacking consistency this season. Colin Kaepernick has experienced a sophomore slump this year thanks to teams being prepared for the read-option. Still, St. Louis will have to step up to the daunting task ahead.
6. Fixing The Run Defense
St. Louis' run defense has looked better over the last two games, but that seems to be a result of blowout wins where the opposing team was forced to pass in an attempt to catch up. Jo-Lonn Dunbar's return was supposed to improve the Rams on the defensive side of the ball. In reality, their defense has improved greatly over the last four games by taking nearly 12 points off of their defensive points per game average.
Frank Gore cut through the Rams' defense for 153 yards and one touchdown in Week 4. He averaged 7.7 yards per carry during his decimation of the defense. Backup Kendall Hunter joined in on the fun rushing for 59 yards on 11 carries and added a touchdown of his own. St. Louis has to prove they can stop the duo of backs if they hope to stand a chance.
5. Slowing Down Anquan Boldin
In Week 4 Anquan Boldin was targeted seven times and ended the game with five catches for 90 yards and a touchdown. His physical style of play proved to be way too much for any of the Rams corners to handle. Boldin is among the best at using his strength and body to push off defenders and get space. The defense will have to find a way to keep him in check on short comebacks and out routes. He exposed the Rams' soft zone coverage and exploited a lack of physicality on the outside.
With Michael Crabtree making his return this week it becomes an even more difficult task for a Rams defense that could be missing their No. 2 corner in Trumaine Johnson. The Rams are going to be shorthanded in the secondary this week with Johnson on the mend from a concussion and Cortland Finnegan being placed on the IR. Kaepernick has been struggling to find consistency passing after a breakout season.
The Rams have been forcing turnovers at a high rate this season thanks to Robert Quinn's ability to make a sack-fumble combination. With the imposing threat of the Rams' pass rush Kaepernick could feel the heat and force passes into an aggressive defense.
4. Establish The Run Early and Often
With the health of Zac Stacy being in question the Rams are in a potentially dangerous situation. Benny "Bam Bam" Cunningham has been performing at a high level in recent weeks while serving the backup role behind Stacy. His 109 yards on 13 carries last week were a good sign of his abilities. Cunningham will be the starter if Stacy can't go, and that is a good reason to worry. He still provides good power and quickness for a team that has to have a powerful north and south runner. The RB situation will only get worse if untrusted Isaiah Pead is pushed into action.
3. Protecting Kellen Clemens
The Rams' offensive line will have to be in top form to provide the backs with space to run and more importantly to protect Kellen Clemens. Clemens has been active in avoiding pass rushes since taking over at QB. His accuracy is a bit of a question completing just 52 percent of his attempts. Even though he isn't the most accurate he is taking shots downfield that have created big plays for Austin and Jared Cook. His ability to keep a play alive should be another teaching point for the injured Sam Bradford who acted like more of a statue at times. While Clemens' play may not always be pretty it is fun to watch and has been effective. If the line can help keep him upright the Rams could use big plays to upset the 49ers.
2. Special Teams Continue Improvements
The special teams play marred the season early with penalties. If it weren't for those penalties Austin would have another punt return TD and his average yards per return would be significantly larger. The penalty flags have stopped littering the field and Austin is reaping the benefits. However, teams are going to be less likely to give him a chance at returning punts.
Rams punter Johnny Hekker has been performing at an All-Pro level this season. His 43.7 net yards per punt are among the top level in the league, and he is giving the gunners a chance to stop returners early. Greg Zuerlein had better be prepared for a busy day kicking field goals as the 49ers' defense can stop offenses in the red zone.
St. Louis' special teams performance will have a lot to do with the team's overall success as it will decided where the start drives offensively and defensively. If they fail to get a few big returns or allow the 49ers to play on a short field it could spell trouble against the run heavy attack.
1. Keep Up the Trickery
The first half of the season was extremely disappointing while watching Tavon Austin struggle to be a game changing receiver. Brian Schottenheimer was struggling to find ways to get him the ball in space for him to even have a chance at a big play. The Rams offense has opened up since Clemens took over as signal caller. Whether it was the result of St. Louis not believing in Clemens and knowing they would have to get the ball to playmakers or just realizing that what they were doing wasn't working is beyond me. Thankfully, Schottenheimer has become more creative and is giving Austin the ball in all types of situations. His use of Austin has resulted in three offensive touchdowns of 50 yards or more over the last two games. The reverse end around was a genius play call against an over-aggressive defense that put him in a spot to break off a 65-yard run. If St. Louis has anymore tricks up their sleeve they will be needed against this stingy defense.