St. Louis Rams’ Game Plan Against The New Orleans Saints
Breaking Down The Matchup
The last time the St. Louis Rams and New Orleans Saints met up was in 2011 when the Rams "beat the brakes off of them" according to Drew Brees. St. Louis controlled the game from start to finish ending the game with a 31-21 victory while intercepting Brees twice. Brees has been intercepted twice in each of his five matchups against the Rams, and that bodes well for a Rams pass defense that has been struggling all season long.
New Orleans has dominated at home all season long, but they have struggled to a 3-3 record while on the road. They are only scoring 18.8 points per game while on the road and are giving up 22.5 points per game. Part of their struggle has been due to Brees and the rest of the offense not getting off to great starts like they do at home where they average around 30 points per contest. He has thrown five of his eight interceptions on the season away from home. The Saints have allowed opposing teams to score first when they are on the road. If the Rams can put up points early and hand the ball off to Zac Stacy as much as possible they could escape with another upset of Brees and company.
More good news for the Rams is that Robert Quinn has logged eight of his 13 sacks while at the Edward Jones Dome. It is going to be a tough task for St. Louis to upend the Saints and pull off a victory, but the combination of the Saints' struggles on the road and the Rams' potential to get an early start make for an interesting matchup for teams headed to opposite fates this season.
Control The Clock
The Rams' best hope is to turn the ball over to Zac Stacy and let him pound the Saints' defense into a worn-down pulp. The offensive line has been shaky over the past two weeks, but if there were ever a time for them to act as a fluid unit this is it. Even though Stacy can always pick up yards after contact he needs some space to break off some big runs and keep Brees off the field.
Stacy has been held under 93 yards in each of the last four games. That is an important number for the rookie back to reach this week and the two weeks after in order for him to reach 1,000 yards. At 721 yards on the season Stacy is 279 yards short with three games remaining on the schedule. The Saints are giving up 114 yards a game, but they have held opposing backs to under 100 yards during the last five weeks. The defensive unit is improving for the Saints under the guy who was supposed to be the Rams' next defensive coordinator in Rob Ryan.
Control The Receivers At The Line Of Scrimmage
The soft zone coverage will have to stop in St. Louis. Having a physical asset like Trumaine Johnson sit back 10 yards off of the line of scrimmage takes away from his talent. At some point the defensive philosophy has to change or the defense will never improve. Giving up 250 yards per game through the air is not a good way to pull out victories in the NFL. With Drew Brees coming into town averaging 302 yards per game on the season it could be a long day of chasing Jimmy Graham and the Saints' sky scraper tall receivers.
The injury bug has struck the Rams heavily the last few weeks with Janoris Jenkins missing practice this week and being questionable for Sunday. St. Louis comes in with a weak, injury riddled secondary against a superb passing defense. The Rams need to man up and jam the receivers on the line to disrupt the timing of the offense and to give the defensive line time to get after Brees in the backfield.
Tavon Austin Has To Do Something Special
This only applies if the Rams' explosive rookie can get on the field Sunday. After being seen in a walking boot this week it looks doubtful that Tavon Austin will be able to lace 'em up. It might be wishful thinking, but St. Louis needs its top and maybe only big play producer. His ability to break off 50-yard runs, catches, and returns provides a spark to the Rams' offense. After the last two weeks St. Louis needs him to be healthy with the ball in his hands as much as possible. Failure to get Austin at least five touches will be problematic for the offense.
Get The Lead Early And Step On The Gas
New Orleans has failed to score first while on the road this season. St. Louis has shown the ability to control the game if they have a lead, but it is the failure to get a lead that's been the issue. If they can strike early the Rams have to control the ball with Stacy and Benny Cunningham in order to limit the Saints' elite pass rushers.
The Rams have pretty much won big or lost bigger this season. Last week was an abysmal display in all phases of the game for the Rams. If they hope to prevent the same sort of showing against the Saints getting the lead early and keeping Brees off of the field will make a world of difference. If Carson Palmer can carve the secondary up like a turkey on Thanksgiving what can Drew Brees do? Making the Saints one-dimensional will make it easier for the Rams' defense to prepare on each drive, but it is still a Drew Brees led offense. Taking a step off of the gas will lead to a guaranteed loss.
The Rams' Receivers Have To Help Kellen Clemens
Kellen Clemens was hammered to the ground repeatedly last week when he suffered four sacks, a safety, and two interceptions. All of the blame cannot be placed upon the veteran backup. The Rams' offensive line has been battling injuries and were flat out destroyed by the opposing defensive line. Without Zac Stacy doing damage on the ground the game was put into Clemens' hands behind what was a porous offensive line.
Chris Givens has looked lost for much of the season dropping passes and failing to make the big play happen. The step back he has taken is killing the offense this season. Without the extra threat of Givens being a home run hitter defenses can focus more on Jared Cook and Tavon Austin. Brian Quick has failed to develop at the rate expected from the 33rd overall pick in last year's draft. Many expected Quick to break out this season after a full offseason to learn the playbook and develop his route-running. Well, sadly he has made many simple mistakes and drops, but he is improved slightly from last year.
Stedman Bailey has been the Rams' best receiver over the last two weeks. He is proving to be a well spent late round pick with soft hands and a good drive. He fights for yards when he gets the ball and has hung onto everything thrown his way. Hopefully, Jeff Fisher and Brian Schottenheimer recognize what they potentially have in the young receiver and put him to use right away.