5 Keys To Victory For St. Louis Rams
Breaking Down The Matchup
The St. Louis Rams put up as strong a fight as they could have in Week 8 against the Seattle Seahawks only to lose on the last play 14-9 one yard from victory. It was one of the first marquee performance of Zac Stacy's rookie year. He decimated the Seahawks defense for 134 yards on 26 carries. Unfortunately for the Rams he was injured on the second to last drive and the game was left in Kellen Clemens' hands. He performed admirably leading the offense down the field, but they couldn't find the right play call as the clock ticked down. It was a close game that St. Louis let slip away in the end.
It is reasonable to believe that St. Louis could repeat the performance letting Stacy control the clock just like in Week 8 when his team won the clock battle by 16 minutes and 18 seconds. The Rams have a chance to hand the Seahawks their second consecutive home loss for the first time since 2011. It's safe to say that the game could mean more to the home team fighting for home-field advantage through the playoffs, but this is a Rams team sniffing success for the first time in a while. A .500 record may not seem like success to most. You have to remember that the Rams could win the same amount of games in two seasons that they won in the previous five seasons (15 wins). Going 8-8 and beating the Seahawks would go a long ways for the Rams' confidence heading into the offseason.
These two teams do a lot of things similarly well. Both can run the ball with the best of them and get after the QB at will. The good news for St. Louis is that Seattle has struggled to run the ball effectively nearly all season. Seattle still boasts one of the most fearsome defenses in the league. It will be a tough game based on punishing the opposing defense with powerful backs on both sides.
5. Robert Quinn: Continue DPOY Campaign
By now everyone should know who Robert Quinn is. The third-year player has set the Rams single season sack record with 18 through 15 games this season. If he isn't the DPOY just because his team couldn't get wins it should be considering a felony. Forcing seven fumbles and eating up QBs like a late night snack has made him a one man show.
In the Week 8 matchup Quinn heckled Russell Wilson with three sacks and constant pressure. Will Quinn have to put up the same stats as Week 8 for the Rams to be successful on Sunday? Probably, as the Rams' pass defense lives and dies with the pressure created by the defensive line. The bad news is that he won't be facing a back up LT this time around. Instead he will be facing one of the best LTs in the league in Russell Okung on Sunday. One question that will have to be answered during the game is whether Seattle will try to let Okung handle Quinn one on one or give him help. As apt as he is at getting to the QB, Quinn will have to pay close attention to Marshawn Lynch and slow him down in time for others to gang tackle the power back.
4. Prevent Marshawn Lynch From Going Into Beast Mode
It has been a tough year for Marshawn Lynch as he has only surpassed the 100-yard mark three times. Even though Seattle has dominated most of their games Lynch really hasn't gone into Beast Mode on many rushes this year. Those three games where he went off for 100+ yards he has also averaged six yards per carry. His season average of 4.2 yards is still a solid number for a back that stays between the tackles on most of his touches.
The Week 8 matchup was one of his worst performances of the seasons and one of, if not the best for the Rams' run defense. In that game he had eight carries for 23 yards. For St. Louis to have the same type of success they will have to hit him in the backfield in order to slow him down early. Once you can get to him early it is up to the rest of the defense to go all hands on deck to bring him down. The linebackers will have to crash hard on the heavy back and the safeties will have to come downhill in a hurry to help out. Lynch has proven it can take a team to drag him to the grass. Letting him get going early could spell an early blowout for the Rams. Once he gets the taste of Skittles he will only want more.
3. Zac Stacy Needs To Repeat His Recent Performances
Zac Stacy has been the Offensive of the MVP of the team by saving the offense from the loss of Sam Bradford and making life relatively easy for Clemens on most days. It has been even more apparent over the last two games as he has carried the ball 61 times for 237 yards. In the Week 8 matchup he was let loose for the first time all season, and it nearly resulted in a Rams victory. Had he been healthy for the last drive who knows what could have happened.
Unless the Rams are getting blown out early Stacy will get his 25-30 rush attempts in this one. The offensive line just has to help him get to the second level of the defense so he can get going full speed. He has shown enough speed to be a threat to break off a long run. The Seahawks are going to be fully aware of him coming into this one so he will have to be tougher than ever in shedding tacklers. If he can get four or more yards per carry then the play action will work and give Clemens more time. It's clear that when Stacy can be effective Clemens has a bit more time and can be efficient. Hopefully the loss of Jake Long doesn't hurt the Rams' line too much in this one.
2. Kellen Clemens Must Be As Efficient As Ever
Kellen Clemens had one of his ugliest performances in Week 8 against the Seahawks. It was understandable for the career backup to experience some issues in his first start of the year against one of the best defenses in the league. He struggled to the tune of 15 completions on 31 attempts with two interceptions and a costly fumble. Clemens has been up and down since, but the last two games have seen him be extremely efficient going 30-for-40 on pass attempts while relying on Zac Stacy to do the majority of the work.
I wouldn't expect Clemens to be that efficient this week. How effective he can be will be a large determinant on the final score of the game. If he tries to force passes down field it would be a vital mistake on his part. Clemens should go into this game just looking to take what they give him. If the underneath man is open get rid of it quick and let the playmakers on the outside do the work.
1. Greg Zuerlein Will Have To Be Legatron
Greg Zuerlein is quickly becoming one of the best young kickers in the game. We saw his raw power last year as he set Rams' records for kicks beyond 50 yards. He will have to be ready to kick from anywhere on Sunday. St. Louis is going to rely on Stacy to move the chains and try to limit Clemens on pass attempts. If they feel they are in Zuerlein's range then I wouldn't expect them to force a pass for a first down. He could up putting up more points than the rest of the team on Sunday if the Seahawks buckle down on defense.