Rams vs Lions: 5 Keys to the Game for St. Louis
The Rams are beginning a new era of football: the Jeff Fisher era.
The Rams were favorites to win the NFC West a year ago, but a two-win disaster season rapidly changed everyone's perspective on the team.
They were viewed as an up-and-coming team as recently as 2010, but now, they're generally seen as bottom-feeders, which is not exactly inaccurate.
The Rams will be looking to change their image in 2012, and an upset win over Detroit would be a fantastic start.
But before defeating the Lions can become even a remote possibility, the Rams will have several key things to focus on this week.
Here are the five keys for the Rams in their opening game:
1. Cover Megatron
Calvin Johnson is the best receiver in the NFL by a wide margin, and his freakish ability to make big plays can cripple any defense.
The Rams spent a lot of resources acquiring cornerbacks this offseason, particularly Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins, and they did so in order to stay competitive against teams with top-notch receivers.
If Finnegan and Jenkins can keep Johnson in check, the Lions will be forced to beat the Rams with Titus Young, or worse yet, their non-existent run game.
If the Rams allow Megatron to have a field day, then it's over.
2. Pressure Matthew Stafford
Matthew Stafford is rarely brought up when discussing the elite quarterbacks around the league, but his numbers in 2011 were beyond MVP-worthy.
Do the Rams have a shot at beating Detroit?
Stafford threw for over 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns. Some people like to give Calvin Johnson most of the credit, but a quarterback doesn't put up those kind of numbers merely as a result of excellent support.
Stafford is a very good quarterback and is arguably already one of the best in the league. If the Rams cannot pressure him and keep him rattled, then it will be a long day.
Fortunately for the Rams, Chris Long and Robert Quinn collectively provide more than enough firepower to get the job done.
3. Get Open Downfield
Between Matthew Stafford, Megatron, Titus Young and Brandon Pettigrew, the Lions are going to make some big plays on offense. It's going to happen.
The Rams need to do damage control and make sure those big plays aren't crippling, but they also need to respond with some flashy plays of their own.
Running the ball 50 times and sticking to only short passes will not be enough to outscore the Lions. The Rams need to take a few chances downfield, and the receivers need to come up with clutch plays.
If the Rams can put the Detroit secondary on the back of their heels with some deep balls early on, then the offense will be much more effective throughout the game.
4. Maintain Drives on Offense
The Rams need to be successful with the deep ball, but they also need to be consistent at picking up short yardage when it counts.
The Rams need to keep the ball out of Matthew Stafford's hands, which means they cannot afford to constantly punt the ball away.
They need to convert on 3rd-and-short, and they need to do so throughout the entire game.
With Steven Jackson in the backfield, it shouldn't be too difficult as long as the holes are there, which is why this responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of the offensive line.
5. Create Multiple Turnovers
The key to winning any game in the NFL is to create turnovers, and this game will certainly be no exception.
Sam Bradford was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL at avoiding interceptions last season, averaging one interception just every 59.5 attempts (third-best in the NFL), so there's a good chance the Rams can win the turnover battle if they avoid fumbles and come up with a few picks.
If the Rams want to pull off a Week 1 upset with a victory over Detroit, this is something that almost has to happen.
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