Rams vs. Dolphins: 10 Keys to the Game for St. Louis

Steven Gerwel@Steve_GerContributor IIIOctober 11, 2012

ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 4:  Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams passes against the Arizona Cardinals at the Edward Jones Dome on October 4, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The St. Louis Rams (3-2) have obtained a winning record for the first time since November 5, 2006. 

The Rams are now a winning team, which is apparently so shocking that it sent Kevin Demoff (Rams Chief Operating Officer) to the emergency room the very next day:

I guess fainting the day after going over .500 isn't exactly acting like you've been there before.

— Kevin Demoff (@kdemoff) October 5, 2012

Now, the only question is whether or not the current excitement is the high point of the season, or if the Rams will be able to maintain their winning record until Week 17. 

Outside of their two games against San Francisco, the last three games featured the toughest defenses the Rams will see all season—Chicago, Seattle and Arizona are all top-10 defenses (Arizona was top-10 entering the game against St. Louis, but it is now 11th overall). 

The Rams went 2-1 against those three teams, which is a positive sign moving forward. 

However, just because they exited two tough divisional games unscathed doesn't mean they won't struggle down the road. 

For starters, the team lost Danny Amendola to a shoulder injury during the game against Arizona, and his absence could be hard to overcome.  

At the time of the injury, Amendola was top-five in receiving yards and was tied for second in the NFL in receptions (32). And according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via Twitter), it could be a while before he returns:

No surgery needed, and depending on how quickly Amendola heals, he will return in anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks. The Rams have a bye in there.

— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) October 6, 2012

If the team can overcome Amendola's injury, as well as the injuries to the offensive line, then there's a good chance that Jeff Fisher can keep the team focused and ready for the playoff hunt. 

A good start would be winning a tough road game against the Miami Dolphins (2-3), who have been better than advertised in 2012. 

If the Rams want to exit Miami with a 4-2 record and their first road victory of the season, here are 10 things they must accomplish.


1. Get Into a Rhythm Through the Air

The Miami Dolphins currently have the top run defense in the NFL (61.4 yards per game), but one thing their defense hasn't been able to do is stop the pass. 

The Dolphins are 27th in the NFL in pass defense (281.8 yards per game). 

In five games, they've allowed three 300-yard passers (two of them ended up winning the game). And Andy Dalton, who had the worst statistical game against them, still threw for 234 yards and a touchdown. 

It's important that the Rams expose Miami's weak secondary by finding a rhythm early on and sticking to it. 


2. Buy an Extra Second in Pass Blocking

This isn't exactly a revolutionary observation, since this is something we hope for every week with the Rams' poor offensive line, but it's particularly important this week.

With Danny Amendola on the sidelines, Sam Bradford doesn't have his short-yardage option, which means he'll have to look to his outside receivers more often. 

In order to get the ball to the outside and down the field, the line will have to play at a high level and buy Bradford extra time. If they can't accomplish this, then expect plenty of sacks. 


3. Establish an Early Lead

This is important for several key reasons. 

If the Rams take an early lead, it will not only silence the rowdy away crowd, but it will allow the defensive line to get more aggressive and go after the quarterback, which is exactly what happened against Kevin Kolb and the Cardinals a week ago. 

Also, an early lead allows the offense to work without feeling the pressure, and we know how easily the Rams offense can crumble under pressure. 


4. Make Ryan Tannehill Suffer

So far, the Rams have been able to defeat both of the rookie quarterbacks they've faced this season—Robert Griffin III (Washington Redskins) and Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks). 

And just like with Griffin and Wilson, the Rams will need to rattle Ryan Tannehill by playing an extremely physical game. 

If sack artists Chris Long and Robert Quinn get going early on, it will force Tannehill into making plenty of rookie mistakes. 


5. Take Away the Hartline Option 

Out of nowhere, fourth-year veteran Brian Hartline is leading the NFL in receiving yards (514), which he has accomplished thanks to a dominant 253-yard performance against Arizona. 

With 29 receptions on the season, he is clearly Ryan Tannehill's favorite target, which means the Rams must shut him down. 

If Hartline is covered like a blanket all game, it will force Tannehill to go through his reads, something rookies historically struggle with. 


6. Contain Reggie Bush

This is pretty self-explanatory. 

Reggie Bush already has 513 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns this season. 

Wide receiver Brian Hartline has been getting most of the attention recently, but Bush remains the premier playmaker on offense for Miami. 

If the Rams can stop the run, it will force Tannehill to single-handedly win the game while constantly facing third-and-long. 


7. Create Turnovers

Turnovers are always a key component to winning games in the NFL, and it's something the Rams have done well this season. 

The Rams are tied for third in the NFL with eight interceptions, but they've only recovered one fumble this season (last in the NFL). 

But it doesn't really matter how it happens; the Rams need to create turnovers no matter what. 


8. Cross the 50

With Danny Amendola on the sidelines, it looks like Greg Zuerlein will once against be forced to bail out the offense. 

All the offense has to do is cross the 50-yard line, and Legatron will take care of the rest. 


9. Get Finnegan in Incognito's Face

As Rams fans know all too well, Miami offensive guard Richie Incognito has a temper that nears psychopathic proportions. 

In the past, Incognito has single-handedly lost games for the Rams with his raging temper—resulting in unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. 

Maybe after all these years, Incognito can finally pay back one of the wins he owes the Rams. 

If Cortland Finnegan can just run his mouth while Miami is on a game-winning drive at the end of the fourth quarter, Incognito should take care of the rest. 


10. Get Sam to Play Like a Ram 

The Rams have faced top-10 defenses the last three weeks, which is a reasonable excuse for Sam Bradford's pedestrian numbers recently. 

But now that the Rams are finally playing an average defense, it's time for the excuses to go away. 

Bradford needs to have a big game. We need to see the command in the huddle that he displayed against Washington, and he needs to find untouchable rhythm with his receivers. 

With Danny Amendola out, it's time for Bradford to step up and play like a franchise quarterback. 


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