There's not a whole lot for the St. Louis Rams to gain from a Week 14 30-10 blowout loss in Arizona. The best thing for the young Rams to take away from that game is to keep their composure through adversity (specifically, officiating).
There's also no time for St. Louis to lick its wounds; the New Orleans Saints will have 30 of their own on the board if St. Louis starts slow. It's all about momentum for the Rams, and it's imperative that they start fast: The snowball effect could be in full force with this bunch.
St. Louis' average margin of victory this season is 18.6 points.
Its average margin of defeat is 14 points.
With a strong pass rush and an emerging running game, the Rams are built to play with a lead. With exactly one 300-yard passing performance (by Sam Bradford in Week 2) and 15 rushing touchdowns allowed this year, they are decidedly not built to play catch-up.
That's why even the coin toss is important: If New Orleans loses the toss, St. Louis needs to elect to receive. Never mind the strong possibility of Drew Brees leading a touchdown drive at the end of the first half, only to double up after halftime.
Don't get cute. Take the ball and do something with it early. That may be the only chance to do so with the score tied, and it may not matter much if the Rams wait.
New Orleans has allowed two 130-yard rushers this year: Doug Martin and his low center of gravity racked up 144 yards in Week 2, and Chris Ivory brought the wood with him in Week 9 for 139 yards. Zac Stacy has both qualities, possessing a low center of gravity at 5'8", and packing a punch when the opportunity presents itself.
The opportunity often presents itself.
Brian Schottenheimer must be sure to get the rock to his rookie hammer at least 12 times in the first half. That will serve three purposes: challenging the Saints defense with tough running, limiting offensive risk while there is no need to play catch-up and keeping the football out of Brees' hands.
Winning the time of possession battle and preventing big plays—since it doesn't matter how long you hold the ball if your opponent scores every time it touches it—are two major keys to this game.
Addressing the second might require an unconventional, though proven, coverage method: matching a big, physical cornerback against Saints tight end Jimmy Graham. Granted, Graham (6'7", 265 pounds) is bigger than every corner in the NFL, but that didn't stop New England Patriots corner Aqib Talib from shutting him out in Week 6.
St. Louis should see what kind of work Trumaine Johnson and T.J. McDonald can do on that front. Graham's probably going to at least tie the tight end record for touchdowns scored in a season (Rob Gronkowski, 17), but it doesn't have to happen this week.
He now has 14, mostly due to five games of multiple TDs.
Brees has only thrown 38.5 percent of his passes to wide receivers. Even with its defensive back injuries, the Rams defense can afford to man up on Marques Colston and use safety help if Brees goes deep anywhere else. Kenny Stills averages 19.8 yards per catch with four touchdowns, but attracts just 8.1 percent of Brees' attention.
Robert Meachem is averaging 20.7 yards per catch with one score, but gets looked at just five percent of the time. St. Louis wants to make its opponents one-dimensional passing offenses; it has struggled at times to stop the run, and a constantly throwing offense is a good thing for Robert Quinn and Chris Long's sack numbers.
New Orleans has already shown that it will flat-out abandon the run if it isn't working. In their Week 9 loss to the New York Jets, the Saints threw 51 times and ran just 13, averaging 3.2 yards per attempt.
Odds are, Brees will take five shots to Stills and Meachem combined in any given week.
The Rams have to remain cognizant of that. If they don't, the snowball is going to roll the wrong way.
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