The schedule makers did the St. Louis Rams no favors early in the season. Still looking for their first win, Steve Spagnuolo's team takes on a schizophrenic Baltimore Ravens team that lost an unexpected one on the road last week. Returning home after a putrid performance that gift wrapped a Giants win on Monday night, the Rams desperately need a win to remind the league they are more than just another NFC West team. How can the Rams pull it off today?
It's a simple plan: Beat the Ravens defense. There, hand me my coach/blogger/analyst of the year award. Ok, this being the internet world, we have to take that simple statement and make it way more complex. So, join me after the jump as I break that down a bit more.
Win The Turnover Battle
At this point, not making any turnovers would be enough for the Rams. Last week and against Philadelphia turnovers proved to be the Rams undoing. Both defenses scored a touchdown on turnovers that dug a hole too deep for the offense to climb out through the course of the game. To win that turnover battle, blocking will have to take another step forward. Bradford's fumble in week one was the result of the defense pushing a lineman into him, and both turnovers also had an element of plays gone wrong.
Passing With Balance
Life should be so easy to break things down into deep and short passing. The Rams need a healthy mix of both today. In fact, Bradford's quick thinking dink and dump passing game could be a real asset as they look to beat a Ravens defense capable of getting real pressure. Obviously, they need to run the ball too, but the Ravens are awfully stingy with the rushing yards. Mix in a healthy dose of deep throws, the kind that the Rams have had some success with this season, against a weak cornerback group will give the Rams some yards too. Obviously, the means using Danario Alexander, but don't discount the ability of Brandon Gibson and Mike Sims-Walker. The short quick passes might be the Rams best way of preventing third-and-long situations.
Double Tight End Fantasy
It's not very often that I make a John Lennon-Yoko Ono Double Fantasy reference; it might the first time in history. Both Michael Hoomanawanui and Lance Kendricks are suited up and playing today. Using them liberally would be advisable. The 2-TE system produces results against teams like the Ravens, or if can anyway. If they can use the Kendricks-Hoomanawanui pairing to draw off defenders and get one of the two behind the linebackers, the Rams can pick up some yardage. Matching up those guys with a Ravens cornerback will be very beneficial. No doubt, the Ravens' linebackers make for a tough matchup here; Hoomanawanui's size and hands will be key to winning a few of those battles. Having both on the field could also help keep the linebackers out of the Rams backfield.
The Rams move the ball when they work fast. Keeping their foot on the gas will give some leverage on the Ravens defense.
Defense: Stop Ray Rice
A pretty simple task for the defense, if only it were really as easy as that. The Rams have struggled against the run this year, and Rice looks like the best running back they've faced so far. Ben Leber is healthy, which helps. Shutting down Rice takes away the play action for Flacco and forces him to do more of the work. If the front four can get pressure on him, they'll keep the Rams in this game.