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Rams-Bucs: Three Keys to the Game

Three major factors in today's game against Tampa Bay loom large.

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Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Three major factors stand out to me this morning looking at the Rams away jaunt to Tampa Bay.

1 - The offensive line has to lead the offense

While it's looking more and more likely that's it's going to be Austin Davis' day at QB, the Rams would be wise to not throw too much on his shoulders early. He'll benefits from a running game that softens up defenses and a simple passing game that can move the chains, eventually leading to some more aggressive passing combinations. The key to unlocking all of that? The line.

They've got to be better in the run game. RB Zac Stacy needs a volume of work to get in rhythm and begin sensing out how a depleted Tampa Bay line is moving in the trenches. Davis will need protection to not have pressure complicating things in the aerial game. Sometimes, football strategy can be simplified. Today's major key for me illustrates that today may be one of those times.

2 - The defense needs to make it easier on the offense

That seems a bit unfair. Last week, the Rams did a fine job in locking down Adrian Peterson. They kept the Vikings under 175 yards through the air. They were carrying the team while the offense floundered. Thing is...they have to do more.

As last week showed, one momentary lapse of discipline (see: Cordarrelle Patterson traipsing through the Rams' defense for a 67-yard TD) can undo 40 or so minutes of top tier work. On top of that, the Rams were unable to force a single turnover out of Minnesota. The good news? Tampa offered up three turnovers last week, including two interceptions from QB Josh McCown. This isn't an infallible offense.

The Rams' defense needs to demonstrate that.

3 - Penalties. Fill in the blanks.

The crew at the Edward Jones Dome might still be cleaning up the laundry off the field...

The Rams finished with 13 penalties last week. The Buccaneers had three. That worries me. Substantially.

This offense isn't dynamic enough to overcome a holding penalty. The defense is dealing with enough responsibility with the offensive deficiencies to have to endure the occasional PI or defensive holding call. The Rams have to clean things up, or in coach speak. "execute." If we match our penalty rate from last week, we're likely in for an execution...

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