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Don’t sleep on the Los Angeles Rams

A Monday Night Football matchup to remember.

NFL: NOV 12 Giants at 49ers Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Having attended so many of these games over the years, this Monday night’s the Los Angeles Rams faceoff against MVP candidate Lamar Jackson-led Baltimore Ravens is a must see event.

If you’re going to the game, as I am, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get there especially if you want to catch the opening kickoff. The freeways going in an out of the city will be super jammed with traffic given the 5:15 start time. For Monday night games in LA before the Rams’ relocation back home, I had to leave three hours before game time and was lucky if I made the opening kick-off. I strongly urge Ram fans to take the Metro to the Coliseum, BUT make sure it will be returning to your location because in some places, like where I live, the Metro stops leaving downtown after 8:30 pm.

Last year after the best football game ever played between the Rams and Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night, the game did not end until after 9:00 pm. I had purchased round trip Metro tickets. Getting there was no problem. The timing was perfect for the opening kick-off, dropping me and my family right in front of the Coliseum. Going back was a mess. By the time I reached Union Station, there were no more trains running to my destination.

Since the Rams beat the Chiefs to get to 10-1 with Super Bowl dreams floating through my head, I wasn’t too upset about paying $100.00 for a taxi to take me home. It could have been worse. All hell would’ve broke loose at Union Station if the Rams had lost. I probably would have spent the night in jail screaming about how lousy public transportation is.

So plan ahead if you’re going. This is a big one.

A solid win last time out

It is well known that my good friend Sean McVay keeps abreast of everything that’s written about the team here at TST. I’m extremely pleased he followed my gameplan for beating the Bears. With the 17-7 win, the Rams are in the hunt and are finally moving in the right direction. Up.

The Rams’ offense needs to build upon their domination of the line of scrimmage. It starts with the running game and RB Todd Gurley. By sticking with the run, QB Jared Goff managed the game well enough and put the team up by 10 points in the key drive late in the 4th quarter with his accuracy.

Goff wasn’t great and his interception in the first quarter was a terrible throw and decision. But the long touchdown pass to WR Josh Reynolds was a thing of beauty. Had it not been for the phony penalty for illegal formation, his stats would look a lot better. The other long pass to WR Cooper Kupp was also a thing of beauty.

The patchwork offensive line didn’t give up a sack, and Gurley excelled for the first time this year. It wasn’t perfection, but given how good the Bears defense is supposed to be, I was impressed.

On the other hand, given how bad the Rams’ offensive line has looked throughout the season thus far, it wasn’t hard to be overly impressed. It was a good first start for that new grouping. This patchwork offensive line needs to build on their success and learn from their mistakes.

Nevertheless, I’m taking some good positive vibes away as a result of their achievements.

The defense once again demonstrated that this is the best part of the team right now led by DT Aaron Donald. The Rams’ future wins and losses are going to come down to the defense holding the opponents to 20 and under and offense improving each week.

Realistically, the Bears aren’t an offensive juggernaut. QB Mitchell Trubisky is terrible. Their kicking drama hasn’t stopped. So with the lack of talent at these very important positions on the team, it wasn’t a surprise that the Rams dominated this game.

The Rams are going to need another stellar performance this week against Lamar Jackson. He’s explosive, both with his legs and arm. There’s no getting around it, the Ravens are really good football team and much better then the Rams are at this point in the season.

In order to beat Baltimore, and for my good friend Sean McVay, here’s the gameplan.

Ready for the upset

There’s a big difference between quarterbacks who run to throw, and those that run to run.

The best example I can give is Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. The modern version of Minnesota Vikings QB Fran Tarkenton.

The scary thing about Wilson is his uncanny ability to make plays with his arm and finding uncovered wide receivers for a long pass down the field once he’s escaped the pocket. He’s most dynamic when he has the option to pass or run at his disposal.

When defending Wilson, you can’t give him lanes or gaps, either inside or outside, to exploit this. He’s deadly accurate, but if he chooses to run he can easily pick up big yardage with his legs. Pass first, run second.

Wilson runs to pass.

The quarterback most resembling Wilson is Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, but he’s not as accurate outside of the pocket as Wilson is. He is however deadly avoiding tacklers in the pocket where he’s crazy insane accurate. As Mahomes acquires more experience, he’ll be just as deadly outside the pocket running to pass.

Then there are the quarterbacks, like Lamar Jackson. They’re runners first. He’s not nearly as good passing the ball outside the pocket as either Wilson or Mahomes, but more dangerous with his legs and speed. Out of the pocket, he runs to run.

The way the game is being played today quarterbacks, like Mahomes, Wilson, Jackson, Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, Houston Texans QB DeShaun Watson and Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray are in vogue.

Pocket passing dropback quarterbacks like Goff, New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, Vikings QB Kirk Cousins and San Francisco 49ers QB Jib Garp still rely on accuracy and timing and are more reliable in the long run. This is because too many bad things can happen when a quarterback chooses to run instead of pass like a getting season ending injury.

Coming into this game, I don’t see Lamar Jackson as a great dropback, pocket passer. When hurried, there’s a lot better chance of an inaccurate pass. If you let him skip outside pocket, things break down for defenses and off he goes.

The key is to keep Jackson in the pocket and make him beat you with his arm. It won’t work all the time, but if you limit the number of big plays Jackson can make with his legs, the damage will not be as bad.

Here’s why I think the Rams will upset the Ravens on Monday night.

The Rams have enormous experience playing against Wilson, a run to pass quarterback. Lamar Jackson is not Russell Wilson.

If you go back and look at how the Rams have defensed Wilson, the times that Wilson has burned them is when they breakdown, allowing him a lane, a small crease to exploit his abilities. But they’ve also been able for the most part to keep the damage to a minimum. As frustrating as it is, they don’t do the one thing you can’t do: chuck the gameplan out of anger and frustration.

For those old enough to remember, I liken this game to the 1989 Divisional Playoff game between the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles were led by then phenom QB Randall Cunningham. The Rams utilized what they called the “Eagle Defense”. They barely rushed hard deciding to stay in their lanes instead, leaving no gaps for Randall to run. The Rams threw caution to the wind with his gameplan and it worked, Cunningham was terrible. He couldn’t complete a pass, and with RB Greg Bell having a HOF game, the Rams upset the Eagles. That win propelled them into the NFC Championship game against the Whiners.

Eagles Head Coach Buddy Ryan after suffering a truly humiliating defeat was asked about the demise of his star quarterback. Being noted for his off color, candor he was frank.

“That was a high school defense.”

He was right. But it worked.

The Rams still have to score to win

The Rams need to build on the win against the Bears by continuing to stress the running game with Just Todd Gurley. The more time you take off the clock, the less chance the Ravens and Jackson have to hurt you.

Converting on third downs will be key. If the Rams can keep this close going into the fourth quarter, then that’s time to let it let loose. Limiting the damage in the first half puts the kind of pressure on Jackson he hasn’t faced often enough in his second year.

Flip the field position. P Johnny Hekker has to have his best game of the year. Get the ball inside the 20. Right now, he’s not having the all pro season Rams fans are used to.

The Ravens aren’t the Bears defensively. They maybe even better since they now have former Ram CB Marcus Peters who has flourished in the Baltimore secondary since the trade.

The Rams need to fight for every yard.

Fight for every possession.

I’m a homer. I admit it. But until the Rams lose, I’m not giving in. I will not surrender. I believe this will be the moment when the 2019 Rams rise to the occasion.

Don’t sleep on this team. Don’t count them out yet.

One game at a time as we inch our way back into the Super Bowl discussion.

Rams on the upset march.