The Los Angeles Rams have lost three consecutive games and the “no win November” from 2021 has exceeded into 2022. Sitting at 3-6, the Rams have just a seven percent chance to make the postseason. A win against the Saints keeps their slim playoff hopes alive while a loss would almost certainly end their season.
These are two teams in very similar situations. Here are five things that the Rams need to do to get a win against the Saints.
1. Mix it Up On Defense
While the Rams’ soft, match-zone coverage on defense has worked for the most part this season, there are times when they have struggled against the pass. These games have typically come against quarterbacks that don’t mind dinking and dunking their way down the field like a Jimmy Garoppolo or Colt McCoy.
Last week, McCoy completed 70 percent of his passes for 238 yards. The Rams did play tighter in moments in the second half, but by that time, McCoy was already in a rhythm.
On Sunday, Andy Dalton will have no issues taking what’s there. The Rams do need to continue to play off to avoid the big play. Chris Olave has been the best rookie wide receiver this season. He leads all rookies with 19 deep targets and is tied for the lead with six such receptions. Rams need to limit the big play, but they can’t let Dalton get comfortable either.
2. Get Allen Robinson Involved on Offense
With Cooper Kupp potentially out for the season, Allen Robinson now becomes the Rams’ bonafide number one wide receiver. Robinson has been disappointing at times this season, but has four or more receptions in three of his last four games.
While the Rams will likely take a wide receiver by committee approach to replace Kupp, Robinson needs to be the focal point. The Rams signed Robinson in free agency to be a complimentary number two wide receiver opposite of Kupp. With Kupp out, Robinson now needs to step up and be “the guy”.
Van Jefferson could see an uptick in targets, but Robinson will be the Rams’ biggest playmaker among the wide receivers. If he can’t step up in this moment, it’s hard to see a future with him on this team.
3. Communicate on Offense
Even at 3-6, the Superdome is one of the most difficult places in the NFL to play. While the Saints only have three wins this season, two of those wins have come at home. One of these wins came against the Seattle Seahawks in a 39-32 shootout.
The Rams will be starting their 10th offensive line combination in 10 games on Sunday. Communicating protections and audibles are going to be crucial to running a smooth offense. The Rams have struggled at times this season doing this, specifically in games against the San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, and even Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills.
It’s been three years since the Rams last played the Saints on the road. That game was of course the NFC Championship game in 2018. Sean McVay will know what to expect. It’ll be important for him to prepare the offense for the level of crowd noise ahead so that everyone is on the same page.
4. Don’t Deviate From The Run Game
With Kupp out and yet another offensive line combination, getting the run game going is going to be even more important on Sunday. Last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers stuck with the run game and Najee Harris had his best game of the season with 99 yards on 20 carries. Jaylen Warren added nine carries for 37 yards.
The Steelers are far from a good rushing offense this season. The difference is, they have a head coach and play-caller who aren’t afraid to commit to it in order to help their rookie quarterback.
Last week against the Arizona Cardinals, the Rams rushed the ball seven times on the opening drive. McVay called one running play the rest of the first half. That can’t happen on Sunday if the Rams want to turn it around on offense. The Rams have three running backs that all do different things. McVay needs to use that variety of Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson, and Kyren Williams to his advantage.
5. Be Ready For Taysom Hill
With a limited option at quarterback in Dalton, don’t be surprised if the Saints mix it up with Tyson Hill. It should be expected that Hill gets his number called at least five times. In two of the Saints’ three wins this season, Hill has carried the ball at least nine times. He rushed for 112 yards on nine rushes against the Seahawks and then had 61 yards on 10 carries against the Las Vegas Raiders.
It’s going to be important for the Rams to shut this down early. If the Rams can take away the gimmicky stuff in the Saints offense and force them to rely on Dalton, they’ll be in a very good spot. This starts with the defensive backs in the Rams secondary to be willing to come up and make the tackle while also playing disciplined. These are two areas that the Rams have struggled on defense this season.