The Los Angeles Rams will host the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday Night Football at SoFi stadium on the back of a six-game losing streak. With just two days of preparation, recently signed quarterback Baker Mayfield could make his debut.
It’s certainly not the matchup that fans were expecting when the schedule was put together. Here are five keys to victory for the Rams on Thursday night.
1. Build on the Offensive Blueprint Against Seattle
For the first time since Week 2, the Rams scored more than 20 points in a game and for the first time since Week 3, the offense had a positive EPA output. To say the least, the offense arguably looked as good as it has at any point this season against Seattle.
The Rams utilized a lot of play action with John Wolford, running it on over 60 percent of their dropbacks. McVay got Wolford on the move on rollouts and bootlegs. This is exactly what the Rams needed to do with Wolford at quarterback.
They added a lot of smoke-and-mirrors stuff on offense which is something that should have been done much earlier in the season.
While they can’t rely solely on bootlegs, they need to continue to use play action and incorporate players like Brandon Powell and TuTu Atwell in the run game. The game plan last week was good. Now they need to build on that.
2. Communicate on the Offensive Line
After starting slow, the Raiders have done a good job rushing the passer over the last few weeks. During their win streak, they’ve gotten to the quarterback 11 times, which included five last week against the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Raiders will likely stunt Maxx Crosby to get him on a more favorable matchup than Rob Havenstein. The Rams offensive line has struggled to manage stunt and twist concepts and a lot of that has to do with breakdowns in communication. For the first time this season, the Rams could start the same offensive line in back-to-back weeks. That should help when it comes to communicating, but will it help enough?
3. Pressure Derek Carr
Derek Carr has a tendency to make mistakes and those mistakes tend to lead to Raiders losses. The Raiders a 3-6 when Carr has a passer rating under 100 and 1-4 when he completes less than 60 percent of his passes.
The Rams must rattle Carr and make him uncomfortable. Despite Aaron Donald being out last week, the Rams got to Geno Smith four times as he was under pressure quite a bit.
The Raiders had a problem protecting Carr earlier in the season, but have started the same offensive line the last three weeks during their win streak. This is a group that has built some momentum.
Michael Hoecht has played well on the edge and Leonard Floyd has played better as of late. Expect Raheem Morris to dial up to designed pressure, but the pressure needs to get home so it doesn’t result in big plays.
4. Contain Josh Jacobs
The Rams run defense has been good all season. They rank fifth against the run in DVOA and number one in run defense EPA. Despite being without Donald and A’Shawn Robinson, they mostly contained the Seattle Seahawks last week.
Jacobs leads the NFL in rushing this season. If the Rams allow him to find success, that only makes things easier for Carr in the passing game. The Raiders are 0-5 this season when Jacobs has been held under 70 yards. Four of those five losses have also been one-score games.
Containing Jacobs will be a test, but the Rams must be able to do it if they have a chance to beat the Raiders.
5. Continue Getting Young Players Involved
TuTu Atwell came a toe-tap and under-throw away from two touchdowns as he had his best game as a Ram. Cam Akers had his best game of the season while Kyren Williams continues to play well on passing downs
However on defense, Russ Yeast continues to get out-snapped by Taylor Rapp and Cobie Durant outsnapped by David Long. Rapp and Long are players that continue to make back-breaking mistakes. Durant played 40 percent of the team’s snaps on Sunday, but he needs to be more involved. The Rams should also be looking to get Robert Rochell involved on defense over Derion Kendrick.
At 3-9, this is a time that the Rams can see what they have in these players. We already know what Rapp and Long bring to the table. Kendrick has seen plenty of time on defense as well. It’s time to change things up. The Rams need to rebuild the secondary, but it’s clear that the current personnel isn’t working.