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5 keys to victory: Can Kyren Williams lead Rams to important win over Saints?

The Rams will be leaning on Kyren Williams on Thursday Night against Saints

Los Angeles Rams v New Orleans Saints Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

It doesn’t seem like that long ago that Cam Akers rushed for 171 yards for the Los Angeles Rams in a game on Thursday Night Football. Back in 2020, Akers did it against the New England Patriots. This week, the Rams will be looking to get the same out of Kyren Williams against the New Orleans Saints. Here are five keys to victory.

1. Lean on Kyren Williams in the Run Game

The Saints rank just 24th in run defense DVOA for the season, but are eighth in run defense EPA and sixth in success rate. However, over the last five weeks they are 27th in run defense EPA. In the last three games they are allowing 135.3 rushing yards per game which ranks 26th. This could be a big Kyren Williams game.

Williams is coming off of back-to-back 100 yard games and has five in nine starts this season. McVay has done a good job of leaning on his running back to help get the offense into a rhythm. Everything is working together and the result has been one of the best units in the NFL. There should be plenty of room on the ground for Williams to find success.

2. Pressure Derek Carr into Mistakes

Carr has typically been one of the better quarterbacks under pressure. However, that has not translated since he’s been in New Orleans. When under pressure, Carr has a passer rating of just 63.7 which ranks 17th out of 26 qualifying quarterbacks. He has one touchdown to two interceptions. When Carr has time, he has the arm and ability to hurt a defense. However, when he’s under pressure, he can be forced into mistakes.

Last season, the Rams defense held Carr to 11-of-20 for 137 yards and two interceptions. In that game, Los Angeles had 15 pressures on Carr and he was just 2-for-7 when under pressure. It will be interesting to see if Rams go out with a similar gameplan on defense against Carr. Don’t be surprised to see Raheem Morris send Ernest Jones has on a blitz often in this game.

3. Win in the Red Zone

The Rams red zone defense has mostly been good this season as they rank 12th in touchdown percentage inside the 20. With that said, there have been stretches where they have struggled. The Pittsburgh Steelers had a bad red zone offense, but went 3-for-3 in the red zone against the Rams. Prior to that, the Dallas Cowboys had a lot of success in the red zone. It’s no secret that the Rams play a bend, but don’t break style of defense. The key here is not to break. The Saints have scored touchdowns on 90 percent of their red zone trips over the last three weeks. Morris needs to have the defense ready to be locked in when the Saints offense enters the red zone.

Offensively, the Rams haven’t struggled in the red zone, but they’ll be looking to improve from last week. The Saints rank sixth in red zone defense over the last three weeks and are 13th for the season. Meanwhile, the Rams rank just outside the top 10 at 11 in touchdown percentage in the red zone.

4. Contain Kamara

While the Rams need to stay disciplined on the backend and be sure not to get beat deep by Chris Olave or Rashid Shaheed, the Saints offense runs through Kamara. Kamara is not only a threat as a runner, but may be even more dangerous in the passing game. He ranks first in receptions among running backs and third in yards.

The Saints will move Kamara around and line him up as a receiver in the slot and get him involved in the screen game. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Saints try to get their running back some favorable matchups on Michael Hoecht or on a safety. Morris is going to need to put a plan together that mitigates the damage done by Kamara. The Rams defense needs to be able to make the initial tackle. Kamara has a similar skillset to Christian McCaffrey who Los Angeles has struggled to cover and tackle in the past.

5. Don’t Try to Do Too Much

There’s no denying that there is a lot on the line on Thursday. If the Rams win, they set themselves up very well for a playoff spot as they would hold tiebreakers over the Saints and Seahawks. A loss, however, would move their playoff chances to single digits. How does this young Rams team handle that pressure on a short week is one of the biggest questions heading into this game.

The Rams have answered the bell and played well since coming off of their bye week. This will be just their second primetime game this season. It’s going to be important for the young players to continue playing within themselves and not try to force things. That’s when mistakes happen. This is big game, but the Rams need to treat it like any other game and just keeping playing how they have been. If this team can perform at the level that they have over the past month, there’s no reason they shouldn’t win.