Last week, I raised the question: Have the St. Louis Rams peaked already?
Well, I think it’s safe to say they haven’t considering the way they manhandled San Diego for most of the 20-17 win. San Diego had entered the game with the leagues best offense and second-ranked defense.
The Rams defense held the Chargers to a season-low 289 total yards. Chris Long earned the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week award for his two tackles, two sacks and two QB hits. It was hands-down his best game of the 2010 campaign.
A .500 record wasn’t something thought to be possible for the Rams this season. They’re 3-1 at home, but are winless on the road. Road games haven’t been friendly to the Rams, having lost both games to teams that combined have equaled them in wins (three). The Bucs have allowed 90 points the past three games, two of which were at home.
Steven Jackson is 32 yards away from becoming the Rams all-time leading rusher. Good thing for Jackson the Bucs have the 31st ranked run defense in the NFL, allowing an average of 157.7 yards a game.
For the Rams to win this game, Jackson probably needs 100 yards more than the 33 it’ll take him to pass Eric Dickerson. Last week against San Diego he had his best game of the season, rushing for 109 yards and scoring one touchdown.
Play-calling has been an issue on both sides of the ball for the Rams this season. Never more evident than the second half of last week’s game against the Chargers. The Rams came out firing, scoring 17 points and recording five sacks in the first half.
The second was a much different story as coach Spags called off the dogs and put everybody in prevent mode. If you want my opinion, the only thing the prevent does is prevent you from winning. I’d love for somebody to directly ask Spags why he changed the game plan after taking a 17-0 lead. Things couldn’t have gotten any better for the Rams at half.
I guess the players aren’t the only ones still learning.
Three Things I’m Watching For
1. The progression of the offensive line in the run game.
One place the injury bug hasn’t bit is the offensive line. The same unit has started all six games at a position that carries a lot of turnover. With that said, the line has yet to have a breakout game. Steven Jackson hasn’t rushed for more than 109 yards in any contest this season. I expect things to change against Tampa and he runs for at least 150 yards and has over 30 touches.
2. James Laurinaitis in pass coverage.
When pass coverage breaks down, the first place Bucs QB Josh Freeman is going to look is over the middle to TE Kellen Winslow.
Winslow may be the best TE the Rams have faced this season. I don’t count Antonio Gates because he was injured and out most of the game. Winslow is a very athletic end who plays more like a wide receiver.
One of the knocks on Laurinaitis heading into the 2010 season was his pass coverage skills. He claims to have worked on it extensively during the offseason. We shall see I guess.
The Rams did a great job steamrolling the Chargers right out of the gate last week. Before they knew what him them the Rams were up 17-0. In the first quarter, Pat Shurmur called only three run plays to 10 pass plays. In the second quarter, nine run and 15 pass. For those of you who aren’t math whizzes that’s a tad bit more than a two to one pass to run ratio. In other words, NOT GOOD.
I would have to imagine the Rams wouldn’t have such a hard time scoring points in the second half if they did a better job establishing the run in the first. A rookie quarterback isn’t always going to be able to shoulder that heavy of a load. The way it stands now, the offense is far to one dimensional.
Through six games the Rams have outscored their opponents 64-56 in the first half and have been outscored 57-39 in the second half.
What that stat tells you is that the coaching staff fails to make the proper strategic adjustments at halftime. Basically, the Rams are being out-coached for half the game.
As for the defense, coach Spags has them in mid-season form ahead of schedule. With their strongest performance of the season coming last week, I expect big things from them against Tampa.
Injuries to Keep Any Eye On
Kevin Dockery: Hamstring
Ron Bartell: Thigh
As you can see, the secondary is a bit banged up. Keep close watch on this because Tampa can only move the ball through the air. The run game is ranked 27th in the NFL.
Fact of the Week
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have sacked the QB an NFL-worst four times.
Think I missed anything? Think the Rams win? Lose?
What are your keys to the game?
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About the Author
Written by Bear Heiser
Hello!!! Thanks for stopping by, I'm Bear Heiser, St. Louis Rams Featured Columnist. Please feel free to comment on anything I write. You can find me on Twitter @ramsreport and @bearconsults. My Rams coverage doesn't stop here. I can also be found covering the Rams on the blog blitz over at NFL.com Still want more Rams???? Rams Featured Columnist at BleacherReport.com Love University of Illinois football? I got you covered. Go to www.prosportsblogging.com , where you'll find me breaking down the Illini, week in and week out. Want more? My personal blog is www.bearconsults.com You can find me covering, Lakers, entertainment and music for ALL CBS Radio websites in Los Angeles. I have been told my passion for sports is an addiction. Now I get paid to be addicted to something I love. Cool right?