Balzer: The 3 things the Rams must do Thursday night to win
By Howard Balzer for KSDK Sports
Sometimes it can be a good thing for a team to play another game quickly after a particularly poor performance. That's certainly what coach Jeff Fisher hopes is the case this week as the Rams prepare to play the San Francisco ***** Thursday night, just four days after being outclassed in all phases by the Dallas Cowboys.
Said Fisher, "You know, we have a philosophy here in the building and we're gonna follow that philosophy as far as how we go about correcting things on short weeks, on long weeks, on bye weeks, and things like that. And that's our business, OK? I've been doing this a long time and we're gonna get it done and we're gonna have their focus on the *****."
We'll find out quickly if that's the case, and quickly is the operative word. That's because, as we focus on the three things the Rams have to do to beat the ***** (or simply make it a competitive game), the first one is ...
1. Get off to a good start. While third-down efficiency is a much-talked about statistic, manageable third downs are paramount. That makes first-down yardage often more important than what happens on third down.
On their first seven first-down plays against Dallas, the Rams totaled 23 yards, and one was a 14-yard pass from Sam Bradford to Isaiah Pead that was their only first down in the first half. On their other six first-down plays, the total yards gained was nine. Five runs netted five yards and one other pass gained four. That led to being 0-for-6 on third down in the first half, with the average yards to go at 7.3 and the shortest was six.
Conversely, the Cowboys gashed the Rams with their running game on first down as DeMarco Murray ran for 85 yards on eight first-down plays in the first quarter. Three of those runs gained a total of 64 yards. The ***** are expected to try and establish the run with Frank Gore, and the Rams will have to stop that from happening.
2. Run the ball effectively, and not just on first down. Daryl Richardson has been bothered by a foot injury since the season opener, but the Rams' brass insisted throughout the offseason that a committee approach could get the job done. That's the main reason Steven Jackson left. If the committee isn't good enough, the ground game will struggle.
Defenses don't respect the running game now, and that makes it more difficult to pass. Chase Reynolds is taking a game-day spot from Zac Stacy because of his play on special teams, but it seems the Rams need all hands on deck for the running game. Opposing defensive coordinators aren't losing sleep over the prospect of facing Richardson, Pead and Benny Cunningham. In three games, the team's longest run from scrimmage is 11 yards, not including Bradford's 23-yard scamper against Atlanta.
3. Play big-man football. In two games against the ***** last season, the Rams matched San Francisco's physical play. Against the Cowboys, it appeared as if the team knew in the back of their mind that there was another game in four days. While the quick turn-around is difficult (just look at the last two Thursday night games in the league), the ***** have to travel after being spanked by Indianapolis.
There will be extra days to recover after Thursday, so the Rams will have to take their game to another level, starting with the offensive and defensive lines. If those units allow themselves to be pushed around, it will be a long night in the dome.