The Rams make their first return to Monday Night Football since 2006 in their week 2 matchup with the New York Giants. Both teams are coming off of week 1 losses, and are dealing with a plethora of injuries.
The Rams are looking to rebound off of a loss at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles, while overcoming injuries to Sam Bradford, Steven Jackson, Bradley Fletcher, C.J. Ah You, and Ron Bartell. Bartell, Ah You, and Jackson will all likely sit this week. The Giants are coming off of a week one loss to the Washington Redskins. They are dealing with their own share of injuries with Prince Amukamara, Travis Beckum, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Hakeem Nicks all hobbled or out.
Against the Eagles, the Rams offensive line looked horrible in pass protection. Their task doesn't get much easier facing a squad that tallied four sacks last week. Although Spagnuolo is no longer the Giants defensive coordinator, their defensive philosphy has not changed much. Despite a schematic shift to Cover Two, the front line simply gets after the quarterback.
They are also solid against the run, yielding only 74 yards on 26 carries to the Redskins, for only 2.9 yards per carry. In many ways, St. Louis looked like the Rams of old, allowing for 236 yards on the ground to the Eagles, albeit 97 were to quarterback Michael Vick. (95 more came on four fourth-quarter runs by LeSean McCoy.) Although both teams are suffering from injuries ot the secondary, if they want to win this game.
As always, there are three things to watch for in this week's matchup:
Someone...anyone...STOP THE RUN!
If the Rams defense is to take the next step this year, they need to stop the run. Last week's stats may be somewhat skewed by the fact that stopping the Eagles ground game is a two headed beast with Michael Vick at quarterback. The Giants have their own one-two punch in Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. In the 2010 season, Bradshaw and Jacobs combined for 2,058 yards and 17 touchdowns.
As noted, the Rams brought in DT Justin Bannan, LBs Brady Poppinga and Ben Leber, and S Quinton Mikell to improve the run defense. To date, I don't believe we've seen whether they have improved or not. This week will provide the first real test.
In the past few years, the Rams have proven to be susceptible to cut back runs, often over-pursuing on plays and not maintaining gap integrity. While the Giants may not run as many cutback runs by design, they are a strong running team. Ahmad Bradshaw has the speed and ability to be successful on stretch runs and tosses, while Brandon Jacobs has the strength to power out yards between the tackles. The Rams will be successful if they can stop the run, gain the lead and force the Giants to pass, keeping this two-headed monster off of the field.
No SJ? No problem!
While he is listed as questionable, it is likely that RB Steven Jackson does not play Monday night. In the past, this would be the end of the Rams season due to the lack of backup running back options. This year, the Rams are still sitting pretty in a Cadillac; Cadillac Williams that is. Against the Eagles, Cadillac Williams accounted for a total of 140 yards combined rushing and receiving. The offensive line did an excellent job at run blocking against the Eagles, and will need to continue that in order to be successful against the Giants.
By establishing the run and being successful at it, the Rams will be able to keep the Giants offense off of the field, while also tiring out the defense. Establishing the run also bodes well for keeping Sam Bradford healthy. It keeps the Giants' defensive ends honest by not allowing them to just pin their ears back and come after Bradford. It also plays to what has so far been a strength of the offensive line, which is the run blocking. The Rams were successful without Steven Jackson last week, and will look for similar success this week.
Bright Lights, Big City
Fans would love to forget the last prime time game that the Rams played in. In case you don't remember, it was week 17 against the Seattle Seahawks, with the playoffs on the line. The Rams lost on a big stage for the world to see.
Will they reprise that performance, or will they forge new memories, establishing a positive image on the grand stage of the new and improved St. Louis Rams.
Not only does the team need to prove they can beat a good opponent on the road, they need to prove they can perform in the spotlight. In the offseason, the team imported numerous veterans that have experience on the big stage. I'm sure part of this was with the hope that the team would be better prepared to deal with the higher stakes. Monday we'll find out how sound that strategy was.
Although I think the Rams offense performs better than during week 1, I think they succumb to a Giants team that is more experienced. The Giants defense makes plays, and forces enough turnovers to do in an up and coming Rams squad.
Giants win 24-21