Lost in the shuffle of St. Louis baseball Cardinals pursuing their eleventh World Series title in 2011 is the fact that our beleaguered St. Louis Rams (0-6) have a game to play against the New Orleans Saints (5-2). The Saints are coming off of a 62-7 demolishing of the Indianapolis Colts. In that game, the Saints set franchise records in points scored and margin of victory.
The Saints have been an absolute force this year on offense. They are currently ranked second in total yards per game, first in points per game, and second in first downs per game. Quarterback Drew Brees is on pace to surpass Dan Marino's record for total passing yardage in a season. The scary thing about last week's victory over the Colts is that Head Coach Sean Payton wasn't even calling plays as he usually does, due to an injury he sustained the prior week on the sideline. First round running back Mark Ingram is not expected to play due to a heel injury, but it's not like the Saints rely on the running game anyway.
The Rams are coming off of another loss (how many times have we heard that?) to the Dallas Cowboys, a 34-7 drubbing that featured the Rams allowing rookie DeMarco Murray to rush for 253 yards. In total, the Rams allowed 294 yards on the ground, and 8.6 yards per rush. In essence, the Cowboys didn't even need to pass the ball. Rams running back Steven Jackson was able to gut out a tough 70 yards against the #1 ranked run defense, and Feeley added 196 yards passing, connecting with new Ram receiver Brandon Lloyd for 74. The one, and possibly only positifve to take from the game was that the Rams only allowed one sack to the Cowboys. This was due to Feeley often getting the ball out quickly after a 3 step drop. Look for Feeley to be behind center once again as quarterback Sam Bradford is out once again due to a high ankle sprain. Jason Smith will probably be inactive as he recovers from head injuries, and chances are receiver Danario Alexander will sit this game out as well.
As always, there are three things to watch for in this week's matchup.
Keep an Eye on Jimmy
Tight end Jimmy Graham leads all tight ends in the NFL with 674 receiving yards, and is tied for the lead in touchdown receptions with five. His 45 receptions are good enough for second among wide receivers and tight ends combined. The scary thing about these numbers is that for years now the Rams have struggled to cover tight ends. Graham is arguably the best tight end in the league this year, and appears to have taken over as the top target for Drew Brees. At 6 ft. 6 inches, and 260 lbs., Graham is a huge target for Drew Brees, and often he comes down with the ball. If the Rams are going to be competitive Sunday, they must find a way to at least slow Graham down, primarily in the red zone.
Get Rid of the Ball
One positive to having Feeley at quarterback is that throughout his career he has been known as a west coast type quarterback. Yes, yes, I know we don't runthat system anymore, but allow me to explain. The west coast offensive system is predicated upon quick drop backs and getting rid of the ball. This is part of the reason why Feeley was only sacked one time last week. He often took three steps then threw the ball. He must continue to do this against a Gregg Williams defense that loves to blitz.
The Saints bring blitzes from all different directions. The Saints have five combined sacks in their last two meetings with the Rams, both wins. Of those five sacks, one is from a blitzing linebacker, and one from a blitzing safety. To date this season, the Rams have not been able to adequately protect the quarterback on longer drop-backs. This is complicated by the fact that this week the starting right tackle will not be playing. Feeley needs to continue doing what he did last week in getting the ball out of his hands quickly in order to neutralize the Saints pass rush.
Follow the Example
Stating the obvious, the Rams have simply not been very good this year. My suggestion to the members of the team would be to look at their baseball counterparts, the St. Louis Cardinals. Before their miraculous run to the World Series, the Cardinals were 10.5 games out of the wild card race. They never gave up, and made the playoffs on the last day of the season. In the first series they faced arguable the best team in baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies. They never gave up, and beat them. They never gave up in the next series and beat the Brewers to make the World Series. As well all saw, Thursday the Cardinals were one strike away from losing the World Series, on two occasions. They never gave up, and are now the World Champions. THere's a reoccuring theme there.
The Rams need to pay attention to that theme ... never give up. If you don't give up, good things can happen. In past games, it has seemed like as soon as things start to go bad, the team folds. If they do that this week, the Saints might end up putting up record numbers for the second week straight.
This is the last week that the Cardinals success can make St. Louisans see past the Rams' failures.
Rams 10 Saints 35