I am having Déjà vu. Upon completion of my research, I have written this preview before. See if any of this sounds familiar. The Rams need to be able to run the ball, or at least threaten the run to have offensive success. Turns out, the Patriots strength on defense is against the run. They are 8th against the run, allowing only 86 yards a game.
The Patriots weakness is pass defense. They are 29th against the pass, but the Rams are not at their best when they are pass happy. Furthermore, the Rams lost their favorite target in the passing game, Danny Amendola.
All of this came from the Miami game. The one key difference between Miami and New England is the passing offense. New England has real weapons and can threaten the Rams defense. Miami could not. However, there is another interesting difference between this preview and the Miami preview. The Rams have grown. I no longer believe the rams have to be able to run the ball to have success. In fact, if necessary, the Rams could become pass happy and have a chance in this game, at least I believe that to be true. That is growth!
I am sure every preview is going to say the same thing. The Rams need to be able to throw the ball to keep up with New England. Sam Bradford needs to prove his value by stepping up in this game and picking apart an obvious weakness, the New England pass defense. I am sure most previews you read will talk about the need to excel in the passing game and the preview will say something about Bradford stepping up. I will disagree for two reasons. First, I don’t like to state the obvious. Secondly, I don’t believe this game will be a referendum on Sam Bradford and the Rams passing offense. For whatever reason, I think Fisher has different thoughts. These are two excellent coaches, so I do not expect them to go with the obvious. Here are my thoughts on what the Rams need to do to win:
1. MORE RICHARDSON
In the Miami game, Richardson ran the ball almost as much as Steven Jackson. People thought we were seeing a passing of the baton. However, Richardson’s role was reduced in the next two games. My conclusion is Fisher ran Richardson so much in Miami because that is what the Rams needed to do to have success running. I see the same scenario here. The Patriots are good against the run because they have a good front seven. Therefore, to have success we need to move the front seven around to create holes. I expect to see much more of Richardson in the game. If true, the Rams will not be pass happy because we also have to use Steven Jackson. He is still our best weapon on offense. I would not be surprised to see 25+ runs in this game. The key fact for fans is those runs will come become we think we can run, not because we need to run. There is a big difference.
2. PASS, PASS AND PASS SOME MORE?
I disagree with the proposition that Sam Bradford has to step up in this game to prove his value. In fact, I think that minimizes Belichick as a coach. Do we not think he sees what we all see? I expect Belichick to do things to ensure Bradford cannot pick apart the defense. With that said, I also expect Fisher to have prepared Sam for such actions. In the end, I see the Rams feeling out the New England defense in the first two quarters. I expect to see more short passes, with an occasional deep throw to get a read on what Belichick is doing. We will then see more aggression and strategy in the 2nd half in the passing game. Once again, if the Rams win this game, I think it will be won in the fourth quarter.
3. I SEE NOTHING
I do not see a real running threat from New England. Therefore, I want the Rams to shut down the run with the front seven only. This will allow the defense to focus on the pass. I want to hold New England to 80 yards rushing or less.
4. SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS
As mentioned above, I do not see Bradford having 250 yards and 3 touchdowns in the first half. Certainly, Brady is capable of such numbers. How do the Rams keep up? I think the Rams need something special from their special teams to win this game. I also think we need to a 2 to 1 advantage in turnovers.
5. THE MIGHTY LONG
I love Robert Quinn. He has proven he is threat to pressure the quarterback on every play. He has also shown new skills in the run defense. He is cutting off the edge and maintaining his responsibilities while still getting pressure. He really is the Mighty Quinn. In this game, we need Long to also step up. The key to stopping Brady has always been pressure. More importantly, the pressure has to come from the front four. Blitzing Brady is suicide. To win this game, we need Quinn and Long getting pressure on Brady. I would not mind a little pressure up the middle also.