The Rams showdown with the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday is fast approaching. The second matchup of the season between the two teams, the Rams will be looking for a repeat result after their 33-0 victory in round one. Things are not terrible on the injury front for the young Rams team, but they will be without Robert Woods and Connor Barwin. With a new man under center for the Cardinals than in the first matchup, the Rams are on high alert. In order to come away with a game they should win in Glendale, the Rams will have to do these things:
Defend the middle of the field
When it comes to the Arizona passing attack, they live between the numbers. Between Larry Fitzgerald and Ricky Seals-Jones, Blaine Gabbert loves to hit his guys over the middle of the field. It will be crucial for the Rams to step up and defend the middle third of the field. Tasked with doing so will be Mark Barron, Alec Ogletree, Lamarcus Joyner, and John Johnson III. Barron matches up well with guys working over the middle of the field because of his linebacker positioning and his background as a safety. His coverage skills were shaky early in the season but he has improved greatly to this point.
Joyner and Johnson III are the hard-hitters on the backend for the Rams, making opposing receivers very aware while heading over the middle on crossing routes. Defending Seals-Jones and the middle of the field often go hand-in-hand, and both will be crucial on Sunday. The tight end is the Cardinals go-to guy in the redzone and has three touchdowns on just seven catches.
Run the ball
As mentioned earlier, the Rams won the last matchup with the Cardinals 33-0. After a dominant win like that, the Rams are likely looking to come back and do a lot of the same things. Todd Gurley had a great game in London, rushing for 106 yards on 22 carries. The Rams feature back will look to set the tone early and chew clock late. Gurley has been effective this season at shutting teams down late in the game but was not called upon to do as much against the Saints because of the success the Rams had in the passing game. That will likely not be the case on Sunday, as McVay will likely elect to run the clock away with the ground game, if possible.
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Andrew Whitworth had a dominant game last time the Rams played the Cardinals. Whitworth will look to do the same on Sunday, opening up gaping holes for Gurley to run through. Looking to bounce back from an up-and-down game against the Saints, expect a big game out of Whitworth on Sunday.
Rams prevent big plays
The thing hurting the Rams defense lately is big plays. On Sunday against the Saints, the Rams allowed a 74-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Afterwards, they settled in and played an excellent game on the defensive side of the football. In a game that the Rams SHOULD win they need to avoid allowing big momentum swings towards Arizona. The Rams can do this by not taking big risks and using their fundamentals when tackling. Kamara’s big play was sprung by poor tackling by the Rams linebacking corps, something they can not let happen against Adrian Peterson.
A young Los Angeles team will head to Glendale on Sunday for a game they are expected to win. In order to do so, it will be important that they defend the middle of the field and prevent homerun plays. On the offensive side of the ball, Gurley will be crucial, both in controlling the clock and setting up manageable third downs. If the Rams can do those things effectively, it is hard to imagine a scenario where they do not come away with a win on Sunday.