Excitement is in the air this week for the city of Los Angeles. The Rams are playing host to a wildcard weekend matchup against the Atlanta Falcons. The drastically different kind of playoff-environment and their head coach’s inexperience in the postseason could be noted. The Rams will be okay under those circumstances, but here are a few things L.A. can improve before their very first trip to the playoffs after a drought of 13 seasons:
While incredibly talented on the defensive side of the ball, Los Angeles has been inconsistent against the run all season. Teams have usually given their first looks and set their tempo on the ground against the Rams and it has paid off tremendously. Astronomically huge breakaway runs have continuously scarred this defense. This is something the Rams can’t afford in big-time games like they’re about to be competing in. With Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman playing extremely well, the Rams have their work cut out. In the regular season, Los Angeles has allowed 1959 yards on 417 attempts, which puts them at 28th in the NFL in stopping the run. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ group has been known to make quick adjustments at the half or even after one or two huge runs, but they really need to stop all big runs from happening in a game like Saturday night’s.
Missing the League’s Leading Scorer
The Rams lethal #1 scoring offense has hit its points of leaving 6 points on the field numerous times. Whenever that would happen, the powerful leg of placekicker Greg Zuerlein was always a very sure-fire 3 points on the board. The Pro Bowler will miss the postseason with a season-ending back injury, though. This means the Rams have brought in the kicker out of Penn State, Sam Ficken. It’s been a lot for Ficken to soak in since he’s started his job with the Rams. His very first game with the team, they acquired a win against the Titans that would send them to the postseason.
The young kicker has a lot to live up to, and on his very first PAT with the team, the speculation went from unknown to frightful, as he missed a PAT with a very bad kick that went deep wide right. He went 3 for 4 that day in PATs and also missed a field goal. That isn’t a very good look if you’re covering a shift for the man known as Greg the Leg.
Ficken has since settled down and kicked a perfect game in the loss to San Francisco. He sunk 1 extra point and two field goals from 21 and 23 yards out as a boost of confidence. His play will have to be phenomenal in the postseason, no doubt. The Rams offense will have to put him in good spots to succeed, as well. Coach John “Bones” Fassel will make the right moves in assuring Ficken will be ready for the playoffs. And It’ll certainly be interesting to see if a game comes down to a walk-off field goal.
While the Rams are incredibly lethal and can beat you in numerous ways, head coach Sean McVay can get, for lack of better words, cute when calling his offense. This has stalled multiple forceful drives in their tracks. With all the weapons he has on the offense, it’s easy to see why he wants to spread the ball around. But it all starts with the leading MVP candidate in Todd Gurley. Get Gurley going, and the whole offense will open up for you.
McVay is very meticulous when it comes to his gameplan. He’ll live, fight and even die with his plan that he has rehearsed all week for the game. If that plan tends to go pass heavy, he’ll be dedicated to having Jared Goff sling the ball until the clock hits triple zeroes. McVay has one of the brightest young minds in football right now. He knows what he’s doing, and he keeps the Rams in games like these. In this, his first game being a head coach in the NFL playoffs, it’ll be interesting to see what approach he takes in exposing the Atlanta defense.
Fans are about to witness amazing January football in Los Angeles, and it feels absolutely astonishing. This young team is ready to show everyone under the bright lights of a national broadcast that they are not going to be an easy out. With a Lombardi trophy on their mind, it’s going to be really interesting to see how this team reacts to adversity when facing another team with that same mindset.
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