The Los Angeles Rams are set to host the New Orleans Saints in a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship Game in Week 2 of the 2019 NFL season. It is safe to say that the Saints still feel they have a bone to pick with the Rams for its controversial ending.
Rams Offense vs. Saints Defense
Things got off to a slow start for the Rams in the season opener against the Carolina Panthers. Of course, some rust was to be expected considering it was the first time that the starters had seen any real action since the Super Bowl. Fortunately, they were able to get some help from their defense to help kickstart the offense en route to a 30-point outing.
Quarterback Jared Goff struggled to find his footing against Carolina. As a result, Los Angeles opted to rely more heavily on the run than Goff’s arm and it paid off with a big day from running backs Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown. Meanwhile, center Brian Allen and guard Joeseph Noteboom were able to put together solid outings in their first career starts as the offensive line only gave up one sack in Week 1.
The performance by both Allen and Noteboom is certainly an encouraging sign considering they will have their hands full once again this week against a Saints’ team that put an emphasis on shoring up its defensive front this offseason. It certainly paid off after New Orleans managed to sack Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson a whopping six times in the season opener. They will now be at full strength with defensive tackles Mario Edwards Jr. and David Onyemata expected to make their season debuts.
Rams Defense vs. Saints Offense
The Rams defense proved to be the deciding factor against the Panthers thanks to their three takeaways. Linebacker Cory Littleton played an integral role as the central force behind these turnovers with a forced fumble and a crucial interception. Meanwhile, rookie safety Taylor Rapp has already etched out an integral role for himself in this group thanks to his versatile skillset and could continue to see his snaps increase as the season goes on.
Los Angeles faces another tall task with this high-powered Saints offense. Although they may have lost their 1-2 punch in the backfield with the departure of Mark Ingram this offseason, Alvin Kamara has proven to be more than capable of handling workhorse duties.
Wide receiver Michael Thomas will also undoubtedly be looking to break his tie with the Rams’ secondary. He torched them for 12 receptions for 211 yards and a touchdown during the 2018 campaign before being held to just four receptions and 36 yards in the NFC title game. He will likely be seeing a healthy combination of the cornerback trio of Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters and Nickell Robey-Coleman just as he did in their second matchup.
Three Keys To Victory
1. Continue Tempering Timeshare In Backfield
The biggest story on offense during Week 1 was the 1-2 punch they put on display with Brown and Gurley. There had already been plenty of speculation regarding Gurley’s workload this season and the Rams provided an indication of how they plan to handle his touches moving forward.
He tallied just seven total touches through the first three quarters against Carolina. He then capped things off by rushing for 64 yards on eight carries in the fourth quarter alone.
Although it was encouraging to see Gurley capable of turning it on when his number was called, this type of efficiency in the fourth quarter will be difficult to replicate on a weekly basis. Head coach Sean McVay will need to find a more consistent recipe for success if he hopes to continue maximizing Gurley’s touches moving forward.
2. Containing Alvin Kamara
Los Angeles struggled mightily with trying to contain running back Christian McCaffrey as he rattled off 209 yards and two touchdowns on 29 touches. Things will not get any easier with Kamara coming to town.
Like McCaffrey, Kamara is just as dangerous in the passing game as he is in the run game and he is more than capable of putting up similar numbers if the Rams allow him to find his footing early. Littleton and potentially Rapp could be the ones tasked with trying to limit his production.
Kamara rushed for 97 yards on a whopping 7.5 yards per carry while tacking on seven receptions for 72 yards against the Texans.
3. Generate Pressure On Drew Brees
Getting to Brees can be quite difficult given his ability to read the defense and his preference for throwing short passes. The Saints’ offensive line did a tremendous job of protecting him after giving up only one sack against the Texans.
Los Angeles has the NFL’s premier pass-rusher in defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Although Donald was held without a sack in Week 1, his track record suggests that he is poised to scratch in spectacular fashion within the next few weeks.
Even if the Rams are unable to bring Brees down, making him feel uncomfortable in the pocket will go a long way in their efforts to contain this Saints’ offense.
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