Oct 13, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; St. Louis Rams tight end Lance Kendricks (88) is congratulated after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Rams Vs. Carolina Panthers: 3 Keys To The Game


For some reason, the St. Louis Rams blowout victory over the Houston Texans did not seem to resonate with the NFL public-at-large. So, barring the fans in Carolina stealing the spotlight  by booing, the Rams should have an opportunity to demand attention by winning their second consecutive road game over the Panthers on Sunday. To this point, many are framing this matchup as the “Panther’s game to lose,” highlighting their run defense and the Rams’ stagnancy on offense as favorable to the 2-3 squad. However, in this segment, Ramblin’ Fan is going to put on our coaching hat and run through how the Rams should gameplan again the Panthers with our three keys to the game:

1. Continue to pound the football

Prepare yourself Rams Nation, with the mainstream NFL media primed to recite their handful of weekly talking points about the St. Louis Rams. First and foremost, the Panthers will get deemed the 3rd-best run defense in the league this season, based purely on the fact that they have allowed the 3rd-fewest rushing yards this season. What they won’t tell say is that they did allow 103 yards rushing (6.4 average) to C.J. Spiller, allowed 7.4 yards per carry to Andre Ellington, and a 6.2 average on 10 attempts  to Adrian Peterson. Yes, they did “hold” Marshawn Lynch to 43 rushing yards… but, consequently, allowed Russell Wilson to throw  for 320 yards with a 75.8% completion percentage, which just so happens to be the only 300+ yard regular season game in his career.

You will also be hearing that the St. Louis Rams are the 27th ranked rushing offense in the NFL, which, again, is based solely on their total accumulated yards this season. However, over the last two games, the Rams have averaged 121.0 yards per game, which would slot them 11th in the NFL. Moreover, the weakness of the Panthers defense appears to be the run stopping abilities of their defensive ends and outside linebackers. That should bode well for Zac Stacy, who is averaging 4.9 yards per carry (5th among RBs with 30+ carries), 3.0 yards after contact (3rd), and is breaking at least one tackle on 21% of his attempts.


2. Stay with the tight end-heavy sets

The Carolina Panthers, much like the St. Louis Rams, have struggled to maintain any consistency in their deep secondary. Ironically, their new “rock” is ex-Rams’ safety, Quintin Mikell, who has started the last three games for the Panthers. It’s no surprise then that opposing tight ends have made a name for themselves catching the football over the last couple of weeks, including the lone touchdown reception in their loss to Arizona by Jim Dray and allowing 9 catches for 97 yards and a touchdown to Kyle Rudolph last week. The Carolina’ outside linebackers have been equally as deplorable in coverage, with Jon Beason allowing a 100% catch rate and 183 yards in coverage (145 of those coming after the catch), despite playing in only three games this season prior to his trade to the New York Giants. He will be replaced by Chase Blackburn, who has played a grand total of 53 defensive snaps this season, and was ranked 51st out of 53 inside linebackers last season in coverage, while starting for the Giants. Thomas Davis was been more respectable in coverage, as has their middle linebacker, Luke Kueckly… but, then again, those coverage grades have come against the Bills’ (31st), Giants’ (28th), Vikings’ (23rd), Cardinals’ (14th), and Seahawks’ (13th) passing offenses, according to ratings by Pro Football Focus.

Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks are as formidable of a tight end-receiving duo as their is in the NFL right now (38 catches, 440 yards, and 5 touchdowns), and with Cory Harkey seeing more snaps in the offense, there should have more big-bodied pass-catchers than the Panthers can handle.


3. Put pressure on Cam Newton

To put it simply, Cam Newton has not performed well under pressure this season, despite facing only one opponent whose pass rush ranked in the Top 15 this season. To put it less simply, Newton has thrown 3 of his 5 interceptions while under pressure (T-7th most) and been sacked on 24.2% of “pressured dropbacks” (3rd worse). To make matters worse, not a single player on the Carolina offensive line is ranked in the Top 15 at their position in pass blocking efficiency (PBE).

Much like the game against Houston, the St. Louis Rams will need to create turnovers in order to control the game. Luckily, for the first time this season, the Rams secondary will not be facing off against any receiver currently ranked in the Top 30 in the league. In fact, the highest “graded” receiver on the team thus far is Ted Ginn, Jr. (33rd), and only one receiver has broken the 100+ yard barrier this season in any single game (Brandon LaFell against the Vikings last week).

The good news for the defensive line is that, on average, Newton has taken 2.97 seconds from the time of the snap to the time of the throw, which is 7th-slowest in the NFL. Not so coincidentally, 15 of  his 16 sacks have come when holding the football for longer than 2.5 seconds. If the St. Louis Rams can lock down those receivers, Cam Newton could be in for a long day, courtesy of Robert Quinn a.k.a. “Black Lightning” (T-1st in sacks among 4-3 DE), Chris Long a.k.a. “White Thunder” (T-5th), and Michael Brockers a.k.a “Omnious Storm-Cloud of Doom” (T-4th among NT/DT).

*not sure that anyone actually calls Michael Brockers by that nickname, but it seemed fitting

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: Carolina Panthers St. Louis Rams

  • Rob_K

    Jon Beason was traded, so his bad coverage would not be an issue. Quentin Mikell only started the last game because of an injury to Robert Lester, who had the previous two starts.

  • Nathan Kearns

    We are all well aware of the trade, thanks to non-stop coverage of the pathetic New York Giants. The point was not necessarily to highlight his lack of individual success, but, rather, to highlight the overall lack of coverage ability in the Panthers’ linebacker corps and safety spots.

    … and I actually had made an clarifying “edit” about 1 1/2 hours prior to you posting your comment, so might want to check where you are getting your outdated news from.

    Originally, I had planned on leaving Blackburn out of the argument, since he only playing 13 snaps in his “start” last week, and is an obvious downgrade at the position… hence, Carolina playing more nickel against the Vikings than their base “4-3″ defense. However, if that is your only “complaint” with the article, I will take that as a compliment. Thanks for the read and for the comment

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  • Jack in NC

    ….and how could the Panther’s have allowed 103 yards to C.J. Spiller if they haven’t allowed a 100+ yard rusher in 9 straight games??

  • Gary Stewart

    the fun part of being an nfl fan is our ability to use deductive reasoning and at a very basic level to suit our needs, so as a ram fan i say the rams beat the cardinals the cardinals beat the panthers ergo the rams will beat the panthers!! as for the real reasoning i believe our defense is stepping up our rushing attack is getting going and this leads to the play action pass being added to the rams arsenal. and as the article alluded to the stats on their run defense is skewed by who they have played and by the fact that why rush for 5-6 yards at a time when 15-20 yards are so readily available in the passing game. and lastly the panther fans seem to be alot like the southern cal fans when the rams were last there, laid back not making noise when their defense is on the field and it is my hope the rams will have them sitting on their hamds by the 2nd half

    • ahrcshaw

      Simply put Panthers 28 – Rams 17. Have a good day.

  • ahrcshaw

    A lot of words and no substance, I think they call this being a blow hard. Go Panthers! Panthers 28 Rams 17.

    • Nathan Kearns

      Good one? I truly appreciate your input into the discussion, enjoy that 2-3 record… soon to be 2-4

      • ahrcshaw

        Sorry, I should not have used the words “blow hard”, I should have said “wishful thinking”. This game on paper is as even as you can get it. Both teams sputter on “O” both team excel on “D”. The game could go 28 – 17 Rams or Panthers. That said, even though I am a Panther fan, all the plus’s are on the Panthers side. 1) Home field, 2) Cam is on the up swing, 3) Panthers “D” is better overall, 4) I will be pulling for the Panthers so they will win. Have a good day.

        • Nathan Kearns

          Fair points. I’d agree with you on some of those statements, but only to an extent…

          1) Home field it typically an advantage, but it hasn’t really been for the Panthers. In fact, they are 4-6 at home since last season

          2) Cam may be on a one-game up “up swing,” but Sam Bradford has thrown 6 TDs, no INT, and has two victories in the last two games. On the season, Bradford is significantly better in every statistical, and non-statistical, category, aside from rushing yards.

          3) For the sake of argument, I might give the Panthers’ D the edge right now, although they have a massive hole at WLB and at both S spots. Luckily, the matchup isn’t Rams D vs. Panthers D, it is Rams D vs. Panthers O. Cam Newton’s worst nightmare is a defense that can get pressure on the quarterback and create turnovers. Rams have 7 sacks, 4 ints, 3 fumble recoveries, and 2 pick-6s in just the last two games. Good luck there…

          4) Can’t argue against that! haha

          • ahrcshaw

            You make a good argument, but the Panthers are going to crush the Rams tomorrow. Go Panthers.

          • Nathan Kearns

            Can’t be upset with a man strong in his convictions. Good luck, sir

          • ahrcshaw

            It is not my nature to hit a man when he is down, but in jest I will, “I told you the Panthers would win”. For two teams that are looking for identity and consistency this was a telling game. I hate that Bradford got hurt, Mike Mitchell is not a player that wants to hurt people, he plays fast and hard. I know these teams have a grudge against each other, but at some point I would hope players will figure out personal battles do not help a team, they need to control their temper and the actions as there is no, (NO) excuse for fighting in a football game. If they want to fight they should take up boxing. Good luck and Go Panthers.

          • Nathan Kearns

            Appreciate it. Good luck this season

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