Nov 24, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn (94) picks up a ball he stripped from Chicago Bears quarterback Josh McCown (12) and returned it for a 31 yard touchdown during the second half at the Edward Jones Dome. St. Louis defeated Chicago 42-21. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
With all of the coverage of the Ray Rice and, now, Adrian Peterson stories, it is easy to forget that the regular season has started. It might be even easier to forget about the St. Louis Rams taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunady, with both franchises getting embarrassed in their season opener. With a new week comes a new chance to win. However, historically, teams starting off the season with a 0-2 record have not been successful in their attempts to make it into mid-January.
So, what exactly will the St. Louis Rams need to do on Sunday to snag a win from the hands of their former defensive coordinator and newly-crowned head coach of the Buccaneers, Lovie Smith? Well, here are three key matchups that will play a vital role in the final outcome of the game.
Janoris Jenkins vs. Vincent Jackson
While Jenkins likely won’t be tasked with mirroring Jackson on all plays, he will likely handle the brunt of the load, with Trumaine Johnson still recovering on the sideline. Last week, against a pair of mediocre cornerbacks in Carolina, Vincent was held mostly in check, ending the game with only four receptions for 36 yards, with only three total yards after the catch and two dropped passes. Jenkins will need to post a similar performance if the St. Louis Rams want to be sitting at .500 after Week 2.
Rams Defensive Line vs. Josh McCown
In Week 12 of the 2013 regular season, the St. Louis Rams recorded one sack, eight hits, and 20 other defensive pressure, as the Rams routed the Josh McCown-led Chicago Bears. That game was effective “ended” on a sack-strip-recovery-touchdown by Robert Quinn, sparking a dominating run that would land him his first 1st-Team All-Pro invite and earn him the Professional Football Writers of America’s Defensive Player of the Year award. McCown is in a similar situation in Tampa Bay, with questionable talent at the offensive tackle spots. If the Rams can generate anywhere near the pass rush they applied last year, it should put Shaun Hill (or Austin Davis) in excellent position to put enough points on the board to squeak out a win. If not, it won’t take long for Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans to “breakout” of their Week 1 “slumps.”
Zac Stacy vs. Buccaneers Defensive Line
Last week, Stacy was only given 11 carries. This failure to set up the running game allowed the Minnesota Vikings to pin their ears back defensively, generating undo pressure on Austin Davis as his attempted to throw the Rams back into the game last weekend. St. Louis can ill-afford to make that same mistake this week. While normally, establishing the run would be a daunting task for any back, considering the shear amount of talent on the Tampa Bay defensive line, tAMPhe Rams might have lucked out this week, after it was announced that two of the Buccaneers stud defensive ends, Adrian Clayborn and Michael Johnson, will not be on the field Sunday. Hopefully, a combination of elite run blocking from the Rams and a depleted Tampa Bay defensive line will result in a big day for the Rams backfield.