The Rams are winless through the first two weeks of the season, and they could be without their three-time Pro Bowl running back and top wide receiver today because of injuries, but don't go thinking this afternoon's game will be a walk in the park for the Ravens.
St. Louis has a talented young quarterback, a very aggressive defense with under-the-radar playmakers at all three levels, and a smart coaching staff which will get the most out of the guys that do suit up today.
With deep receiving threat Lee Evans out with an ankle injury, the Ravens will need to get a bounce-back game from quarterback Joe Flacco and a stronger performance out of their running game, and on the other side of the ball, they'll have to hope their secondary can respond after a sub-par effort last week against Tennessee.
Here are three keys to today's game from the Ravens' perspective:
No-huddle, no problem
The Rams love to put pressure on opposing defenses by running a no-huddle, and when it works, it can give teams fits. If St. Louis can find a rhythm in that offense, they can wear down defensive linemen, limit the pass rush, and make it so a defense can't make substitutions and get the proper personnel on the field. The Ravens can disrupt the Rams' no-huddle by forcing incomplete passes, and putting quarterback Sam Bradford in third-and-long situations. Under those circumstances, the Rams will need to huddle, giving the Ravens a breather and a chance to get their sub packages on the field.
Move those chains
Against Tennessee last week, the Ravens converted just 3-of-10 third downs, which not only led to a lot of short drives and few points, but subsequently put more pressure on their own defense. On six of those 10 third down situations, the Ravens needed to gain seven-plus yards to move the chains, and only once all game did they face a third-and-short (three yards or fewer). Clearly, Baltimore needs to improve on third downs, but they need to do a better job of picking up positive yardage on first and second down, putting themselves in third-and-manageable situations. This can be accomplished by...
Pound the ground
This offseason, the Ravens made it clear they wanted to restore their power running game. They signed right guard Marshal Yanda to a five-year, $32 million deal, and gave bruising fullback Vonta Leach three years and $11 million in an effort to jump-start a rushing attack which went soft last year. Last week, the running game was ineffective, especially on first down, as Ray Rice and Ricky Williams combined to pick up just 2.6 yards per first down carry. The Ravens will be facing the NFL's worst run defense today, and should look to get back to pounding the rock - especially on first down, in order to set up more manageable second and third down situations.