Los Angeles Rams Gameplan: Rams Meet Titans in Super Bowl Rematch

by Blaine Grisak
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The Los Angeles Rams will don their new modern throwback uniforms on Sunday night when they host the Tennessee Titans. The Rams debuted the uniforms in Week 1 in a 34-14 win over the Chicago Bears. However, before then, the last time the Rams wore the white blue and yellow uniforms was a glorious February evening in 2000.

The next year, the St. Louis Rams switched to a darker blue and gold to go with a new logo complete the St. Louis rebrand. The Rams have worn the blue-yellow throwback, but never wore the white jerseys again.

It’s been 21 years since Mike Jones made “The Tackle” and the Rams defeated the Titans, 23-16, in the Super Bowl. Therefore, it’s tough to call this a rematch. Still, whenever these two teams get together, memories of Kurt Warner hitting Isaac Bruce down the right sideline and Jones’ tackle are still fresh.

A lot has changed since then. The Rams are back in Los Angeles with a new look and the Titans have a new look of their own with a darker blue and all-blue helmet. The Rams have been to two Super Bowls since while the Titans have made two AFC Championship games since.

Now, both teams are back and considered two of the best in their respective conferences, just like than 1999 season. And just like the 1999 season, these two teams will clash in the middle of the season. In 1999, the Rams came up just short, losing 24-21 in Tennessee only to win in the Super Bowl.

Whether these two teams will meet in the Super Bowl again this season is to be seen. However, the similarities in the two teams are a little uncanny.

The Los Angeles Rams come in to Sunday behind dominant quarterback play. Matthew Stafford is putting up numbers that mirror Warner in 1999. Through eight games in that 1999 season, Kurt Warner was completing 68.8% of his passes for 2,164 yards, 24 touchdowns, and five interceptions with a passer rating of 119.1. This season, Matthew Stafford is completing 68.8% of his passes for 2477 yards, 22 touchdowns, and four interceptions with a passer rating of 118.

On offense, the Rams may not have a running back like Marshall Faulk, but Darrell Henderson is carrying his own. The third year running back has 507 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 4.61 yards per carry. In 1999, Faulk had just 100 more yards with 607 and two touchdowns, averaging 5.28 yards per carry. Faulk obviously made his mark in the passing game as well.

Speaking of the passing game, the duo at wide receiver is maybe the best that it’s been since the days of Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. Cooper Kupp‘s 63 receptions for 924 yards and 10 touchdowns are among the best numbers in franchise history. Bruce set the pace with 40 receptions for 625 yards and nine touchdowns.

The result of all this, two offenses that took the NFL by storm.

The Titans may not have Steve McNair at quarterback, but after losing 38-13 on opening weekend, the former player turned coach – much like Jeff Fisher – has the Titans playing a gritty style of football that took down the Buffalo Bills just a few weeks ago. In that game, the Titans re-attempted the Music City Miracle that won them the game on Wild Card Weekend during the 1999 season. It went terrible, but the effort gets applauded.

The Titans had an all-pro running back having yet another stellar season in Eddie George. Unfortunately, Derrick Henry will be out on Sunday night. Harold Landry may not have the intimidation factor of Javon Kearse, but he’s number two in the NFL in sacks with 8.5.

A lot has changes since that 1999 season when these two teams gave NFL fans one of the best Super Bowls ever. This is just a regular season game in Week 9, but the memories and throwbacks will certainly be alive.

Five Los Angeles Rams Players to Watch

1. WR Cooper Kupp

Cooper Kupp has hit 1,000 yards just once in his career in 2019. He’s just 76 yards away heading into tomorrow and has 76+ yards in all but one game this season. There’s a very good chance that the Los Angeles Rams wide receiver hits the 1,000 yard mark on Sunday. The former third-round pick out of Eastern Washington is putting together a historic season and he’ll look for it to continue on Sunday Night.

2. EDGE Von Miller

We’ll see how much Von Miller plays on Sunday, but either way, it will be Miller’s first game in a Los Angeles Rams uniform. Whenever he is on the field, all eyes will be on number 40. The Rams traded for Miller from the Denver Broncos earlier this week to add to their already impressive pass rush. With no Derrick Henry, Miller should be able to tee off on Ryan Tannehill at every opportunity.

3. CB Darious Williams

About a month ago, the Los Angeles Rams put Darious Williams on injured reserve. The Rams activated Williams out of the elevation window and back onto the roster ahead of Sunday’s game. Again, we’ll see how much he plays, but it will be his first game back. It’ll be a big first test as he goes up against AJ Brown and Julio Jones

4. WR Ben Skowronek

We got a glimpse of Ben Skowronek last week when he made three catches for 30 yards, including a reception on third down. With no DeSean Jackson and TuTu Atwell hurt, Skowronek is the Rams’ fourth wide receiver. This is a big opportunity for the rookie out of Notre Dame to show what he can do in the offense.

5. LB Ernest Jones

Ernest Jones made his first start last week against the Houston Texans. Ernest Jones became the seventh rookie linebacker for the Rams to record at least nine tackles in their first career start. Jones also recorded an interception. His job got a lot easier with no Derrick Henry, but we’ll see if he can build on last week.

Five Keys to Victory for the Los Angeles Rams

1. Make Ryan Tannehill Uncomfortable

The main reason why Derrick Henry is such a vital part of the Tennessee Titans offense is so that they can take pressure off of Ryan Tannehill. This season, Tannehill has 10 touchdowns to seven interceptions. The Rams need to make Tannehill uncomfortable and get him off of his spot. Tannehill has played well in Tennessee, but is having his worst season in Nashville. It didn’t get any easier with Henry going down last week.

The Titans have 11 turnovers this season which is among the highest in the NFL. The Los Angeles Rams will need to turn the ball over to win this game and that starts with Tannehill.

2. Use Jalen Ramsey in the Star

Jalen Ramsey has 145 snaps from the slot this season and is allowing just an 87.9 passer rating. While Ramsey isn’t necessarily a slot cornerback, the Rams use Ramsey in the slot to get him closer to the line of scrimmage. This is where using Ramsey in the star this week will be crucial.

Tannehill loves to target the middle of the field this season which where he’s found the most success. The Titans quarterback had a 120.1 and 116.1 passer rating while targeting the short and intermediate areas of the middle of the field last season. The Rams will need to take that away and force Tannehill to go elsewhere. Additionally, Tannhill’s 7.9 intended air yards per throw is in the bottom-half of the league. Having Ramsey there to take that away could be beneficial.

3. Build On The Passing Game

The Tennessee Titans rank in the middle of the league in pass defense DVOA. However, they’ve allowed the seventh-most passing yards and have given up 15 passing touchdowns which is tied for the sixth most. Kristian Fulton is on injured reserve and Chris Jackson was on the injury report this week. Elijah Molden is also allowing the highest passer rating from the slot. The passing game has looked good over the last three weeks as they’ve continued to build chemistry. They’ll need to show up on Sunday.

4. Get Stops in the Red Zone

Los Angeles Rams fans should know this by now. The Rams defense might give up a lot of yards, but they don’t give up a lot of points. The one game the Rams lost, the Arizona Cardinals performed in the red zone. The Titans rank 15th in red zone offense this season, scoring touchdowns on 62.5% of their red zone possessions. However, that number is 77.8% over the last three weeks, but just 55.6% on the road. The defense will need to hold the Titans to field goals.

5. Get An Early Lead

We’ll see how the Tennessee Titans play without Derrick Henry. However, this is a team that likes to run the football. The Rams need to get an early lead and play smart with that lead. The Titans fell down by 14 points to both the Colts and Bills and came back to win. Still, Henry played a big role in the comeback against the Seahawks, Bills and the Colts let the Titans back in the game. The Rams need to put this game in Ryan Tannehill’s hands and that means grabbing an early lead. Henry had a big part in the comebacks against the Seahawks and Bills.

Stafford and the offense got off to fast starts against the Lions and Texans. However, over the course of the season, the offense is averaging just 4.6 points per game in the first quarter. That ranks 12th in the NFL.

Five Matchups To Watch

1. Jalen Ramsey vs. AJ Brown

With how AJ Brown moves around the field, it wouldn’t be totally surprising to see Ramsey follow him in the slot and outside. The Titans are limited at wide receiver outside of AJ Brown and Julion Jones. If Ramsey can take away Brown, that leaves the Titans without their two best weapons on offense.

2. Cooper Kupp vs. Elijah Molden

This might be the mismatch of the season. Cooper Kupp leads the NFL with 700 yards from the slot this season. Meanwhile, Elijah Molden has given up 252 yards from the slot this season which is the fifth most in the NFL. The Los Angeles Rams should be able to exploit this matchup frequently and it will be one that the Rams have game planned around.

3. Andrew Whitworth vs. Harold Landry

Harold Landry has 8.5 sacks this season which is tied for the second-most in the NFL. Meanwhile, Andrew Whitworth missed last week against the Texans, but was solid before the injury. This will be a matchup between two very good players. It will be up to Whitworth to take away arguably the Titans’ best defensive player.

4. Rams LBs vs. Jeremy McNichols

Without Derrick Henry, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Titans rely on McNichols, especially in the passing game. He has 21 receptions for 203 yards this season which both rank inside the top-15 in terms of receiving numbers for running backs. Meanwhile, Troy Reeder has allowed 76.9% of passes to be completed in coverage this season.

5. Matthew Stafford vs. Kevin Byard

Kevin Byard is one of the best safeties in the NFL. Byard is going to have his eyes on Stafford all night, looking to come away with an interceptions. Byard has three interceptions over the last four games. Stafford will need to know where Byard is at all time to avoid any costly turnovers.

Five Bold Predictions for the Los Angeles Rams

1. Cooper Kupp hits 1000 yards in the first half

Cooper Kupp is 76 yards shy of the 1,000 yard mark this season. The Los Angeles Rams are going to be looking to target Kupp early and often with his matchup against Molden. This will be another big game for Kupp and I’ll guess that he has over 76 yards in the first half.

2. The Rams Sack Tannehill Four Times

Ryan Tannehill is the second-most sacked quarterback in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Rams lead the NFL with 25 sacks. Oh, and the Rams added Von Miller to their arsenal. Tannehill be asked to do more due to Derrick Henry being out with a foot injury. Because of that, the Rams will get opportunities to sack Tannehill.

3. Ernest Jones Has Another Interception

Ernest Jones got his first career interception last week against the Houston Texans. I’ll predict that he gets his second interception in as many weeks against the Titans. As mentioned, Tannehill likes to target the middle of the field. That’s going to be right in Jones’ wheelhouse. He’ll have an opportunity for a big game.

4. The Rams hold the Titans Under 50 Yards Rushing

The Tennessee Titans have the number four rushing offense with 147.6 yards per game. However, with Henry out, that will have a big hit on the Titans run offense. Henry will be replaced with a 36-year old Adrian Peterson. The Rams meanwhile are allowing 103 yards on the ground per game. Without Henry, the Titans will struggle to run the football.

5. Matthew Stafford Beats the Titans for the First Time

Matthew Stafford beat the Detroit Lions for the first time in his career a few weeks ago. Stafford has also never defeated the Tennessee Titans. The Lions lost 46-25 last season and then a 13-point comeback in 2016 led to a 16-15 victory for the Titans. The other time the two teams played, the Lions lost 44-41 in overtime. Stafford is overdue for a win against this AFC foe.

Five Storylines to Follow

1. Super Bowl 34 Rematch

These two teams met 21 years ago in Super Bowl 34 in an instant classic. No player or coach remains on either team on the current roster, but that game is always brought up when these two teams go head-to-head. The Rams and McVay beat the Titans in 2017 and will look to do so again in 2021.

2. Von Miller’s Debut

Von Miller will make his Los Angeles Rams debut on Sunday Night Football. We’ll see how much he plays. However, he’s number five in the NFL in pressures this season and won’t be the only pass rusher on this defense. Alongside Aaron Donald, we could see the beginnings of a special duo.

3. Rams Modern Throwback Uniforms

The Rams are wearing the modern throwback uniforms three times this season. They won with them earlier in the year against Chicago and will put them on once again on Sunday night. Rams fans love their uniforms and this is a winning combo with the sol pants.

4. Chance to Take Over The NFC West

The Arizona Cardinals will be without DeAndre Hopkins and they could be without Kyler Murray. The San Francisco 49ers put together their best offensive performance of the season last week against the Chicago Bears. If the 49ers defeat the Cardinals the Rams win on Sunday Night, the Rams will take over first place in the NFC West.

5. Rams at SoFi on Sunday Night Football

The Los Angeles Rams played on Sunday Night football to start the season against the Chicago Bears. They’ll play on Sunday Night again the week. Sean McVay is 4-3 on Sunday Night Football, but 4-1 in his last five. The Rams typically show up to play in primetime and they’ll be ready to play the Titans.

Game Prediction

With Sunday being a AFC game, it’s hard to call it a must-win. However a win would certainly be nice. The Los Angeles Rams crowd at SoFi will be loud and they’ll be ready for this one in primetime. The Rams schedule also gets exponentially tougher in the second half and they caught a break, facing the Titans with no Henry.

The Rams should have their way in the passing game. The question is always with the Rams defense. Is this a group that’s going to show up on Sunday and shut down the Titans offense or is this going to turn into a primetime shootout? The Titans are coming off of back-to-back road wins against the Chiefs and Colts – the last one going to overtime. I’m predicting an emotional letdown, especially with no Henry.

This could be a close first half, but as the game goes on, the Titans are going to run out of options of offense. The Rams should be able to take control in the second half and come away with a win to improve to 8-1.

Prediction: Rams 31, Titans 23

 

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