The Rams started off their season with a loss for the first time under Sean McVay and now have the chance to bounce back against the Falcons. The Falcons lost to the Saints after blowing a lead in the fourth quarter but looked decent before that. The Falcons boast some good skill players including Kyle Pitts, Cordarelle Patterson, and rookie Drake London. Let’s preview the matchups and players to watch as the Rams try to redeem themselves at home.
Rams Secondary vs Falcons Pass Catchers
The Rams secondary was subpar against the Bills, allowing Diggs to go over 100 yards and multiple receiving touchdowns. Troy Hill was the day’s top corner, being targeted six times and surrendering four receptions for 43 yards and an interception. One of the keys to winning this game against the Falcons is shutting down their pass catchers. The secondary has a couple of tough tests this year including guarding the Buccaneers corps, the Saints, the Raiders, and the Chargers.
Allen Robinson vs Casey Heyward
Robinson didn’t have the Rams debut many were hoping for only posting one catch for 12 yards. Stafford and him didn’t seem to be on the same page the whole night, similar to Robert Woods last year. Despite playing practically every snap, he was only targeted twice. Even though the Bills defense was focused on stopping Cooper Kupp, ARob was unable to capitalize. He’ll likely face veteran Casey Heyward against the Falcons, while AJ Terrell will cover Kupp. While the defense is focused on stopping Kupp, Robinson must make the most of his opportunity. Stafford and Robinson need to start having breakfast together and get more reps to build that chemistry that they’re lacking.
Players To Watch
Ramsey has been a primary target of media outlets against the Rams, and for good reason. Ramsey quite possibly had his worst outing as a Ram, posting a perfect passer rating when targeted. Josh Allen and the Bills kept picking on him all night, and it kept working. Ramsey will certainly bounce back just as the rest of the team will and the Falcons are the perfect opponents to do so. Marshon Lattimore was a big reason why Kyle Pitts was limited all game and a big reason why they won. Lattimore in coverage against Drake London and Pitts combined for 1 catch for 6 yards on 2 targets.
If Ramsey and the rest of the secondary can lock down London and Pitts, they should keep the Falcons’ offense in check. The last time that Ramsey played the Falcons, it was his Rams’ debut, and he was tasked with the tough job of guarding Julio Jones. Ramsey will need to step up and lead this secondary, meaning we could see him in a more versatile role instead of shadowing.
In what is supposed to be his first start, Anchrum will have a tough task ahead of him on the offensive line. The Rams’ offensive line as a whole performed poorly, whether that be from the losses of Austin Corbett and Andrew Whitworth or no preseason action. Anchrum will likely be starting at guard with Coleman Shelton moving over to center to fill in for Brian Allen. Anchrum should have an eye kept on him this game, as it might indicate his role for the rest of the year. If he does well, I could easily see him getting some more reps as time goes on and possibly being a solution somewhere on the offensive line. If he does poorly, I would expect him to be limited to special teams snaps.
Stafford finished 2021 tied for the most interceptions with 19, averaging a pick nearly every game, so it wasn’t too surprising how he performed in the season opener. Stafford is a gunslinger, and much like Brett Favre, loves to throw interceptions when throwing downfield. Stafford’s seven interceptions on deep passes from the pocket were the most in the NFL last year. Stafford is given tons of opportunities to let it fly, the bad part being sometimes the other team gets the ball instead.
Against the Falcons, turnover-prone Jameis Winston came out clean in the interceptions category, so there’s no reason why Stafford should be able to do the same. Last season the Rams were able to win a few games despite multiple turnovers from Stafford, due to offensive efficiency during their possessions. Stafford and the rest of the offense need to capitalize every time they touch the ball, including when the defense produces turnovers.
Keys to Victory
Run The Ball Better
The Rams’ running game didn’t get off to a hot start, averaging 2.9 yards a carry against the Bills. Both Brandon Powell and Matthew Stafford had more rushing yards than Cam Akers which isn’t a good sign. Akers didn’t seem fully healthy, getting stopped for negative yardage or zero yards all night. Henderson was the best running back, even though he wasn’t amazing either. The Rams need to find ways to get the run game going, so it can alleviate some pressure off of Stafford.
Thinking back to 2018, Sean McVay’s offense when Todd Gurley got going was much better than when he was sidelined. A big part of this is the performance of the offensive line and their blocking for Akers and Henderson. I’d expect to see Powell used on more jet sweeps similar to how McVay used to use Woods. If the Rams can run the ball early, often, and well, they’re better off against the Falcons
Sean McVay loves to use 11 personnel (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB), posting a top 5 usage rate in the NFL over the past 3 seasons. Against the Bills, however, the offense never left 11 personnel, playing the entire game that way. Under offensive “guru” Sean McVay, the Rams have never won a game using all the same personnel. To win against the Falcons, I’d like to see more creativity on offense, especially in the run game. McVay has the personnel to switch it up once and a while, and against an easier opponent this week, why not try some things out?