After a great start, the St. Louis Rams rushing defense has fallen on hard times. If the Rams hope to capitalize on last week's victory over Jacksonville, they'll have to slow down one of the NFL's most potent rushing attacks.
The Texans may be struggling in the passing game, but they can still churn out chunks of yards on the ground. The combination of Arian Foster and Ben Tate have guided the Texans to the eighth best rushing offense in the league. With QB Matt Schaub struggling, look for Gary Kubiak to try to take advantage of the Rams if they're soft against the run.
The Rams have to do two main things to slow down Foster and Tate:
1. Set the edge: St. Louis did a decent job of keeping the running game between the tackles in their first two games, but then again neither Arizona nor Atlanta featured runners who make their living turning the corner. DeMarco Murray of Dallas and the Niners stable of backs were able to gash the Rams off off tackle and on cut-backs and won handily.
The Texans are the masters of the stretch play. They love to flow their entire offensive line in one direction and either seal the edge, letting their backs get outsdie, or create cut-back lanes. This style of running is both effective and punishing. Foster and Tate won't necessarily bust long runs, but they'll beat their opponents four and five yards at a time.
If St. Louis is going to stop the stretch, they'll need two things: penetration in the back side pursuit and a firm edge. The Rams' defender who is most able to do both of these is Jo-Lonn Dunbar. Dunbar's return last week was a strong one. Dunbar had only two tackles, but was around the football all day long. Dunbar has both the athleticism and the instincts to chase down plays going away from him and force runs inside where James Laurinaitis can clean up when the play come to his side.
2. Keep the offense on the field: Ironically, the Rams' offense bears some responsibility for stopping the run. It wasn't just Murray and Gore who torched the Rams in their two blowout losses. An offense that consistently went three and out and exposed the defense to too many snaps contributed greatly.
As mentioned above, the Texans game plan is to pound their opponents. They hope to build a lead and then run the clock, or at least pound the opposing defense so that when the fourth quarter rolls around, there's a little less starch in their step.
If the Rams offense can't keep drives alive to give the defense a rest from that pounding, it could be another long day in the Lone Star State. On the bright side, the Texans are tied with the Rams at 28th in the NFL against the run. Look for Jeff Fisher and Brian Schottenheimer to use their own stable of backs in a game plan similar to what the Texans will try to do.
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