The Los Angeles Rams suffered an unfortunate set back before their Week 8 bye, losing three consecutive games heading into their break. Although the outlook was promising when they were 3-1, the 3-4 record now has them reeling in an attempt to get back into the divisional conversation.
Head coach Jeff Fisher and his staff has had almost two weeks to prepare for their Week 9 matchup, against the reigning NFC Champions in the Carolina Panthers. Although their 2-5 record would suggest the struggles they have had this season, their Week 8 matchup insists things are moving in the right direction.
The Panthers trounced on the Arizona Cardinals, building up a large lead before easily claiming their second victory of the season. Since the Rams were enjoying their bye week, the coaching staff had an opportunity to scout the Panthers in anticipation of their matchup.
In order for the Rams to be successful against the Panthers, Fisher declared the game will be won at the line of scrimmage, via Myles Simmons of TheRams.com:
“Our focus and our goal going into this week is we’re going to have to play the best run defense we’ve played all year, just because of the way they’re built, and the way they commit to it,” Fisher said. “That puts a lot of pressure on your secondary, but we’re going to have to commit there.”
Panthers’ running back Jonathan Stewart was able to have his way with the defensive line of the Cardinals. For the game, he totaled 25 rushes for 95 yards and two touchdowns.
The key to the game may very well lay with Pro Bowler Aaron Donald and his effectiveness against the run. Over the last four games, Donald has collected 13 tackles and three sacks.
Donald commented on the Panthers and laid the foundation for the keys to the game:
“You just look at the history they had last year — the plays they made and the plays they’re making this year, too,” defensive tackle Aaron Donald said, “they can hurt you in a lot of different ways. So we’ve just got to try to contain those guys. And [we’ve] definitely got to stop the run, and definitely the deep threat that they throw at us.”
While Donald has been receiving constant double teams this season on the line, his teammates must step up and make big plays. Alec Ogletree, who leads the team with 57 tackles this season, has yet to record a sack.
Defensive end William Hayes, who is effective when the attention on Donald, feels healthy after getting two weeks to heal his ankle injury. Robert Quinn, who is second on the team with two sacks, needs to also have a strong presence against the Panthers offensive line.
The Panthers had had to shuffle their offensive line, as Michael Oher is still dealing with the concussion protocol.
Fisher and Donald should be well prepared for their matchup, with the line battle proving the key to the contest and potentially the Rams season.