Keys to the Game Answered: Indianapolis

Posted Nov 11, 2013

The Key: Limiting T.Y. Hilton

With Reggie Wayne lost for the season with a torn ACL, Hilton represents the Colts’ primary big-play threat. Last week in the Colts’ come-from-behind, 27-24 win over Houston, Hilton registered his third 100-yard receiving game of the season with 121 yards on seven catches, and established a season-best with three touchdowns, all in the second half. The loss of Wayne does cut into depth of the Colts’ receiving corps a bit, but Hilton has certainly limited the sting of losing Wayne in the short term.

“You’ve got to make sure you’re aware of him and what’s going on with him at all times because he’s the go-to guy,” Rams defensive coordinator Tim Walton said. “He’s the guy that, he was making catches even when (WR) Reggie (Wayne) was there, but now he’s really been the go-to guy. They’re moving him around, putting him in different spots on the field so you can’t just zero in on him and know exactly where he’s going to be in line. And like I said, the guy’s crafty, so he’s definitely a threat.”

The Answer: Though he finished the day with 130 yards receiving on seven catches, much of Hilton’s success came in the second half with the Colts already trailing by four touchdowns. Hilton did contribute a 65-yard catch in the third quarter to bring the Colts into the red zone for the first time. However, that drive stalled three plays later, on an interception by CB Trumaine Johnson. With the game still in question in the first half, Hilton was limited to three catches for 25 yards.

The Key: Win the Ground Battle

Highlighting the Rams’ run defense has been a common theme in recent weeks, as it has served as a relatively accurate barometer in determining the outcome of the game, save for the team’s Week 8 loss to Seattle, when they lost 14-9 despite holding the Seahawks to just 44 yards on the ground. Following a week in which the defensive unit took a bit of a step backward against Tennessee, it looks to regain traction against a balanced Colts offense.

“Everyone has got to be on the same page,” LB James Laurinaitis said. “We’ve got to have good gap integrity, and we haven’t had that consistent enough all year. Everyone’s taken turns at it, everyone’s taking turns at not being in our gaps. When you do that in this league…people are going to get good six, seven, eight-yard runs sometimes when you are in your gap. You give them a free lane to run through, that’s when big plays happen.”

The Answer:

Following a week in which the Rams placed a great emphasis on the need to stop the run, the Rams did just that against Indianapolis. The Colts were limited to just 18 yards on 14 carries. However, discounting QB Andrew Luck’s four scrambles for 17 yards, Indianapolis’ running backs gained just one yard on 10 rushing attempts. Also, for the first time since the 1979 season, the Rams held an opponent without a rushing first down. The showing was a strong bounce-back performance one week after allowing 150 yards to Tennessee’s Chris Johnson.

Offensively, the Rams continued running the ball with success for the sixth consecutive week. For the first time since Week 4 against San Francisco, RB Zac Stacy was not the Rams’ leading rusher. Fellow rookie Benny Cunningham finished with a team-high 72 rushing yards on seven carries, including a season-long 56-yard carry in the fourth quarter. The Rams outgained the Colts 140-18 on the ground.

“I’m asked often times, ‘Can they bounce back? Will they bounce back?’” Head Coach Jeff Fisher said. “I always say yes, and they did.”

The Key: Rams’ Receivers vs. Colts Secondary

The Rams’ receiving unit is set to face one of the stingiest secondaries it will see this year. Indianapolis, led by safeties Antoine Bethea and LaRon Landry, has held opponents to just a 58.7 percent completion rate, which ranks sixth-lowest in the NFL. They have, however, shown an occasional vulnerability to the big play, having allowed touchdown passes of 25 yards or longer in three of their past four games. The Rams have typically looked in the direction of WR Chris Givens as the team’s prominent downfield threat, though rookie Tavon Austin and second-year wideout Brian Quick also possess big-play ability.

The Answer: The Rams continued the string of big-play scores against Indianapolis, led by Austin. The rookie wideout caught just two passes on the day, but both went for touchdowns, of 57 and 81 yards, respectively. QB Kellen Clemens completed nine of 16 passes on the day for 247 yards, an average of 27.4 yards per completion. Givens also found considerable running room on Sunday, catching two passes for 54 yards, including a long of 35.