Keys to the Game: Carolina

Posted Oct 17, 2013

The Rams (3-3) head to Carolina (2-3) on Sunday in search of their third consecutive victory. This week marks the Rams’ first visit to Charlotte since 2006. Here are three keys to observe during Sunday’s game.

Seeing Red

The Rams possess the NFC’s best red-zone scoring rate at 94.4 percent, including a touchdown rate of 66.7. The Panthers are third in the latter category, at 64.3 percent. The Rams continuing their level of success inside the 20, while limiting Carolina to field goals in similar scenarios would bode well on Sunday. The Rams’ red-zone success has benefited from an improved running game over the past two weeks, led by rookie RB Zac Stacy, who ran for 78 and 79 yards, respectively, in wins over Jacksonville and Houston. QB Sam Bradford has thrown for 13 touchdown passes, with 12 of them coming on red-zone possessions.

Containing Cam

Since entering the NFL in 2011, Cam Newton has established himself as one of the league’s most prolific dual-threat quarterbacks. Through his first two NFL seasons, Newton averaged nearly 4,000 passing yards per year, and rushed for 22 touchdowns, more than any other NFL quarterback during that time.  Newton was at his best last week against Minnesota, finishing 20-of-26 passing for 242 yards and three touchdowns. That production was good for a career-best passer rating of 143.4. He also carried the football nine times for 30 yards and a score. Newton’s ability to attack the Rams both in the air and on the ground will need to be limited for the Rams to pick up their second consecutive road victory. Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher is well-versed in the challenges that Newton will present.

“Well, he’s hard to get down one-on-one,” Fisher said. “That’s the problem with him. He’s a big, explosive runner. He’s got great speed and he’ll run away from you. So, when he extends the play in passing situations, you’re in coverage downfield, so he picks up chunks of yards, and then they have deliberate runs that they call for him where the huddle call makes him a runner so he picks up an extra blocker. You have an extra player on offense.”

Ground and Pound

During the Rams’ offensive struggles through five weeks, Fisher repeatedly stressed the need to improve the team’s production on the ground. True to his philosophy, the Rams’ progressed in the ground game over the past two weeks, resulting in the top two scoring totals during the Fisher era in St. Louis. The Rams will have to contend with the league’s fourth-ranked run defense this week in Carolina, who has limited its opponents to just 88.8 yards per game.