Keys to the Game: Houston

Posted Oct 11, 2013

Following a 34-20 win at home over Jacksonville, the Rams travel to Houston for the first time since 2005. A win on Sunday would even the Rams’ record at 3-3, and would represent their first win away from the Edward Jones Dome this season. Here are three keys to watch for Sunday.

Maintain Offensive Balance

The Rams made significant strides in this area a week ago, finishing with 36 rushing attempts to 34 pass attempts. The increased focus on the running game helped the Rams gain a season-most 143 yards on the ground. RB Zac Stacy will receive his second consecutive start Sunday, following a breakout performance last week against Jacksonville that included 78 rushing yards on 13 carries. The Rams will be up against the league’s top-ranked defense, with Houston limiting their opponents to 260 total yards of offense, including 134 through the air. By contrast, Rams QB Sam Bradford is off to the best five-game start of his career, and has been held to fewer than 200 yards passing only once this year.

Stopping the Run: While Texans QB Matt Schaub enters this week with a 67 percent completion rate and WR Andre Johnson is averaging nearly nine receptions per game, much of the Houston offense still runs through RB Arian Foster. After a slow start to the year, Foster has averaged 100 yards rushing and five receptions over the last two weeks. Foster is joined in the backfield by Ben Tate, who has been productive in a reserve role, averaging 6.2 yards per carry.

“We have to be really gap sound and be on our game getting off blocks and leveraging the ball and all those things because they are both really good backs,” Rams defensive coordinator Tim Walton said at his Thursday press conference. “They can one cut guys, can stretch you and then hit the ball up inside, and they can get on the edge. They both have had a lot of success in the league running the football, and they keep you well-balanced because they also catch the ball out of the backfield well, also.”

Shutting Down Watt

Since entering the league in 2011, J.J. Watt has established himself as one of the league’s premier defensive players. Watt led the NFL with 20.5 sacks in 2012, and has already piled up 3.5 sacks in five games this year, in addition to being a force against the run. Much of the Rams’ success on Sunday could hinge on their ability to limit Watt’s influence.