Keys to the Game: Jacksonville

Posted Oct 4, 2013

With Sunday representing a matchup of two teams off to slow starts in 2013, some Rams have not minced words when underscoring the importance of a strong showing this week.

“There’s no doubt that I think this is a must-win for both teams,” Rams QB Sam Bradford said at his Wednesday press conference. “We know that they’re going to come in here and give us their best shot. We’re going to be prepared for that. At the same time, it’s a must-win for us. We’ve got to get things back on track. We’ve got to get rolling and this is the week that starts all of that.”

With the importance of this week’s game established, here are three keys to observe before the Rams host Jacksonville on Sunday.

Establishing the Running Game

Four weeks into the season, the Rams have yet to produce the performance they’ve envisioned from their running backs. Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher said he plans to use a variety of backs—perhaps all of them—this week, in an effort to jump-start the team’s ground game.

“When you attempted 50 passes a game and 14, 15 runs a game it’s hard to get in a rhythm,” Fisher said after Wednesday’s practice. We’re hoping to get that behind us.”

It’s been tough sledding for the Rams entering Week 5, averaging 47 yards on the ground per game. By contrast, Jacksonville has allowed 165 rushing yards per game, the league’s highest rate.

Defending Blackmon

Jacksonville’s offense has struggled mightily in recent weeks, though Sunday will mark the return of second-year receiver Justin Blackmon. Blackmon, who is has been reinstated following a four-game suspension to begin the season, was a favorite target of QB Blaine Gabbert in 2012, finishing with 865 yards on 64 receptions.

“We’re expecting the best out of him even though he’s not been on the practice field up until this week,” Fisher said following Thursday’s practice. “It’s certain that he’s in real good shape, so we don’t necessarily know how they’re going to use him. We’re going to have to adjust.”

Starting Quickly

Through four games, the Rams have gotten off to uneven starts offensively. Of the team’s eight touchdowns, seven have been scored in the second half. The slow starts have been a leading cause in the Rams facing halftime deficits in three of their four games. The Rams’ 10 points in Week 1 against Arizona marked their best first-half showing, and resulted in the team’s lone win. If the Rams are able to improve to 2-3 on Sunday, they will likely have a strong start offensively to credit.