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Rams, Titans Face Off in Christmas Eve Showdown

Posted Dec 22, 2017

The Rams will hit the road this Christmas, traveling to Nashville to face off against the AFC South opponent, Tennessee (8-6).

The Rams will hit the road this Christmas, traveling to Nashville to face off against the AFC South opponent, Tennessee (8-6).

The Titans will be looking to get back on track after two consecutive losses on the West Coast, while the Rams are in position to clinch an NFC West title for the first time since 2003.

“Everything that we hoped for, dreamed for, and set our goals for is happening right now,” cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman said. “So we just have to go out there, embrace it, and take advantage.”

The Rams improved to 10-4 with a statement victory over the Seahawks in Week 15. As such, a win this Sunday would guarantee the club a home game in the first round of the NFC playoffs.  

But a victory at Nissan Stadium will be no walk in the park for L.A. 

The Titans are currently in position for their own playoff berth. Tennessee trails Jacksonville by two games in the AFC South, but closing out the season with two wins would guarantee the AFC’s current No. 5 seed a spot in the Wild Card round.

“They’ve got a lot to play for, but so do we,” head coach Sean McVay said. “We know what’s at stake for us. We don’t shy away from the opportunity to go in a tough atmosphere — try to come away with our 11th win. And we know that if we’re able to accomplish that, that means a division championship as well. So it’s a great opportunity.”

Offensively, third-year quarterback — and former Heisman Trophy winner — Marcus Mariota leads Tennessee. The Oregon product has battled a hamstring injury throughout the season, but has still completed 62.8 percent of his passes for 2,832 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“People have been saying he’s a little banged up or whatever, but he’s still able to get out, get away from pressure, and make plays downfield,” middle linebacker Alec Ogletree said. “You definitely see the maturity that he’s gotten over the years and he definitely presents a big challenge.”

Complementing Mariota is the Titans’ two-pronged running attack in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Through 14 games, the duo has combined for 1,598 yards and 11 touchdowns —  proving to be one of the offense’s biggest assets.

“They’ve got a power running game with two big backs that are big and fast,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “They can grind it out, but they can also make a big, long run on you.”

Fortunately for Los Angeles, the Rams’ defense is coming off of arguably its best performance of the season — a game where the unit recorded seven sacks and held Seattle to just seven points.

Phillips said that if the defense can duplicate the execution it showcased in Week 15, he is confident it will be just as successful against Tennessee. 

“We had a tremendous game against Seattle,” he said. “We kept [Russell Wilson] from making some of those plays and we had a good rush. Pro football is matchups — you try to get as good of a matchup as you can.

“They’ve got a good group and so it’s going to be a big challenge for us,” Phillips added.

The Rams will also be looking to build upon last week’s victory on offense.

L.A. scored 42 points in Seattle — including a career-high of four touchdowns from running back Todd Gurley. But the Titans’ defensive front will challenge Gurley, particularly Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey.

Tennessee boasts the No. 3 rushing defense, allowing opponents an average of 87.2 rushing yards per game. And last weekend, the Titans gave up just 51 yards rushing to San Francisco.

“They do have a good defensive front,” right guard Jamon Brown said. “I think the focus is going to be for us to control the line of scrimmage. Our goal as an offensive line is to study them up, know what they like to do, know their tendencies and then we’ll go from there.”

While the Titans are giving up an average of 242.6 passing yards per game — which ranks No. 25 — the Tennessee secondary is flanked by several young and dynamic playmakers.

“Cornerback Adoree Jackson is very athletic. He’s a guy that’s going to challenge you, compete, and pressure the line,” wide receiver Sammy Watkins said. “And then safety Kevin Byard — he’s a little bit taller but he’s going to do the same thing.” 

Through 14 games, Jackson and Byard have combined for 141 tackles, 28 pass deflections, six interceptions, and two forced fumbles. But even with the challenge at hand, Watkins said these are exactly “the types of matchups you look forward to.”

“Those guys are going to compete,” he said. “They’re young [and] they’ll be in your face, so it’s going to be fun.”

Though the Christmas Eve contest will undoubtedly be a fun one to watch, McVay said the team fully understands the intense magnitude of the game. He said the real challenge for the Rams this week will be embracing all they have to play for, while respecting their “one game at a time” mentality.

“For us right now, our sole focus and concentration is on finding a way to get a win against a tough opponent who’s got a lot to play for as well,” McVay said. “It’s going to be a great challenge, but we don’t shy away from what the implications are if we’re able to obtain the result. I think that’s served us well and the players have done a great job with that.”

Kickoff for Sunday’s contest is set for 10:00 a.m. PT. For more information on how to watch, click here.