Game Preview: Rams @ Colts

Lucas Oil Stadium

Lucas Oil Stadium

The Indianapolis Colts (6-2)  welcome the St. Louis Rams (3-6) to Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 10 looking to extend their unbeaten run to three matches. St. Louis on the other hand, will be hoping to pick up their first win since backup quarterback Kellen Clemens replaced the injured Sam Bradford. The franchise quarterback will remain sidelined for the rest of the season after tearing a left knee ligament in Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers.

Despite two loses – both at home to Seattle and Tennessee respectively – Clemens’ performance has hinted that 2013 may not be  the bust many predicted after Bradford’s departure. Following two interceptions against the stingy Seattle defense, Clemens was able to get the Rams into a game-winning position, only to be stopped at the goal-line on the final play. The interceptions were cut out against the Titans, Clemens completing 20 of 25 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown.

The Colts’ defense excel at pressuring the quarterback, with veteran linebacker Robert Mathis leading the league in sacks with 11.5 at the halfway stage of the season; and unlike last week, this backup quarterback lacks the mobility and pocket-presence to consistently evade the clutches of the Indianapolis pass rush. The Colts are ranked 17th in throwing yards, allowing an average of 242.4 per game, however they are 8th in points allowed, adopting a “bend but don’t break” mentality which should see them win this game if they can hold St. Louis to field goals when they do enter Colts’ territory.

Another boost for the Rams this season has been the form of rookie running back Zac Stacey. The Vanderbilt product has rushed for 475 yards thus far, averaging 4.6 yards per carry and scored two touchdowns in a career day against the Titans. The running defense of the Colts has been a perennial Achilles’ Heel, with this season being no exception. The Colts are 27th in the league, giving up almost 125 yards on the ground per game, a real cause for concern heading into Sunday’s showdown.

The Colts’ offense produced another stunning comeback last week against the Texans, but coach Chuck Pagano and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton will be hoping for a fast start against a Rams defense which has proved to be extremely effective against the pass, averaging just 220.6 yards per game, and ranking joint-third in total sacks with 29. Third-year defensive end Robert Quinn has been the stand-out performer for their unit, accounting for 10 of those sacks and forcing 4 fumbles so far this season.

In contrast, the Rams running defense is one of the few in the league which is statistically worse than that of Indianapolis. Running backs Donald Brown and Trent Richardson will continue to work in tandem, the latter yet to make his mark since arriving from Cleveland early in the season. Despite carrying the ball 44 more times, Richardson has amassed just 4 more yards than Brown, averaging a disappointing three yards per carry. The Colts will look to establish a running game  from the outset, deflecting attention away from quarterback Andrew Luck, who has not been protected well by the struggling offensive line.

After a monster  three-touchdown game against the Texans, T.Y Hilton is proving himself to be the man best suited to fill the boots of the injured Reggie Wayne. Averaging 15.7 yards per catch, expect Luck to look for Hilton down-field even when subjected to double-coverage. Tight end Coby Fleener played well against Houston and offers Luck a suitable outlet for short and intermediate passes in the middle of the field, while  Griff Whelan and LaVon Brazill will have another opportunity to prove they belong on this playoff-bound team. Provided they avoid another sluggish first half, the Colts should have enough firepower to overcome a stout St. Louis defense, improving their record to 7-2 in the process.

 

photograph by: stubnut.com

 

 

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