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Keys to the Game Revisited: Chicago

Posted Nov 25, 2013

The Key: Protecting the Football

Turnover differential is always one of the most indicative figures in the outcome of a game, but this week’s matchup includes two of the league’s best teams in this area. The Rams have committed just three turnovers over the previous two weeks, and enter the Chicago game plus-five in turnover ratio for the season. While Chicago’s defense has allowed more yards and points than it has been accustomed to in recent years, the unit is ranked fourth in takeaways with 22.

“The one thing that hasn’t gone away from that Chicago defense is the turnovers that they’re able to generate,” QB Kellen Clemens said. “I think they’re third in the league or something right now with 22 takeaways. That’s still going to give their offense opportunities and it’s something that we can’t give them.”

The Answer:

For the third time this season, the Rams did not commit a turnover, despite facing one of the league’s best defenses in that area. Clemens posted his third consecutive game without an interception, the first Rams starting quarterback to achieve that feat since Sam Bradford’s four straight without 2010. The Rams also carried 29 times without a fumble. In the Rams’ five wins this season, they are a combined plus-14 in turnover differential.

The Key: Create Pressure From the Front Four

Highlighted by the work of defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn, the Rams boast one of the league’s best pass-rushing foursomes, along with tackles Kendall Langford and Michael Brockers. In addition to the front four combining for 25 sacks, the group also has consistently shown an ability to divert and deflect passes when unable to reach the quarterback.

Chicago QB Josh McCown will be starting his third game of the season on Sunday, and while he has had no shortage of success in his first two games, he has seen limited pressure from opposing defensive fronts, having been sacked just three times.

The Answer:

Though it didn’t appear in the Rams’ sack total—one—the front four had perhaps its best game of the year on the goal line. The Rams’ defensive front thwarted a third-quarter 4th-and-goal from the one-yard line, and stopped the Bears on multiple chances within the five-yard line in the fourth quarter.

“The front four, or front seven, those guys are playing knock-them-back football,” LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar said following Sunday’s game. If they can re-establish the line of scrimmage, it lets us linebackers run around and make some plays.”

The unit was also consistent against the pass, tallying 17 quarterback pressures, all of which were accounted for by the front four. The one sack the Rams did obtain was courtesy of Quinn in the fourth quarter, and resulted in a fumble and 31-yard return for the Rams’ final touchdown of the day. Quinn also was credited with seven quarterback pressures and four quarterback hits on the afternoon.

The Key: Develop Consistency Against the Run

The Rams displayed their ability to limit a team’s running game in Week 10 against Indianapolis, when they held the Colts to just  However, performances like the one they had against the Colts have also been scattered among outings far less stingy, as they’ve allowed opposing teams to eclipse 150 yards on the ground four times. Chicago’s Matt Forte will represent yet another steep challenge this week, and may shed light on whether the Rams’ encouraging outing against Indianapolis can progress to a trend.

“Every week’s a challenge, so we’re going to be tested, clearly going to be tested,” Head Coach Jeff Fisher said. “They like to use an extra offensive lineman in the game, in the power game at you and spread you out and run that game at you, so we’re going to be tested.”

The Answer: Though Forte posted a strong first-half showing with 58 yards on 10 carries, the Bears’ feature back was held out of the end zone. The Rams’ defense stiffened near the goal line, and finished the day by allowing goal-line specialist Michael Bush -5 yards on seven carries. The Rams limited Chicago to just 80 rushing yards on the day, marking the second-lowest rushing output by the Bears this year. It was also the fifth time this year in which the Rams’ opponent was held to 80 yards or fewer on the ground, though it marked the first time it had been done in consecutive weeks.