The Los Angeles Rams defeated the Detroit Lions 28-19 in a close game that came down to a late fourth quarter finish.
While the Rams held their own in the passing game with Matthew Stafford connecting with a variety of receivers, there were other areas specifically that L.A. must clean up moving forward before it becomes a costly mistake.
Here are three key adjustments the Rams need to make following their Week 7 game against the Lions:
1. Resolve special teams mishaps
The Rams were exposed on special teams against the Lions, showcasing one of the worse performances by the unit that you'll see. The Lions converted an onside kick following their opening possession that resulted in a touchdown, giving them back-to-back opportunities on offense which prompted Detroit to go up 10-0 early on.
The Rams' special teams unit also allowed the Lions to convert two fake punt attempts. As a result, the Lions positioned themselves to continue drives that were initially put to a halt, which kept the ball out of the hands of Matthew Stafford and the Rams offense for great lengths of time.
Clearly, Lions coach Dan Campbell had a plan to attack in this regard – whether it's something he's seen on film or it's just his way of being aggressive – it exploited the Rams' special teams unit. This is unequivocally an area the Rams must sure up and do so in a fast manner ahead of next week's game against the Houston Texans.
2. Rectify defensive shortcomings
The Rams defense entered the season as the reigning No. 1 unit from last season. However, after losing key starters during the offseason, the defensive group would need to prove they still have what it takes with new players filling those vacant roles and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris taking over the play-calling duties.
The Rams entered Week 7 stoping the run at a top 10 rate. Meanwhile, they've notoriously been hit over the top with chunk plays against the pass, ranking in the bottom third of the league in pass defense.
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Against the Lions, the Rams defense had specific areas where they shined but putting together a consistent showing all throughout did not come to fruition. The Rams allowed 137 rushing yards (4.9 YPC) and 285 passing yards in totality.
Ultimately, the Lions had the Rams in a vulnerable position with under five minutes left in the four quarter, deep into L.A. territory, but a timely Jalen Ramsey interception saved the day. While the defensive shortcomings didn't haunt the team in this go-around, cleaning up the areas in which the Lions directly attacked them is an adjustment to be made as the season progresses.
The defense has allowed the seventh-fewest points this season. Meanwhile, they're 21st in yards allowed. While this looks like a 'bend but don't break' defense thus far, the unit improvements to be made – specifically ensuring ball carriers are brought to the ground after being wrapped up as Detroit broke several tackles in the Week 7 contest.
3. Get back to being a threat in running the ball
Ever since Sean McVay took over as head coach of the Rams, the rushing attack has always been a pivotal part of the offense. However, this season under quarterback Matthew Stafford, it appears the Rams have gotten pass-happy.
While it hasn't come back to haunt them much this season, it is in fact limiting the variety of options in which they can attack opposing defenses. When running the ball at an effective rate, it not only makes the defense have to respect the run, it also opens up the option of play-action usage. When the running game doesn’t carry much weight, it also disables the ability to use play-action which would in theory pull linebackers toward the line of scrimmage to play the run, while being able to beat them over the top with the pass.
In Week 7 against the Lions, the L.A. running game only handled the ball 19 times in comparison to Stafford's 41 passing attempts. The running game averaged 2.5 yards per rushing attempt, totaling just 47 yards on the day. While the Rams have dealt with injuries at the running back position, their rushing attack is something they need to get going at a consistent rate regardless of who is handling the ball in order to open up the entire offense to its fullest extent.
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