The Rams have six games remaining on the road in the 2010 season. The team sits at 3-3 and while you can debate whether the team’s record should actually be better or worse than that there is no debating that the Rams have been greatly helped by playing the majority of the season at the Edward Jones Dome. This weekend the Rams head off to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers in a game that is a toss up sort of game. The teams are pretty equal and both are in the embryonic stages of a rebirth. Until the Rams can prove they can win on the road any dreams of sneaking into the playoffs are nothing more than that, just a dream. So how do the Rams get over the road game hump and become a threat to win the NFC West? Here is what the Rams must do to become a good road team.
#1 Win the turnover battle: The one stat that is a leading indicator in your team’s success is how you do in the turnover battle. If you are in the plus you win more times than not. If you are in the minus you lose more times than not. This season the Rams are 3-1 at home with a turnover advantage of +2. On the road the Rams are 0-2 with a turnover disadvantage of -2. If the Rams are going to win games on the road the defense has to do a better job of creating turnovers and the offense has to be better in not laying the ball on the turf.
#2 Sam Bradford has to be better: Bradford is continuing to go through the growing pains of a rookie quarterback. His first two games on the road have been his worst thus far. When your completion percentage is hovering around 50% you won’t win many games. On the road this season that is exactly where Bradford stands. The quarterback simply has to be more accurate if the Rams are going to “steal” some games on the road.
#3 Improve on 3rd down: The Rams are only at 33% on 3rd down conversions on the road this season. A lot of that has to do with getting in long distance situations after failing to make plays on 1st and 2nd downs. Some of that factors into Bradford’s completion percentage woes on the road. Successful teams have that number north of 50%.
#4 Dealing with crowd pressure: The Rams played in two places that aren’t currently the toughest places to play in the NFL, Oakland Coliseum and Ford Field. This week in Tampa Bay it is a similar environment. It most likely won’t be a sellout there either so it would stand to reason that the Rams would be better equipped to handle the road environment now that they have dealt with it a couple of times. The Rams need to handle this better because there are trips to Seattle, New Orleans and Denver on the horizon where it will be much louder then anything they have seen thus far.
#5 Defensive pressure: Last week the Rams defense suffocated Philip Rivers with 7 sacks. In the first two road games for the Rams the defense only was able to manage 3 sacks total. If the Rams are going to get things done on the road then they must put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. When Shaun Hill, Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski can carve you up it shows that if you don’t put pressure on a NFL quarterback, no matter what their skill level, they will pick you apart.
I still don’t know where this Rams team is headed. I do know that if they don’t improve on the road that we are still facing a 5-11 or worse type of season. The Buccaneers are a team that can be had. It won’t be easy, but as we have talked all season about taking baby steps is key for the Rams. It is now time to take another one and win on the road.
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