Rams Hope to Light Up Monday Night (stlouisrams.com)

They might be Giants, but the Rams stack up to them pretty well.  Dating back to 1938, the Rams own the all-time series against the Giants at 25-13.  The Rams are beaten up after their first game, but they are not alone.  The Giants are dropping like flies, as well.  Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin said, “We’ve had what, three ACLs, we had a guy break his foot, he stepped on the field one day, we had a guy tear a (pectoral muscle).”  So the Rams will get no sympathy from them.

Both teams are coming off disappointing losses in Week 1, so each has a lot to prove to their fans, to the rest of the league, and to themselves.  “For us (the Redskins game) was a divisional game and those are extremely important,” Coughlin said.  Even though the Rams aren’t in their division, they know this game is as important as any other, especially with all the mistakes they made last week.  “We’ve got a lot of correcting to do and we’ve got a lot of improvement to go through. I think the players all share that feeling.”

Sam Bradford should be back for Monday – his finger is feeling better, and was on the practice field Wednesday.  Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo was obviously relieved, saying that was the “understatement of the year”.  Coach Spags said, “We all know how we feel about the quarterback on any team, because it’s an important position, and we know what Sam means to ours.”

Everyone, Including Bradford, is Glad He'll Be Under Center (stlouisrams.com)

But Sam was just as relieved as his coach.  It will be his first Monday Night Football Game.  “
If I wasn’t playing something,” Bradford said, “definitely Monday night football was always a highlight of my week. I remember it being the only game on TV that night and I remember watching it and thinking how cool it would be to play on that stage some day and how fortunate we are to be here, going to play on Monday night football for the first time next week.”

Bradford thinks it’s important for the Rams to rebound well on Monday, no matter the stage.  He said, “Obviously we feel we dropped the game last week. As last year goes to show we were a game away last year and had we closed out some of those games earlier in the season it would have been a different situation last year. I think everyone in this building understands the importance of getting wins early in the year.”

But even if Bradford plays, the Giants still plan on stopping the run first.  Coughlin said, “First of all you try to stop the run which…they demonstrated the other night the Rams run the ball well. Sam is a very good, young quarterback who has really matured and developed in his year of playing time. We’ll do the best we can against a very good player.”

The Rams strength last week was the running game, but they might have to get things done another way against the Giants.  The Giants gave up only 74 yards to Washington running backs (Tim Hightower had 72 and Roy Helu had 2), an average of 2.8 yards per carry.  They’re a team that makes stopping the run its focus.  Bradford said, “They’re big, they’re physical. It’s hard to run the football against these guys. There’s just not a lot of space inside. They do a great job of putting pressure on the passer. We’re going to have to be really good up front both in the run game and the pass game this week.”

Though Steven Jackson is still questionable for Monday’s game with his thigh injury, Coughlin doesn’t think there’s much of a letdown with Carnell…er, I mean…Cadillac Williams in there.  Coughlin said, “Well, he played very well, and of course I know of him in his younger years, but he played very well the other night. Both backs really displayed strength and power and quickness and the ability to move the pile. And 91 yards against the Eagles is a lot of yards.”  Coughlin doesn’t see how he needs to change his game plan because of the roster changes.  “I didn’t see a whole lot of difference in terms of how they used the backs,” he said, “I thought the backs were used in a similar fashion.”

Jerious Norwood Eludes a Defender (stlouisrams.com)

And look for Jerious Norwood to get some action, as well.  When he gets space, he can make things happen; as if he greases up his jersey before the game, he’s hard to get a hold of.  He only got 3 carries for 10 yards, but had the most 20+ yard kick returns in the NFL (tie) in Week 1, showing how hard to handle he can be.

Pro Bowl DE Justin Tuck feels the same about the Rams offense.  “Their running game can be tremendous,” he said.  “Obviously it helps if you have 39 (Steven Jackson) back there. Even with Cadillac…he still had 91 yards on 19 carries, so we definitely have to put them into some situations where they have to rely heavily on their quarterback – who is a great and up and coming quarterback. We would rather have him be one dimensional than have the option of handing it off and being able to drop back and pass too.”

Cadillac Williams Looks For Another Big Game (stlouisrams.com)

Tuck knows Williams very well.  He said, “Actually, I played against Cadillac in high school. I remember him before he had the knee injury. The knee injury still hasn’t slowed him down. He’s still a great, great back.”  When asked how good Williams was high school, he said one word, “unstoppable.”  Rams fans hope the Giants won’t be able to stop him Monday.


Let’s look at what kind of defense the Rams will be facing.

On the defensive line, Giants Defensive End Osi Umenyiora (knee) should be out of the lineup.  However, though he said his neck is “less than 100%”, outstanding DE Justin Tuck should be ready on Monday, which isn’t good news to Sam Bradford – Tuck said sacking quarterbacks is favorite part of playing football.  With both Rams Offensive Tackles banged up last week, Tuck and his counterparts should be trouble for them.  DEs Jason Pierre-Paul (2010 first round pick – the 6’5” 278 DE that does backflips, like he’s two Ozzie Smiths) was effective last week (6 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble), and Dave Tollefson had a sack and two tackles.

At 6’7”, 317, Defensive Tackle Chris Canty is a roadblock in the middle.  And starting partner, Linval Joseph (6’4”, 323), is no little person, either.  But if the Rams RBs can get past the line, they have to face a young, but strong linebacker corps.

LBs Greg Jones, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Spencer Paysinger Tackle Tim Hightower (AP Photo: Evan Vucci)

6-year veteran LB Mathias Kiwanuka (6’5”, 267) had five tackles in his start in Week 1.  7-year veteran Michael Boley (6’3”, 230) had four tackles and a fumble recovery.  Beyond 5-year vet Zak DeOssie (2 tackles in Week 1), who’s mainly their long snapper (2011 Pro Bowler) there isn’t a lot of experience.  The Giants have four rookie LBs in Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger, and 2011 6th round picks Jacquain Williams and MLB Greg Jones (had a productive career at Mich St., started 46 games, 465 tackles).  Jones had 4 tackles last week, catching some eyes.

It’s good to hear that Sam Bradford is healthy, because if Rex Grossman can get over 300 yards passing against the Giants, then you’d think Bradford could.  Losing Danny Amendola is tragic, but it affords an opportunity for Greg Salas, Danario Alexander, or Austin Pettis to step up.  Salas made a good catch for 21 yards on Sunday, and has a solid-enough frame (6’1”, 209) to be a third-down guy.  And his 4,345 yards in college give him the 6th highest total in NCAA history.  So, Coach Spags will have to decide on either Alexander (deep threat) or Pettis (extra 3rd down help/punt returner) – or if they even go with five on Monday night.  Dominique Curry should play for his special teams ability.  Coach Spags said on Wednesday, “We have five wide receivers, obviously, that are healthy on the 53; and whether we go in the game with four or five we will determine at the end of the week. Then we’ll decide who, if it is only four, we’ll decide who the four are.”

The Giants secondary is good in the middle.  Antrel Rolle is a Pro Bowl safety (2010: 87 tackles, 4 interceptions), and made 7 tackles in Week 1.  Kenny Phillips is a big, strong tackler (6’2”, 217) who made 9 of them in their first game, along with two passes defended.

2011 first round pick, Cornerback Prince Amukamara (foot) is questionable.  Dependable DB Terrell Thomas (2010: 102 tackles, 5 interceptions, 21 pass defended) is on the IR, as well, which might create some space for Rams receivers.  There was a reason the Giants picked Amukamara, their lack of solid corners, and the Rams hope they can take advantage.  They especially can take advantage of an inexperienced slot corps if Salas can step up.  In that same regard, the Rams tight ends could have a field day if Mike…hold on while I copy and paste it…Hoomanawanui can get back in the lineup.  Having “Hooman” back could take the pressure off Lance Kendricks, whose drops last week were costly.  Kendricks’ hands should return this week.

Kendricks Looks to Make His First Monday Night a Great Night (stlouisrams.com)

Now let’s take a look at the Giants offense.  The good news for the Rams Defense is that the Giants managed only 75 yards in Week 1.  Starting Running Back Ahmed Bradshaw managed only 54 yards (44 rush, 10 rec) last weekend, an average of 3.4 rushing yards per carry.  But he had over 1500 all-purpose yards last year, and shouldn’t be forgotten.  It should be a key for the Rams to shut him down – the Giants are 14-24 under Tom Coughlin when they don’t manage 100 yards rushing.  Forget about last week against the Eagles – Vick’s versatility and slipperiness inflated the rushing yards against (236).  RB LeSean McCoy only had 10 rushing yards in the first half.  If the Rams can play at that level against the Giants for a full 60 minutes, things should go much more smoothly.  And don’t plan on Eli Manning running for 97 yards – or slipping out of the pocket as easily as Vick did.  He’s going to seem like a turtle stuck in mud compared to Vick.

Ahmed Bradshaw Tackled By London Fletcher (AP Photo: Susan Walsh)

Manning now has the longest QB starting streak in the NFL, after his brother Peyton had to miss his game on Sunday, at 104 games.  Put it this way, the Cleveland Browns have started 12 different QBs during Eli’s streak.  Manning had 268 yards (18 of 32) last Sunday, numbers he wasn’t satisfied with.  He’ll be looking to feast on a depleted Rams secondary after not getting a touchdown last weekend, while being intercepted by Redskins rookie Ryan Kerrigan.  The Giants finished last season 10th in passing yards and 7th in scoring.  Without CB Ron Bartell (and perhaps without other starting CB Bradley Fletcher) the Rams will have their hands full in the passing game.  The Rams have to get a good rush on Manning to shut him down.

Manning Sacked by London Fletcher and Chris Neild (AP Photo: Susan Walsh)

In the offseason, the Giants added Center David Baas, after he started 53 games for San Francisco – and was their full-time starter for the last two seasons.  Pro Bowl-starter, G Chris Snee (6’3”, 305), anchors the Giants line, just as he has since 2004.  Snee has started all 108 games he has played in the NFL.  On the outside, Kareem McKenzie (6’6”, 330) has been a fixture at Tackle since 2004.  Will Beatty started on the other end in Week 1, but had only started 6 games before that in his young career.  Look for the Rams DEs to get them some.  It’s imperative that they don’t let Manning get comfy in the pocket.

Chris Long sacks Vick (stlouisrams.com)

Wide­ Receiver Hakeem Nicks (79 rec, 1052 yards, 11 TDs) is probable, and said he is feeling like his knee should be ready to go on Monday.  He’s sure to give Rams cornerbacks fits.  Nicks had 7 catches for 122 yards before leaving the game.  Mario Manningham (2010: 60 rec, 944 yards, 9 TDs) had only 49 yards last week.

As far as the cornerbacks go, the Rams have Justin King and Al Harris ready to go.  King still has to prove himself in the pro game as an outside corner, but that was his game in college.  Having had to learn the inside game in the pros, he’s welcoming a return to the outside.  Harris was a two-time Pro Bowler, but knee troubles have kept him in a backup role.  The Rams are hoping he still something left.  To help out, the Rams resigned CB Tim Atchison – who had just gotten home and unpacked after his prior release from the Rams practice squad when he got the call to come back.  Atchison showed versatility in camp, playing both the outside and nickel corner positions.  Coach Spags said, “You don’t normally want to throw somebody into the heat this quick but I thought Tim showed enough in training camp both from the physical part and knowledge part that deserved to get him back here.”

James Hall Looks to "Get Some" Monday Night (stlouisrams.com)

It’s a great matchup between these two teams.  On defense, both teams need to get after each other’s quarterbacks and limit the opposition’s running back.  On offense, both teams need to find a way to exploit a weak secondary on the other side, and find a way to break through each other’s solid defensive front lines.  It will be a close game, so it will come down to the usual game-breakers.

Third Down will be important, as always.  The Giants were 1 for 10 last week on Third Down plays.  The Rams allowed the Eagles to covert 8 of 13, mostly because of Michael Vick scrambles, so should automatically improve on that.  On the flip side, the Rams were only 2 of 12 on Third Down.  Somebody has to step up and make plays.

Turnovers could make the difference for each team.  Manning’s interception started the second half off wrong (the third play of the half), and those points scored on its return were costly.  The Giants never gained the momentum, or the lead, back.  Bradford, being tripped by his own man, fumbled the ball in the first quarter against the Eagles, leading to a touchdown – and a letdown in momentum.  The Rams never got the momentum, or the lead, back.

Bad penalties cannot be made (Giants had 8 penalties for 63 yards, and the Rams had 9 for 60), nor can chances be missed (both teams missed a Field Goal in Week 1).

Both teams have a lot to prove on Monday night, and there’s no better stage to prove it.

Thanks for reading.