- Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer
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1. Finding the finish line
Even without starting quarterback Sam Bradford, the Rams have found themselves with a chance to win in the closing minutes of each of the past two games. Both times, they’ve come up empty.
This week, the challenge of finishing a game with a flourish is even more daunting as they take on a Colts team and quarterback in Andrew Luck who do it better than just about anyone else.
Luck has led 10 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime in the past season and a half and is at his absolute best when the game is on the line.
“We’ve had opportunities the last two weeks and got close but didn’t get it done, but we respect what he’s done,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “He’s really an outstanding quarterback and has a good feel for just making things happen at the end. Obviously, we’ll pay a little bit more attention to the type of things that they’re doing and the things that they’re having success with, but our philosophy is we’re going to do whatever it is to win the football game whether that’s go out and win a two-minute drive or put one together ourselves.”
For the Rams, the ideal situation is to get a lead so it won’t come down to the final moments but if it does, they have to eliminate the mistakes that have kept them from stealing wins the past two weeks.
2. Holding steady with Clemens
Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire in his two starts since taking over for Bradford but he’s done enough to keep them in games and have them in position to win late.
Last week against Tennessee, Clemens was actually pretty sharp, especially early in the game and helped lead a trio of touchdown drives. Were it not for a late, costly fumble, it might have been his best professional outing.
With running back Zac Stacy leading a vastly improved run game, the Rams aren’t asking Clemens to lead them to victory with 300-yard passing games. They just need more performances like last week minus the turnovers.
“I think Kellen’s played well the last couple games, albeit the turnovers have to get better,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “Again, he’s doing enough for us to win football games. We got the running game going. We’ve got to consistently do that, but we’ve just got to not hurt ourselves with the turnovers and I think we’ll find a way and get a win here.”
3. Don’t be the tonic
It’s been something of a common practice for teams struggling to run the ball to simply pop a “Play the Rams” pill and magically find whatever ails their rushing attack solved.
Tennessee did it last week when it rushed for nearly 200 yards and back Chris Johnson went for 150 on 23 carries.
This week, Indianapolis almost certainly views the Rams as the chance to get running back Trent Richardson to pay dividends after the big trade that sent him to the Circle City.
Entering this week, the Colts are 12th in the league in rushing offense but Richardson has fallen well short of expectations in averaging 3 yards per carry on 83 attempts.
But the Colts have still found success with a combination of Richardson and Donald Brown and the Rams must find a way to consistently slow down the run or it’s going to be another long day at the office.
“It is a good duo and, like I said, they do a good job of running the football, and that’s a balanced running attack with both of those guys in there,” defensive coordinator Tim Walton said. “But, the fact that they have the quarterback, they can throw the ball down the field, they have the run game, they have a balanced offense. They make you have to play both things all the time. So, you can’t be one-dimensional on defense, you have to mix it up with them. That poses a big challenge.”