- Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer
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1. Getting an easy one
Much has been made this week of Houston quarterback Matt Schaub's struggles with, well, throwing the ball to his own team. Schaub became the first signal caller in league history to throw an interception returned for a touchdown four weeks in a row when he did it last week against San Francisco.
The Rams aren’t taking anything for granted despite Schaub’s recent struggles, and said all the right things when asked about him this week.
“This guy’s had a lot of success,” defensive coordinator Tim Walton said. “You can flip on a lot of other tape and see that this guy is a bigtime player, has a lot of good weapons around him. So, we’re not going to let a few miscues, unfortunate breaks happen to him, and think that he’s something different, because we know better than that.”
That doesn’t mean the Rams won’t be ready to pounce if Schaub gives them an opportunity. The Rams had a pair of interceptions last week against Jacksonville, including one that safety Matt Giordano returned 82 yards for a score.
Offense is going to be hard to come by for the Rams, so any contributions the defense can make to the scoreboard are more than welcome.
2. Every yard counts
By now, the Rams’ special teams penalty problems have been rehashed over and over, many times right here in this space. This week, the Rams discussed the need to get the problems fixed, and hoped they could get a little help on some questionable calls.
Still, they insist that they don’t intend to change their approach to special teams even though they are doing all they can to be more aware.
“It’s just young guys playing fast,” special teams coach John Fassel said. “They’re playing hard. Can’t ask any more of them in that regard. We’ve just got to keep really putting the extra emphasis on being smart, because they’re obviously watching us for whatever reason.”
The team’s 17 special teams penalties have been particularly damaging on punt returns, where rookie Tavon Austin has had some dynamic plays called back by holding or illegal blocks.
Much like the potential for points from the defense, the Rams could use some help from the special teams. Even if they don’t get points, a swing in field position from eliminating penalties would go a long way in helping their cause.
3. Building on the run
The Rams had their finest rushing performance of the season, finally “revving” the run as this corner of cyberspace has waited for all season. Granted, it came against the league’s worst run defense, but the Rams’ 143 yards on the ground was a step in the right direction.
“(We) just have to keep working,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “One game does not make where we’re trying to get to with the balance, but we felt good about it all in all. Again, I think that’s where we’re headed.”
Houston has the league’s top-ranked defense, but is tied for 27th in the league against the run after NFC West powerhouses Seattle and San Francisco rushed for 179 and 177 yards against it, respectively.
The Rams don’t have a rushing attack nearly as potent as the Seahawks or 49ers, but a reasonable facsimile will be necessary for the Rams to have success moving the ball in this one.