A young coach, a balanced offense with a solid quarterback and a defensive line featuring Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. The combination has spelled success for the Los Angeles Rams and why wouldn’t it? Any NFL team would like to have some or most of those components.
That includes the Detroit Lions (4-7) who will host the Rams (10-1) on Sunday.
“They’re a very balanced offense and I think something we talk about all the time, that when you can be balanced on offense, it’s very difficult to defend and they’ve done a great job of that all year,’’ coach Matt Patricia said.
The Lions will have their hands full in all three phases.
“One of the things that’s really important with this team is just understanding how good they are on special teams and how good they are defensively. I think John Fassel does a phenomenal job on special teams. It’s one of the most dominant units in the league,’’ Patricia said. “They’re very consistent and they really make big plays.’’
Five things to watch:
1. Somehow, some way the Lions must get their run game going even without running back Kerryon Johnson who will miss his second straight game with a knee injury. LeGarrette Blount was the workhorse in the Thanksgiving loss to the Bears with 19 carries for 88 yards. “I think for our guys, we’re always on the program of whoever’s out there playing, we’re expecting everybody to do their best and go out and perform at a high level. We’ll do the same this weekend,’’ Patricia said.
2. Can’t overlook the Lions’ passing game either. Marvin Jones is out for the season, leaving Kenny Golladay, Bruce Ellington, TJ Jones, Theo Riddick and the tight ends to pitch in. Matthew Stafford needs a better game, but he also needs his receivers to get open and run the right routes. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said the shortcomings on offense are all on him. “It’s a team game. We have 11 guys out there. We all have to execute and be on the same page. A lot of that stuff’s on me. You guys at home don’t always know exactly what’s going on on the field. I’m accountable for everything that happens on this offense. Bad things that happen, things that don’t happen right, whether it’s a decision or being in a different spot, or some sort of decision somebody out there on the field is making that maybe isn’t even seen on the TV copy of the game. That stuff’s all on me,’’ Cooter said this week.
3. Stop running back Todd Gurley, the NFL’s second most prolific back. The Lions run defense has been one of the few units that has improved this season, holding teams to a total of 148 rushing yards combined over the last three games. (See blog below.)
4. Pressure quarterback Jared Goff (26 touchdowns, 6 interceptions) who has been sacked 24 times. He’s got a flotilla of solid receivers in Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods. “They’re a very explosive team. They do a great job with the scheme. Coach (Sean) McVay does an outstanding job of controlling the game on the offensive side of the ball with tempo. They use different tempos, they probably have about three or four different tempos that they can use offensively to dictate the game. So, we just have to do a good job of being really sound fundamentally and making sure that we’re doing a good job with our reads and our eye control.
5. Ndamukong Suh will return for his first game at Ford Field since he signed as a free agent with Miami in 2015. He and defensive tackle Aaron Donald are a powerful inside force that could present problems for the Lions’ offensive line and Stafford.
PREDICTION: Rams 35, Lions 17