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RamView: Week 14 – Preview

One of the Rams’ worst seasons ever will next pay a warped tribute to their greatest season, as they travel to Tennessee for a Super Bowl XXXIV rematch, unfortunately without Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Az Hakim, Rickey Proehl, Orlando Pace, Adam Timmerman, Tom Nutten, Fred Miller, Kevin Carter, Ray Agnew, Grant Wistrom, D’Marco Farr, Keith Lyle, Todd Lyght, Jeff Wilkins, and certainly Mike Jones, not to mention Dick Vermeil and that one offensive coordinator. Sigh. (Leonard Little’s still around, though.)

If that’s not the main media angle for next week, then it’s sure to be the faceoff between the league’s top two RBs, Chris Johnson and Steven Jackson, though that may ultimately prove an unfortunate one for the Rams. Remember Johnson exploding all over the Ram defense last preseason? (And Quinton Ganther? And Omar Cuff?) He went into today leading the league not just in rushing yards, but also yards after contact. The Rams played the run well enough today, but are they ready for the option? The college play has become a dangerous weapon for the Titans now that Vince Young has taken over at QB and rallied Tennessee to a 5-1 run after an 0-6 start. The Rams will be severely tested to keep those two in check on the ground and force Young to throw, which seems the most reliable path to leaving Tennessee with a win.

The Ram offense doesn’t really raise much hope of that happening, though. Tennessee’s respectably in the top 10 in run defense, led by all-pro LB Keith Bulluck. The Rams have had trouble blocking Kyle Vanden Bosch since he was in pee-wee football. They’re not afraid to blitz, getting to Peyton Manning three times with safety blitzes today. The 5-1 run has also coincided with the return of their top two corners, Nick Harper and huge hitter/dirty player Cortland Finnegan, to full health. The Rams’ best hope could be to pick on Chris Hope, a(nother) strong safety very beatable with the deep ball. Of course, that’d mean hitting Tennessee with play action. As if.

Six weeks ago, this looked like a winnable game for the Rams, but  now, both teams are a lot closer to their form of last year. That’s a moment the Titans want to return to; they went 13-3. But it threatens to become an event horizon for the Rams, impending doom they’re being helplessly pulled back into. This week will inspire a lot of living in the past in Rams Nation. It may take a lot of luck for the team to relive the right time.

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