Rams face a potential trap
By Eric Dickerson
Special to ABC Sports Online

Clearly, Mondayís Rams-Lions game (ABC, 9 p.m. ET) features two teams going in different directions.

The St. Louis Rams are making big strides on defense. Everyone knows how potent the Rams offense is, and how quickly they can score points. One thing theyíve done a better job of this year is taking care of the football. Last year, Kurt Warner wasnít as consistent as 1999. He threw more interceptions, and his receivers would get the ball and fumble it. Or theyíd make an interception and turn it back over.

The defense has played very well, as opposed to last yearís defense. When you look at it, they always seem to have players around the football -- not three or four, but eight or nine guys all trying to make something happen at all times. That makes a big difference.

As for the Detroit Lions, where do you start? The quarterback situation is one of the shakiest things they have right now, along with no running game.

Ty Detmer will start this week, after throwing seven interceptions in his last start. How do you start a guy with seven interceptions? I donít know. I guess they figured, ďPick your poison.Ē Thereís just no way I could stick by that decision unless that quarterback was a Super Bowl winner, or I absolutely knew that was a bad day for him.

How do you start a guy with seven interceptions? I donít know. I guess they figured, ďPick your poison.Ē Thereís just no way I could stick by that decision unless that quarterback was a Super Bowl winner, or I absolutely knew that was a bad day for him.
But thatís their decision. I know Charlie Batch didnít play well in his first game, but he didnít throw seven INTs.

One of the problems is a lack of understanding of the West Coast offense. As Iíve said before, itís a very complex offense. You have a lot of reads -- progressive reads. There are a lot of timing routes, and you need a quarterback who can throw timing routes.

Along with that, they must have a running game. The Lions havenít been able to establish one through two games (69 yards per game avg). James Stewart hasnít looked anywhere close to the 1,000-yard rusher he was a year ago.

Their defense is not a bad defense. Robert Porcher is an excellent pass rusher. His three sacks lead the team.

One thing the Rams will know how to do is take advantage of Todd Lyght. Lyght doesnít have the foot speed to keep up with those Ram receivers. Thereís no way he can play Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt or Az-Zahir Hakim man-up. So the Lions will probably play zone -- most likely two-deep coverage.

This is going to be a real challenge for Detroitís defense, and for the offense, it will be tough moving the ball on a Ram defense that keeps getting better week after week.

When the Rams have the ball:
Again, where do you start? They have so many weapons. They may say, ďLetís start off with the run,Ē or they could say, ďLetís go downtown right off the bat,Ē and try to beat the Lions up top.

Like I said, they may try to take advantage of Lyght early if he goes man-to-man. If Iím on the Lions defense, I want to keep everything in front of me. I would try not to let them have too many big plays -- maybe let them catch the ball and have to run for the big play -- but I would not let them get behind me and give it to them.

You look at the Rams offense right now, and theyíre in midseason form, with the way theyíre moving the ball. Miami has had one of the best defenses in the league the past two years and the Rams shredded it. The Dolphins got pressure on Kurt Warner and hit him, but they could not stop him from scoring.

When the Lions have the ball:
The Barry Sanders days are gone. The Lions used to be able to spread the field with Barry, and could get away with a lot, because he could do so much by himself.

The first thing they have to do is see what Detmer can do. Can he hit the receivers? Will he throw more interceptions? If he works out, fine. Then they can work the running game in there. The running game speaks for itself: Either you can run the football or you canít. And the Rams have been pretty good against the run (eighth in the league).

As Iíve said before, one works off the other, and the Lions havenít shown they can do either at this point.

Key matchup:
Todd Lyght vs. Isaac Bruce or Torry Holt -- Look for him to get beat if he goes one-on-one against either of these two guys. If Lyght goes to bump-and-run coverage, look for the Rams to go right at him. If itís not in, the Rams might audible and go to him.

The pick:
This is one of those games that can be dangerous, because the Rams know they have a better football team and they know they should win this game, and win it by a pretty comfortable margin.

But itís Monday night, and in Detroit, theyíre facing a team thatís a wounded animal. The Rams cannot get too comfortable and get caught looking ahead to the New York Giants. That said, Mike Martz has this team in a good frame of mind, and I donít believe the Rams will fall into the trap.

Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson is a sideline reporter for Monday Night Football and is a regular contributor to ABC Sports Online.

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