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Thursday, October 4
 
Game Plans: Rams vs. Lions

By Ron Jaworski and Sean Salisbury
Special to ESPN.com

The St. Louis Rams travel to Detroit to face the Lions on Monday night (ABC, 9 p.m. ET).

ESPN analysts Ron Jaworski and Sean Salisbury break down the game plans of each team.

JAWORSKI VS. SALISBURY
Jaworski on the Rams

The St. Louis Rams are the best team in football, a fact made clear in their demolition of Miami. Initially it seemed like the Rams were doing everything right. But after watching the film, I thought the Miami defense actually played well. But Kurt Warner was phenomenal. He was finding the open receiver and completing balls, even to ones who weren't open. That's how hot he was. Even when the Dolphins played the perfect coverage, Warner still managed to squeeze the ball through a hole to his receiver. It was one of Warner's best performances.. He was throwing with a quick release, velocity and accuracy.

On defense, the Rams have been unbelievably improved. After only three games, their defense appears to be coming together. Their defense will win games for them. In fact, I think the defense won the Eagles' game in Week 1. At strong safety, rookie Adam Archuleta is starting to get a consistent feel for the NFL. The Rams are using him both in the box as a run stopper and in pass coverage at safety.

Five keys for the Rams:
1. Pedal to the metal. The Lions, to me, are the slowest team in football. And the Rams are the fastest. This is not a good matchup for Detroit. So the Rams will put the pedal to the metal. They don't want Detroit to have any sign of life. The Rams will come out winging the ball. Coach Mike Martz wants to score on every play. Detroit is struggling on both sides of the ball, so the Rams don't want to give them any positive vibes. They must start quickly.

2. The unstoppable Faulk. The Rams present matchup problems. One of the keys will be Faulk against Lions middle linebacker Stephen Boyd. Miami's Zach Thomas is one of the game's best coverage middle linebackers; Faulk embarrassed him. The Dolphins thought they could cover Faulk occasionally with Thomas. No way -- it didn't work. Boyd isn't close to the athletic player that Thomas is. So Faulk should exploit him as well.

3. Exploit the secondary. The Lions' secondary is banged up. They have Todd Lyght and Terry Fair as the corners, with Robert Bailey and Jimmy Wyrick as the backups. The Rams believe their third, fourth and fifth receivers are better than the other team's third, fourth and fifth coverage plays -- and they are right. Teams think they have to stop Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, but they really have to stop Az-Zahir Hakim and Ricky Proehl, who could start for other teams.

4. Blow up plays. The Lions are playing a West Coast offense without prototypical West Coast players. Their line is big, strong and hulking. They have a power running back in James Stewart. That means the Rams must use their speed and quickness to penetrate and fast-flow to the football. They can't allow the Lions' big-bodied line to blow them off the ball. They must penetrate the gaps, get players in the backfield and blow up their plays.

5. Pressure Detmer. Ty Detmer is coming off a seven-interception game (really eight, because one was called back on a penalty). Detmer needs to plant, step and throw to get the ball down the field. He lacks the consistent arm strength to be a top-notch NFL quarterback. The Rams must negate that ability by putting people in space and making him throw off his back foot.

Salisbury on the Lions
The Detroit Lions are reeling from their 0-2 start. They are fortunate they have coach Marty Mornhinweg and team president Matt Millen. Mornhinweg has coached on winning teams, and Millen wears Super Bowl rings and understands the grind it takes to win in the NFL. Detroit's offense lacks explosion. The Lions expected better play at the quarterback position, something Mornhinweg believes Ty Detmer could still provide. Jason Hansen is their best weapon, kicking field goals and extra points. However, they have good personnel on offense and defense. James Stewart is a solid running back. Germane Crowell could still emerge as an explosive wideout.

They have quality players at key defensive positions, like Robert Porcher, Luther Elliss and Stephen Boyd. In fact, the Lions' defense must be cut some slack. When the quarterback throws seven picks, the defense is put in a major bind. Only Dallas has turned the ball over more than Detroit, and the Cowboys have played one more game. The Lions are not on the same page for whatever reason, but winning at home against St. Louis would remedy a lot of problems.

Five keys for the Lions:
1. No turnovers. Meaning zero -- not one. If the Lions are going to beat the Rams, even at home, they can not turn the ball over. They can not fumble or throw interceptions. If they do, the Rams will turn their mistakes into points.

2. Big plays from Crowell. Germane Crowell needs to produce. He only has four catches for 34 yards. That won't cut it if the Lions hope to generate points. I expect him to be more of a star in this league. He needs to expand his repertoire and make plays downfield. Look for him to emerge; he has to.

3. Run, run, run. Last week the teams that ran the ball the most won every game but one (Philadelphia and Dallas each had 30 attempts in their game). So for the Lions to have a chance against the Rams, they need to have success running the ball with Stewart and keep the Rams' offense off the field. Without a solid running game, the Lions will be susceptible to throwing more interceptions. And Detroit can't afford to give the ball to the Rams too much.

4. Do something out of the ordinary. The Lions need to block a punt for a touchdown, or get three touchdowns from a receiver, or take two interceptions back for a touchdown, like New England did against Indianapolis -- things that don't usually happen each week. And the Lions need a few out-of-the-ordinary plays to translate into touchdowns.

5. Donít get behind early. The Lions are not capable of playing catchup against the Rams. They need to stay in the game and keep the crowd into it. If the Rams take the Silverdome crowd out of the game, the Lions will be done. They need to start fast and stay competitive with the Rams for as long as possible, hopefully into the fourth quarter.







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