Rams vs Lions: Keys To The Game

Detroit Lions insider Mike Mady provides four keys to beating the St. Louis Rams in Sunday's opener.

The Detroit Lions will kick off the 2012 season by hosting the St. Louis Rams.

The Rams are coming off of a 2-14 season which resulted in a house cleaning of the team and coaching staff.

The Rams are now led by bench boss Jeff Fisher and sport a roster filled with new faces but not necessarily one that lacks talent.

If the Lions hope to compete in the hyper-competitive NFC and NFC North, this is a game they must win.

Here are four keys to victory for the Lions ...

1. Pressure Bradford

Rams quarterback Sam Bradford - the top overall selection in the 2010 draft – has struggled when faced with pressure in the early portions of his career.

The Rams offensive line has not done well in its efforts to protect Bradford (he was sacked 36 times on only 399 drop backs in 2011) so the Lions may not have to blitz to create a pass rush.

In 2011, when faced with pressure, Bradford attempted 99 passes. Of those passes, Bradford completed only 38.4 percent for a quarterback rating of 60.2.

2. Neutralize the pass rush

The Rams strength on defense is its defensive line, particularly the edge rushers.

The main contributors here are Chris Long and Robert Quinn.

Chris Long has proven to be a talented pass rusher, racking up 30.5 sacks in his short four-year career, including 13.5 a season ago.

Quinn was selected with pick 14 in the 2011 draft, one pick after the Lions selected Nick Fairley. In his rookie season, Quinn recorded five sacks and blocked three punts. He has looked strong in the preseason and should show improvement in his sophomore campaign.

Right tackle Gosder Cherilus will match up with Long – and may have tight end help often – and left tackle Jeff Backus will have the responsibility of blocking Quinn.

The Lions ability to stop the edge rush from the Rams will prove to be a significant factor in their offense's success.

3. Effectively use the short passing game

Many assume the Lions will need to attack the Rams inexperienced secondary and leverage the vertical speed of Calvin Johnson and Titus Young along with Matthew Stafford's arm, however that may be a mistake.

As mentioned above, the Rams do have strong defensive ends and the easiest way to limit their effectiveness is quick passes.

In addition, deep passes have a higher likelihood of stalling a drive than short, high-percentage passes. The Rams will want to play a time-control style of offense, which would make three-and-outs costly for the Lions.

Lastly, the Rams showed some tackling deficiencies in the preseason, so getting the ball to playmakers in space could prove to be an effective strategy for the Lions.

4. Prevent big gains against on the ground

The Lions often fell victim to big running plays against a season ago and have made it a defensive goal to eliminate these plays in 2012.

Teams often attacked the B and C gaps against the Lions, taking advantage of the wide-nine defensive formation employed by the team. The Lions defenders will need to be sure-tacklers and maintain discipline in their gap responsibility to ensure that is not the case this week.

Running back Steven Jackson is one of the league's top runners and will surely produce. However, the Lions can't allow the Rams to ride Jackson to victory.

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