3 things to watch in Titans-Rams matchup
NOV 01, 2013 5:18p ET
The Rams had a short turnaround to prepare for their Super Bowl XXXIV rematch with coach Jeff Fisher’s former team, the Tennessee Titans, on Sunday.
Here are three things to watch as the Rams (3-5) host the Titans (3-4) at the Edward Jones Dome:
Kellen Clemens, Take 2
Veteran backup quarterback Kellen Clemens produced some mixed results in his first start following the season-ending injury to Sam Bradford.
He completed just 15-of-31 passes for 158 yards, with two interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 36.8 -- after two games, Clemens’ QB rating of 39.8 is only slightly better than Rams punter Johnny Hekker’s 39.6 for his one incomplete pass in Week 3.
But it was Clemens who drove the offense 96 yards in 12 plays over the final 5:42 and had St. Louis in position to pull off the upset before his fourth-down pass intended for Brian Quick fell incomplete as time expired.
Clemens enters Sunday’s game with a 4-9 record in his 13 career starts. He’s completed just 51.6 percent of his passes with a career passer rating of 60.3. In other words, he’s running out of chances to show he can be a capable starting quarterback in the NFL.
If Clemens doesn’t show improvement against the Titans, it may be time to turn to Austin Davis and determine whether or not the rookie can play. But of course there are also reasons Davis was not on an NFL roster or even a practice-squad player when Bradford got hurt against Carolina.
Stacy leads rushing attack
The Rams enter this game ranked 24th in the league in rushing yards, averaging just 86.8 per game, and that’s after rushing for 200 yards in the loss to the Seahawks.
The good news has been the emergence of rookie running back Zac Stacy, a fifth-round pick out of Vanderbilt who had a career-high 134 yards rushing on 26 carries against Seattle and is averaging 4.6 yards per carry this season.
The bad news is that Stacy has been limited in practice this week because of an ankle injury and on Friday was officially listed as questionable. Backup Daryl Richardson, who is averaging 3.1 yards per carry in his second season, did not practice on Friday because of a foot injury and was listed as questionable.
Another backup running back, rookie Benny Cunningham, was also listed as questionable with an ankle injury but was a full participant at practice on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. He has 17 carries and is averaging 2.7 yards per carry.
Running back Isaiah Pead, a second-round draft pick in 2012, has not recorded a carry since Week 3. He had 13 touches in that 31-7 loss to Cowboys, catching seven passes for 43 yards and rushing six times for 20 yards.
Losing right guard Harvey Dahl for a couple weeks to a medial collateral ligament injury in his left knee won’t help the running game, either.
Can the D do it again?
The Rams defense put together a performance to remember against the Seahawks on Monday and even resembled what many thought they could have been coming into the season.
"I think on defense, at least for the first time this year, we really looked like us," defensive end Chris Long said. "The coaches made some great adjustments in the run game, scheme-wise. Guys answered the bell in the run game. We’re proud of that."
Long, Robert Quinn and the rest of the Rams limited Seattle to just 135 yards of offense -- most of which came on an 80-yard touchdown reception by Golden Tate -- and seven first downs. They sacked elusive quarterback Russell Wilson seven times, with Long and Quinn each recording three.
Whether or not the St. Louis D can rise to the challenge each week is another story.
"I think we can," defensive coordinator Tim Walton told reporters on Thursday. "Guys will go out and just play with the same energy, play with the same focus. They’re having fun, they’re playing physical, they’re playing together as a group. Starting to understand things better and I think, definitely, we can continue to play well."
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @natelatsch or email him at email@example.com.