The Rams (2-4) visit the Patriots on Sunday at Gillette Stadium and here are five items of note:
1) Zone blitzing from a faster defense. The Rams are a faster-style defense, and will sometimes stress the opposition's protections with zone blitzes. Especially against a less experienced quarterback, that can create problems. Leonard Little (team-high 4.5 sacks) is a top pass rusher, while coach Jim Haslett feels No. 2 overall draft choice Chris Long is coming off his best game of the season in terms of generating pressure. In turn, the Rams have had their struggles defending the run.
2) Steven Jackson: leading rusher & receiver. Running back Steven Jackson leads the Rams with 508 rushing yards and 25 receptions. The Bears' Matt Forte, the Saints' Reggie Bush and the 49ers' Frank Gore are the only other players to lead their teams in both categories.
3) Culture change. After getting outscored 147-43 in their first four games, the Rams made a coaching change. The club has been revived under interim coach Jim Haslett, with back to back wins over the Redskins and Cowboys. One of the first things Haslett did was open up the team's practice to all employees because he felt there was a disconnect throughout the organization. "I just thought that somehow you have to try to come together and be one," he said.
4) Under-the-radar-player. When top safeties are discussed in the NFL, Oshiomogho Atogwe is not often part of the conversation. Now in his fourth season, he's proven to be, at the least, a playmaker. Atogwe totaled eight interceptions last year, and Haslett feels he should have been in the Pro Bowl. Atogwe has three picks this year as he's often around the ball.
5) In close game, kicker is clutch. Having spent the first five years of his career with the Seahawks, Josh Brown delivered some clutch kicks to help beat the Rams late in games. One way for the Rams to ensure that didn't keep happening to them was to sign Brown as a free agent this past offseason. He's already delivered one winning kick, nailing a 49-yarder with no time left against the Redskins. Brown is one of the best in the NFL.
PREDICTION: From a talent standpoint, the Patriots are the superior team. The Patriots will likely commit their resources to ensuring Jackson doesn't beat them, assuming Jackson -- who is battling a thigh injury -- is healthy enough to play. That could leave the secondary in some challenging situations in the passing game. Pass protection, as it usually does, should play an important role in the game. A player like Kevin Faulk could see an expanded role, as the Patriots are shorthanded at running back and he is adept in that area of the game. Prediction: Patriots 27, Rams 17