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The Rams under Jeff Fisher have been somewhat of an enigma. They've never really been good (24-31-1) but they have been far more respectable than most Rams teams of the post-Mike Martz era.
That's sort of been Fisher's M.O. going back to his days coaching the Titans. The teams were typically around .500 and then every few years he'd get a decent postseason run to keep it interesting. Fisher has a lot of respect around the league but his coaching resume doesn't really blow anyone away either.
In Saint Louis though, Fisher's team has played well against some really, really good NFC West competition. He's 4-3 against the Cardinals, 3-4-1 against the 49ers and 3-4 against the Seahawks. And many of those contests were close too boot.
Fisher teams are known for tough, hard-hitting defenses and a ground and pound offense. The 2015 Rams are built no differently. Fisher may have finally found an unspectacular quarterback in Nick Foles who can play the game manager role really well. Foles has played well this season in their wins and poorly in their losses but with Todd Gurley emerging as one of the best running backs in the league, Foles isn't being asked to do too much.
Foles is really a tale of two QBs. In wins, his completion percentage is 12 percent higher than in losses, his interception ratio is off the charts (5 to 0 in wins, 2 to 5 in losses) and he is sacked more (7 sacks in losses, five in wins). It will be important for the Bears to get a lead early because Foles averages six and a half more pass attempts in losses than wins. His stats this year indicate he isn't a strong come-from-behind QB.
With that said, this team is already in the playoff race by virtue of their current 3-0 division record and current second place standing in the NFC West behind Arizona.
Can the Bears, with a bad run defense and slow pass rush, really hang with a team like the Rams? Yes, but they will need to play better than they have the last month and it won't be easy.
In order for it to happen, here are my three key player picks for the Rams game:
Lamarr Houston, OLB - It's actually really weird to list a not Pernell McPhee 'backer here but alas, Houston has actually, dare I say, started to show up a bit. He had two sacks on Monday sandwiched between an offsides penalty in addition to having another offsides penalty earlier. While the penalties will hopefully stop, it could mean he's feeling aggressive and getting a little better feel for his new spot. Ideally he'll get better at anticipating the snap counts and going on ball movement, but the sacks are a step in the right direction. As I stated before, Foles is a different QB when the pressure is on him so if McPhee and Houston can rattle him early, it will mean good things for Chicago.
Jay Cutler, QB - It has been a long while since I put Jay in my key players but his play has earned him a spot. He's been a crucial part of all of the Bears' wins this year and this week will be no different. The Rams have a very good defense; fifth overall, fourth against the pass and 13th against the run. They have 27 sacks, second most in the NFL behind Denver. Cutler has to keep playing smart, climbing the pocket when the rush is getting there and keep the discipline that has helped him be very effective this year. Ideally Alshon Jeffery will play and help Cutler make the big plays that have been such a big part of the offense's resurgence the past couple of weeks. Make the good plays and take what this defense gives you.
Jonathan Anderson, ILB - The Bears might get Shea McClellin back this week but that's no given and Christian Jones has been outplayed by Anderson the last couple of games. Anderson is going to be key in helping slow down Gurley. That will, quite simply, be the most important thing that the Bears' linebackers do Sunday. Gurley is one of those running backs that will get his no matter what, it seems, but not allowing him to get into the secondary and/or break tackles and get runs longer than five or six yards is going to be key. Yes I'm sure he'll break a couple 10-12 yard runs but anything longer and the Bears could be in for it.
Honorable mentions: Adrian Amos for run support, Kyle Fuller and Tracy Porter for needing to intercept Foles, and Jeremy Langford.
Who are your key players? What do you think Chicago's gameplan has to be to rattle Foles and slow down Gurley?