By Cedric Williams
Two teams on very opposite ends of the NFL spectrum will meet on Sunday, when the reeling St. Louis Rams and their disappointing three-game losing streak will travel four hours east to central Indiana for a matchup against the AFC South Division-leading Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
The Colts are 6-2 this season and are coming off perhaps their most thrilling win of the season, when they rallied from 18 points down late in the third quarter to defeat the rival Houston Texans 27-24 Sunday night in a nationally-televised game on NBC.
Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck earned the 10th fourth quarter/overtime come-from-behind win of his career by leading the Colts back with three late touchdown passes to electrifying wideout T.Y. Hilton.
St. Louis had almost the exact opposite thing happen, as it made several key mistakes in the final quarter and allowed the Tennessee Titans to steal a 28-21 victory from them.
Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens fumbled deep in his own territory to give the Titans the ball. Tennessee scored on the next play to take the lead, then held on at the end, as Clemens couldn’t connect with his receiver Austin Pettis on two late throws into the end zone.
St. Louis will hit its bye week once the game with Indianapolis is over. So this week’s matchup is the Rams’ last chance to get some momentum going before it begins the home stretch of the 2013 pro football season.
Indianapolis on Offense
The Colts are ranked eighth overall in points scored, and 19th overall in total offense this season, but find themselves ranked surprisingly low in passing (No. 20 at 219.1 yards/game) and rushing (12th, 121.8 yards/game).
Luck, the 2012 NFL Draft’s No. 1 overall pick, has thrown for 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, and Hilton is the Colt’s leading receiver, with 533 yards and five touchdowns.
Indianapolis also has a pair of talented tailbacks in Trent Richardson and Donald Brown, but neither has established himself as the “go-to guy” for the Colts, who came into this season believing they could have one of the best offenses in the entire league.
That hasn’t happened yet, but Indianapolis has managed to keep winning, which has allowed the Colts to stay near the top of the AFC standings, where teams like Kansas City (9-0) and Denver (7-1) lead the way.
Indianapolis on Defense
With one of the worst run defenses in the league (No. 27), the Colts have needed every one of the 214 points they’ve scored this season.
Last week, Houston didn’t even have its star running back Arian Foster, but were still able to gain 143 yards on the ground against Indianapolis, marking the third time in the last four games that an opponent has reached 140 or more rushing yards against the Colts.
St. Louis has finally found its running game with rookie Zac Stacy registering back-to-back 100-yard efforts against Seattle and Tennessee.
How Indianapolis handles the Rams run game will be a key factor in how this matchup turns out.
Linebacker Jerrell Freeman has been Indianapolis’ best player on defense this year. The second-year man out of Division III Mary Hardin-Baylor University in Texas leads the Colts with 44 solo and 65 total tackles this season, while also logging 3.5 quarterback sacks, an interception, and two forced fumbles.
The Colts also feature one of the league’s best pass-rush specialists in veteran end Robert Mathis, who leads the league with 11.5 sacks this year.
The Rams lead the all-time series with the Colts 23-18-2, but Indianapolis has won three of the last four against St. Louis, including a pair of blowouts in the last two meetings (45-28 in 2005, and 42-6 in 2009).
St. Louis last win against the Colts came in 2001, when a group known as “The Greatest Show on Turf” beat an Indianapolis team led by a young Peyton Manning, 42-17, at the Edward Jones Dome.
For more Rams news and updates, visit Rams Central.
Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a freelance reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the Rams and small-school college sports for Examiner.com and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at email@example.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.