Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton grabbed three touchdowns against the Houston Texans in Week 9 and will look to terrorize the St. Louis Rams secondary at home in Week 10. All three of his scores came in the final 16 minutes of the game.
St. Louis then would do well to recognize and replicate what Houston did to keep Andrew Luck from connecting big with his new No. 1—as well as ascertaining and avoiding what allowed him to go off.
Hilton's first half included just one catch for six yards. The Texans stayed close to him and played a lot of man coverage during that time. The Rams should do the same, but they've shown an affinity for putting their defensive backs in soft zones this season.
Houston came out in zone coverage against Indianapolis in the second half, prompting Andrew Luck to go straight to Hilton a couple of times. Then both of the wideout's first two touchdowns came in one-on-one situations, including one against star cornerback Johnathan Joseph.
The third one was also a man-buster, where Hilton broke Joseph's ankles in the flat and walked it in. He finished with seven catches for 121 yards and three touchdowns.
St. Louis has to double-team him. And it needs to be physical with him at the line, given the defensive backs' tackling woes this season.
Even if the defense holds up against the rising second-year star, the special teams unit will still have to keep him bottled up in the return game. Hilton is averaging 9.6 yards per punt return this season and ran one back 75 yards last year.
The defense has a 225-pound problem to deal with in running back Trent Richardson. Chris Johnson entered his matchup with the Rams having been held without a rushing touchdown or 100-yard game this season, but St. Louis rolled out the red carpet and let him rack up 150 yards and his first two scores of the year.
That's 29.1 percent of his rushing output in 2013.
So, never mind that Richardson is averaging 3.1 yards per carry and has two touchdowns on the year. The Rams may be the remedy to his woes if they don't clamp down on the run game. If St. Louis doesn't fix its run defense, Richardson will be the fifth 100-yard rusher that it allows, if not the fifth 140-yard rusher.
The Rams also need to stop inviting quarterback draws by unnecessarily spreading their line, especially in the red zone. Luck will happily add another rushing touchdown to his resume if he has enough space to roam.
Andre Johnson was able to destroy the Colts secondary to the tune of 229 yards and three touchdowns on nine catches. His first two scores came from 62 and 41 yards out. Although he's less physical, Chris Givens is a scary deep threat for a defensive backfield coming off of that type of performance.
The Rams just have to put Kellen Clemens in a position to make a big play happen and trust that he'll deliver once or twice. He usually has time to let it fly, but accuracy is an issue. Clemens, in turn, cannot turn the ball over in the red zone.
The young St. Louis squad needs momentum. The defense needs a lead, so its front four can hunt. Luck has been sacked 19 times in his second season, but the Rams have 29 sacks (in one more game).
Expect more Zac Stacy. The rookie's career-high carry count on the road is 18, but he has seen increased work in each of the past two weeks, culminating in a 27-carry, 127-yard, two-score performance against the Tennessee Titans at home in Week 9. With six catches for 51 yards, he totaled 178 on the afternoon.
In his past two games, Stacy averaged 4.9 yards per rush and 26.5 attempts per game. He'll be featured heavily against an Indianapolis defense that is allowing four yards per tote to running backs. Despite a high volume of catches last week, Brian Schottenheimer may not scheme for many passes to Stacy; the Colts have allowed 26 receptions to the position, 31st in the NFL.
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