It's not hard to see the similarities between the Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams, who are set to meet Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.
Both teams started 1-3. Both teams have talked about the benefits of re-emphasizing offensive balance.
"We didn't get off to a very good start. We had a couple of games where we got behind and weren't playing particularly well," St. Louis head coach Jeff Fisher said on a conference call with Charlotte media.
"We re-emphasized the run game, and that's kind of turned things around. Our numbers were getting a little out of hand with the pass attempts the first four weeks. We needed to get back to balance, and it's worked out for us."
And both teams feature dynamic bookend pass rushers.
The Rams led the league in sacks last year with 52, and thanks to defensive ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long, they were one of three teams to feature a pair of players with double-digit sacks (Quinn had 10.5 and Long had 11.5). One of the other pairs, of course, was Carolina's tandem of
Quinn leads the NFC in sacks this season with six.
"Rob's doing a great job for us, off to another good start. His numbers were good last year. We led the league in sacks, and he was a big part of that," Fisher said. "I'm especially pleased with his run ability. He's playing the run better and better each week. He's a problem out there by himself. He creates problems for (offensive) tackles if left alone."
Both teams are also fortunate to have young, playmaking middle linebackers lead their respective defenses.
St. Louis boasts 26-year-old James Laurinaitis, who is second on the team in tackles with 44, and Carolina's 22-year-old
"They're similar from this standpoint: they're on the field all the time," Fisher said. "They're all over the field. I presume that Luke is way beyond a nine-to-five guy, based on his play. He spends a lot of extra time at his trade. His play shows that. They both have a good feel for offensive schemes and play hard. They're both lined up in the middle and leaders of their respective defenses."
Laurinaitis spoke very highly of his linebacking counterpart.
"Luke is a special football player. I have a lot of respect for guys who are students of the game and study hard and fly around to the football," Laurinaitis said on a conference call. "Luke is definitely one of those guys. He's quick to diagnose things and just makes big plays. It seems like most games that he's in, he's making an impact on the football game, and that's extremely special considering how young he is. I have a lot of respect for Luke."