Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Rams seem to be getting more comfortable offensively under new coordinator Al Saunders. Scoring 16 points against the Patriots in Week 8 wasn't going to be enough, but the Rams have to feel pretty good about their progress given the state of the offense a month ago.
St. Louis functioned relatively well against New England despite missing two of the key players in any Saunders offense: the running back and tight end.
Steven Jackson could return Sunday. Randy McMichael remains out for the season. The Rams miss McMichael, but they used double-tight end groupings effectively in certain situations against the Patriots. The chart singles out second-down plays when Antonio Pittman was the lone running back with two wide receivers and two tight ends. We saw an effective mix of runs and passes, including Donnie Avery's 69-yard touchdown reception when Patritos safety James Sanders followed Torry Holt to the inside, leaving Avery in single coverage.
The Rams got away from that personnel grouping on second down as the game progressed. They used it six times in their first seven second-down chances, but only twice in their next 10 opportunities (before shifting into a four-receiver package for obvious reasons late in the game). I'm not sure of the thinking, but I'll ask if I get a chance.
Overall, the Rams used two or fewer wide receivers more than half the time, but their three- and four-receiver packages produced quite a few big plays.
The Rams had 13 plays covering at least 10 yards. They had three or more receivers on the field for 11 of these plays. Avery's role cannot be understated. The Rams had three plays of 30 yards or longer. Avery caught the ball on each of these plays. He had first-down receptions of 44 and 35 yards from three-receiver packages with one tight end, plus the 69-yarder from the group highlighted in the chart.
For a breakdown of the Rams' production across personnel groups, download a copy of my latest Excel-based report. This has one sheet showing production and another sheet with play-by-play information sortable by quarter, drive number, down, distance, yard line, personnel, play type, ball carrier, yards gained and more.