Rams quarterback Marc Bulger has regained some of his edge in recent weeks. I think he senses the team has something it did not have for quite some time -- a chance.
The Rams are improving and evolving on offense. I think they were a few dropped passes away from beating the Saints in Week 10 (I counted five drops in a 12-pass span during the second half). They have a fair chance to beat the Cardinals or Seahawks at home over the next two weeks. This team should not go winless in the division this season.
The situation at receiver is not great, but the bye week clearly helped Donnie Avery catch his breath and overcome some injuries. The Rams' early struggles at receiver following Laurent Robinson's season-ending injury had led them to embrace their "Tiger" personnel package featuring one back and two tight ends. The second tight end, Daniel Fells, gave them a sorely needed receiving option. My perception was that they almost couldn't afford to leave fullback Mike Karney on the field as much -- not because Karney was doing anything wrong, but because they needed another receiving option.
That appears to be changing now that Avery is again a positive factor. Yes, the Rams lost Keenan Burton to a season-ending injury. Yes, they were facing an injury-depleted Saints secondary Sunday. Those are all factors to weigh in deciding what to make of this offense. But the Rams have gained 796 yards in their last two games. They scored a season-high 23 points against New Orleans.
The Rams' base offense -- two backs, two receivers, one tight end -- was extremely effective against the Saints. The Rams averaged 6.1 yards per carry on 13 rushing attempts from this grouping. They also averaged 10.7 yards per attempt on seven passes (up from less than 4.5 per attempt out of this group before Week 10). They scored two touchdowns with no interceptions or sacks from this group.
Steven Jackson ran the ball seven consecutive times to end a 13-play touchdown drive in the second quarter. The Rams used two tight ends four times and base personnel three times during that span. Not many teams can get away with aligning base personnel in an offset-I formation on third-and-9. The Rams did it during the touchdown drive in question. Jackson ran for 13 yards. That is dominant football and a good sign for the Rams.
Rams personnel use: Week 10
The Rams' used their base offense, highlighted in red, to great effect against the Saints. The first group listed, known generically as "11" personnel or "Zebra" in the Rams' terminology, was not a primary personnel group until the Rams were playing from behind late in the game. They used it on 18 of their final 19 snaps. Download full 2009 Rams personnel report here.