Rams show different side against Cowboys

October, 20, 2008
10/20/08
10:35
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

ST. LOUIS -- The Cowboys weren't the only ones fooled by the Rams' offense in Week 7. I was right there with them.

 
 Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
 Steven Jackson rushed for 160 yards against Dallas on Sunday.

What the Rams showed against the Redskins in Week 6 looked nothing like what the Rams showed the Cowboys during a 34-14 victory at the Edward Jones Dome.

The Rams used three wide receivers about 55 percent of the time at Washington. This seemed to make sense after tight end Randy McMichael landed on injured reserve. But the approach changed dramatically against the Cowboys. I counted three receivers on the field for less than 27 percent of the snaps. Instead, we saw the return of the tight end(s) in St. Louis.

I asked tight end Anthony Becht about this and here is what he said:

"I think last week it was just a matter of that's what they gave us. They showed on tape how they were crowding the box and our passing game was kind of in between where we want it to be. This week, Donnie [Avery] was in the game and some of the young receivers presented a little bit of speed, so they had to honor it. It worked out for us."

This combination has the potential to offer the Rams the best of two worlds. In theory, Avery's speed on the outside should help Steven Jackson in the ground game. Before we dive into other personnel-related observations, let me offer this Excel file, which breaks down production by personnel group while providing a sortable play-by-play sheet.

Charting offensive personnel becomes relatively easy on 95 percent of plays after enough practice. The Rams made me think a couple of times. I'm pretty sure they went with one back, one receiver and three tight ends on a couple plays. It's possible one of the tight ends was actually a running back. We're talking about only a couple plays, so no big deal either way.

  • The Rams used two or fewer wide receivers on 39 of the 56 plays I charted, or nearly 70 percent. Note: Kneel-down plays and aborted plays aren't considered.
  • The Rams ran the ball on 14 of 17 snaps from their "regular" personnel group, which consists of two backs, two receivers and a tight end. They averaged 8.6 yards per carry on these runs with three first downs. This included Jackson's 56-yard touchdown run. Discounting the long run, the Rams averaged 5.0 yards on the remaining 13 carries from this group. That is fantastic production.
  • The Rams showed very good balance from their "12" personnel group with one back and two tight ends. They averaged 4.3 yards per attempt on six rushes from this group. They averaged 12.4 yards per pass attempt on seven pass plays from this group, not counting one sack.
  • The Rams gave up three of their five sacks with one running back, three receivers and one tight end on the field. This is a common third-down grouping in the NFL. The Rams used it heavily against the Redskins, but only 25 percent of the time against Dallas.
  • More on this group vs. the Cowboys: This group produced a 12-yard pass on third-and-2 and an 18-yard run, both during the first two possessions. Marc Bulger later found Dante Hall and Torry Holt for 20-yard gains from this group. But the group's final 12 plays produced three sacks, five incomplete passes, a 1-yard pass and a run that lost a yard.
  • The Rams used two running backs on 46.4 percent of snaps, up from 34 percent against the Redskins.
I'll be out at Rams headquarters for much of the day before heading back to the Northwest. We'll have more on the Rams as the day progresses.

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