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Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Personnel report: Rams need ground game

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams had to like the way they ran the ball during the early stages of their Week 9 game against the Cardinals. Their first six carries produced 24 yards and two first downs, all in the Rams' first eight snaps.

One problem: The Rams' running backs combined to lose 2 yards on their next 11 carries. Rams running backs Steven Jackson and Antonio Pittman combined for 17 carries and 29 yards overall. Jackson played 21 snaps by my count. Pittman played 31 despite suffering a hamstring injury early in the game. Jackson, still bothered by a thigh injury, might not play in Week 10. Pittman is out.

The Cardinals have enough firepower in the passing game to compete and win without much production on the ground. The Rams do not. Marc Bulger is going to struggle most weeks if the offense isn't funneling through a productive running back.

The last time Jackson was healthy, during an upset victory over Dallas, the Rams averaged 8.6 yards per attempt from their "regular" offense with two backs, two receivers and one tight end. They ran the ball on 14 of 17 plays from this grouping.

Everything changed against the Cardinals. The Rams used this grouping only 10 times. This included two runs totaling zero yards. They struck big with an 80-yard touchdown pass to Derek Stanley but the remaining pass plays from this group yielded a 6-yard completion, one interception, four incomplete passes and one sack (with a lost fumble). The interception helped Cardinals safety Antrel Rolle become the NFC's Defensive Player of the Week.

Here's what the Rams' ground game looked like on first down Sunday: two early rushes totaling 19 yards, followed by five rushes totaling zero yards. This included three plays that lost yardage and one play with a fumble after a 2-yard gain.

Download the full personnel report here.