Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Rams-Texans study session: Offense
By Nick Wagoner
ST. LOUIS -- A look back at the St. Louis Rams’ 38-13 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday after reviewing the coaches’ film.
Big Play: Rams quarterback Sam Bradford hits tight end Jared Cook for 34-yard gain in third quarter to set up a touchdown that would give the Rams a 24-6 lead.
Holding a 17-6 lead on their first possession of the third quarter, the Rams were looking for a chance to extend the margin and put the Texans away.
On second-and-11 at Houston’s 41, the Rams lined up with two receivers, a tight end, a running back and a fullback. Before the snap, Bradford sent receiver Austin Pettis in motion. Pettis stopped on the right side of the line to serve as an additional blocker with Lance Kendricks as the fullback.
The Rams took advantage of a favorable matchup on Sunday with TE Jared Cook being covered by Texans safety Shiloh Keo.
Houston was loaded up at the line of scrimmage with three down linemen and two linebackers -- Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus -- standing at the line on opposite sides. The corners stayed in off coverage with both safeties high.
At the snap, the Texans sent four pass-rushers with Mercilus getting caught flatfooted as Pettis lined up across from him. Pettis stayed in to block.
Bradford faked the handoff to running back Zac Stacy and quickly turned his eyes upfield. Cook got a free release as Reed attempted to pressure Bradford on the outside.
Cook found himself running free into the secondary matched up against Houston safety Shiloh Keo, a favorable matchup for Cook if ever there was one. Cook ran a smooth deep out after faking a cut to the inside.
Meanwhile, left tackle Jake Long didn’t get the expected help from running back Stacy on Reed as Stacy actually runs into Long, allowing Reed to bend the edge past Long.
An obviously aware Bradford appeared to see Reed coming and slid to the right before setting his feet and releasing a perfect strike just before Reed hit him. Cook hauled it in at Houston’s 26 and turned it upfield, hurdling Ed Reed before Keo finally took him down at the 7 for a gain of 34.
The play would set up a 4-yard touchdown pass from Bradford to receiver Brian Quick two plays later. It was a big play by Cook but much of the credit on this one has to go to Bradford, who handled pressure extremely well in this game. He looked like he saw Reed coming, made the adjustment and delivered an accurate ball for a big gain knowing he was about to take a hit.
Hidden Play: Bradford throws incomplete deep down the middle to receiver Chris Givens.
Working with a 10-3 lead midway through the second quarter, the Rams missed a prime opportunity to strike fast and move the lead to 17-3 with a home run to Givens.
The Rams lined up with two receivers to the right, a tight end, a fullback and Daryl Richardson at running back. Pre-snap, Bradford sent Givens in motion to the left of the formation.
Defensively, the Texans shadow Givens with cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who follows Givens across the formation. Upfront, Houston again had three down linemen with Reed and Mercilus at the line of scrimmage. The Texans sent four after Bradford with Reed dropping off into coverage.
Bradford took a straight seven-step drop with a clean pocket around him, including strong work from Long on J.J. Watt. There was nothing fancy about Givens’ route as he sprints down the field on a basic "9" route from the left slot.
With a clean pocket in front of him, Bradford was able to set his feet and step up in the pocket to unload a deep ball for Givens, who ran clean between Joseph and safety Danieal Manning. Neither was able to stay in stride with Givens as Manning lagged behind.
Bradford launched a nearly perfect deep ball to a wide-open Givens who would have scored had he hauled it in, leaving the Rams with a disappointing near-miss.
It was the second week in a row the Rams just missed on a deep ball. Last week Bradford underthrew Givens, but this week Givens wasn’t able to make a catch he should have made. The two appear to be close to hitting on a big play and the Rams deserve a lot of credit for piecing together a good drive for a touchdown after this play but quick-strike plays have been absent for most of the season and the Rams can’t afford to continue to miss on opportunities like this moving forward.
Reviewing film of Stacy doesn’t give much of a different view than what you see in person. He’s a meat and potatoes runner but he’s pretty darn good at it. He ran hard between the tackles and he rarely misses a run read or the opportunity to drag would-be tacklers with him. A couple things jumped out that were surprising; one good and one bad. The good, Stacy showed the ability not only to run through contact but actually make tacklers miss. Early in this one, he made a nice hesitation move as J.J. Watt flew right by for a whiff. On the other side, he missed a hole with an opportunity for a big gain on his second carry of the game when he bounced to the right despite the glaring opening.
Left tackle Jake Long had some really good moments, particularly in the run game and in the red zone. Long and Chris Williams wiped out their side of the line to help Stacy pick up 6 yards on one run on the team’s first scoring drive.
Much has been made of the lack of Tavon Austin in this game and though I understand, anyone who watched this would see why. The Rams regularly lined up with two, three and once even four tight ends in the game. Cory Harkey and Kendricks got plenty of work in the fullback role and the Rams rarely had more than two receivers on the field. The commitment to the run game is having a trickle down effect on snaps for wideouts beyond the top two with one exception.
That exception is Quick, who is getting more work by the week. It’s no coincidence given the attempts to get the run game going. Quick is a big, physical presence who can run block and also gives the Rams a bigger target on the outside.
Some have wondered about the Rams’ lack of a rushing touchdown this season. Stacy probably deserves to cash one in for his work but the lack of a score inside opponents’ territory isn’t because the Rams aren’t running well down there. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Stacy and the Rams ran well against the Texans inside the 20 and, after establishing that, coordinator Brian Schottenheimer took advantage with some play-action throws for easy touchdowns. They picked on Houston linebacker Joe Mays for touchdowns to Harkey and Kendricks.
I’ve already written about Bradford’s work against pressure in this one but it’s worth re-stating. He was outstanding facing pressure and delivering timely, accurate passes. The Rams didn’t run many offensive plays, let alone pass plays but Bradford made the most of them and continues to protect the ball on every possession.