St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson is tackled by Detroit Lions linebacker Julian Peterson after a 7-yard gain in the first quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 10, 2010, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson) By Duane Burleson
Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (90) tackles St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola (16) during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) By Carlos Osorio
St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo, left, talks with quarterback Sam Bradford in the second quarter of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) By Paul Sancya
St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson (39) runs past Detroit Lions cornerback Amari Spievey (42) during the first quarter of an NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski) By Rick Osentoski
St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo walks the sidelines in the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) By Paul Sancya
(KMOV)-- The Rams failed to execute an onside kick (the kick was good but they failed to wipe out the front line defenders). They allowed a 105 yard return for a touchdown. They lost track of receivers and running backs in the passing game. They dropped a sure interception. Those mistakes all contributed to the blowout loss at Detroit. But to me the most telling stat was “0 for 3.” As in three first half trips inside the red zone and zero touchdowns to show for them. Only teams that play defense like the Steelers and Ravens can overcome that kind of futility inside the 20 yard line. Had the Rams capitalized early, they would have led 10-3 or even 14-3 after the first quarter, a quarter they dominated statistically but had only three points to show for it. If it’s a seven or 11 point lead after 15 minutes, it’s a completely different afternoon.
It’s nothing new. Last season, the Rams were 31st in the league in red zone touchdown efficiency. They’re again near the bottom of the league—under 30 percent. The disappointing thing is this offense is light years better than last year’s. At least it was until Mark Clayton went down(now we see how they overcome that loss). The Rams ventured into the red zone only 34 times last season. They scored just 11 touchdowns. Those are anemic numbers. The Rams have already been in the red zone 20 times this season in only five games—marked improvement. But the results have been the same. Red zone blunders cost them valuable points in the first two games of the season. This team could be 3-2 or-dare I say-4-1 instead of 2-3 with better red zone play.
The answer? Not sure I have it but I do believe and always have that to be a good red zone offense you have to run the ball well or at least make the defense honor the run. Marshall Faulk made the Rams deadly inside the 20 back in the day. I give Pat Shurmur credit for honestly trying to establish the running game inside the 20. But aside from Ken Darby’s 12 yard scoring run in week three, the Rams haven’t gotten it done. This week, they’re facing a big physical defense. The outside linebackers are big and love to play downhill. Might be wise to spread the field and make the Chargers operate in space. Make those second level defenders open their hips and move laterally to stop Steven Jackson. The only way to open up those tight throwing windows in that area is to make defenders think run first. Sam Bradford is capable of squeezing the ball into tight windows. We’ve seen him do it. But right now, the windows are shut tight.