Lined up at the Arizona Cardinals 37 yard line, the St Louis Rams‘ Sam Bradford surveyed the defense before snapping the football. Bradford had Brandon Gibson and Austin Pettis to his right hand side, but understood that the press coverage against Chris Givens to his left meant that the key player in coverage would be the safety to that side.
At the snap of the ball, Bradford faked a handoff to Steven Jackson before quickly switching his feet to look down the field. Worried by the threat of Pettis, the aforementioned safety, Kerry Rhodes, had his shoulders turned infield as the slot receiver ran across the field. Meanwhile, Givens had already gained a step past Justin Bethel down the left sideline.
Bradford stood tall in a pocket that was soon to close in on him, before throwing a dart down the left sideline without having the space to step into the throw. Givens’ speed had created just enough space behind Bethel’s tight coverage for the ball to beat the defender, and arrive in his arms as he dived forward into the endzone. The Rams newfound deep threat had their touchdown, but more importantly, every positive aspect of their offense was on show on just one single play.
At that point of the game, Jackson had carried the ball 12 times for 91 yards. His last carry had come two plays previous, with a nine yard carry from Daryl Richardson following it, when Jackson burst free for 46 yards. On second and two, the Cardinals were eager to stop the bleeding on the ground as the Rams were set to continue to push the ball down their throats. Instead of giving the ball to Jackson again however, the Rams instead used him for that fake up the middle and every single linebacker on the field bought it.
This meant that the Cardinals were left with just four defensive backs to go against the Rams’ three receivers. Even though Danny Amendola was sidelined, being limited with his ankle injury, the presence of Pettis in the slot and Bradford’s tendency to hook up with his possession receiver underneath meant that two defenders were drawn infield as Pettis ran an in route from the slot underneath. As soon as Bradford recognized Rhodes’ feet were facing away from the sideline, he understood that Givens had single coverage on the outside.
It still took a perfect throw to beat good coverage from a safety playing out of position, but this play defined the type of offense that the Rams want to run. Establishing the run has always been important to Jeff Fisher. With Jackson and Richardson in the backfield, the Rams are more than capable of doing that from week to week this year. From there, it is simply a matter of getting Amendola back to full fitness and integrating Brian Quick into the offense ahead of Brandon Gibson, to join Givens as another outside threat.
Quick is yet to properly adjust to the professional level of football, but he is a very talented receiver who provides big play potential just like his rookie teammate. Having the duo outside beating single coverage deep, with Amendola being his usual elusive self inside the numbers, Bradford appears to finally be getting the pieces in place to properly show off his abilities at the quarterback position. As he showed on this touchdown pass, he doesn’t always need a perfect pocket to throw from, but if he is, the Rams could soon be an offensive juggernaut in the future.
Having an identity is very important in the NFL. An identity gives you direction and puts players on the same page. With the way Jeff Fisher is molding this offense, the Rams are well on their way to defining their new offense with these young playmakers.