The St. Louis Rams struggled to find an offensive identity early in the season, opting for a pass-heavy attack that wasn’t working out. Almost immediately after Kellen Clemens took over the reins, the offensive scheme did a complete 180.
The early season reviews on offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer‘s playbook and play-calling had many questioning his creativity and ability to utilize the weapons in St. Louis. In recent weeks, the play-calling had become diverse using pre-play shifting, end-around, reverses, and play-actions to get the ball to playmakers.
Schottenheimer has certainly found the niche for this offense. It has been a fun team to watch for the past two games with Zac Stacy leading the attack on the ground and Tavon Austin doing everything from returns, rushing and catching big passes. It’s no coincidence that as soon as they found out Stacy was a battering ram from the backfield that the offense took off with him.
In nine games, he has ran 141 times for 624 yards. His season average of 4.4 yards per carry is due in large part to his ability to turn nearly every run into a positive one. Even when he is getting hit at the line, he drives forward for 2-3 yard gains. That constantly puts the offense in a better position on second and third down.
Stacy was on pace for another career game until a concussion knocked him out of the second half of the game. In the first half, he had 87 yards on 12 attempts, which is good for 7.3 yards per carry and a touchdown. After Stacy went down, it was Benny “Bam Bam” Cunningham that took over and dismantled the Chicago Bears‘ defense.
As good as Stacy was doing, Bam Bam did even better. He ran for 109 yards on 13 carries for 8.4 yards per attempt. Cunningham recorded his first NFL touchdown in the second half, helping the Rams put the nail in the coffin. Tavon Austin‘s 65-yard fake end-around worked to perfection thanks to his blinding speed and a few key blocks that gave him the hole he needed.
The two biggest blocks cam from Chris Givens, who took out two Bears defenders and Austin Pettis, who took out the last defender that had a chance at Austin. It was a huge play that took advantage of the Bears’ aggressive style, forcing them to over pursue the end-around and setting up the reverse. It was a brilliant play call against a team that will attempt to cut off the direction of a play.
The surge of the young powerful backs in St. Louis has given Schottenheimer a second wind and taken all of the pressure off of Clemens, who has avoided turning the ball over for a couple weeks now. St. Louis’s 261 yards of rushing offense allowed them to control the game while blowing up the Bears’ poor run defense.
Things are looking up in St. Louis as they have found their identity, and things are trending up for the Rams now that they know what they can do on offense. The team is believing in itself instead of just hoping they have a chance at the end of the game. Hopefully Stacy can recover quickly to continue his outstanding rookie season.
Next week’s matchup against the San Francisco 49ers that decimated the Rams early in the season should be a good test as to where the Rams sit in their division.