It’s not often you see a team buck the trend and turn back the hands of time in terms of a philosophical approach to the game of football. That exact thing has been happening with the St. Louis Rams during their strong stretch run, however, as the team has exhibited a solid run defense and impressive ground game offensively to give their contests an old-timey feel. And even though injuries have forced the team to take a different approach to the game than it may have with a fully healthy roster, it doesn’t seem outlandish to expect this methodology to stick around in the coming seasons for Jeff Fisher’s squad.
First and foremost, the reason this identity fits a Fisher coached team is because he has always been a run-first type of coach. Any head man cut from the old cloth has a propensity to believe that running the ball successfully and stopping the run is the key to success come playoff time. Even though the Rams won’t get to test that hypothesis this coming season, it seems fair to assume that the same applies to the regular season.
November 3 marked a turning point for the Rams defensively as the team allowed an unsightly 150 yards on just 23 carries to Chris Johnson as the Tennessee Titans pummeled the Rams as a team rushing for 198 yards on 34 totes for a ridiculous 5.7 yards per carry average. They also rolled up four rushing touchdowns in that game and moved the Rams’ abysmal run defense down to 28th in the NFL allowing a staggering 125.2 yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry on average.
So much has changed since then as the Rams are now ranked 7th in the league in run defense after their sixth consecutive stellar effort stopping the ground game. They’ve trimmed their once laughable averages down to just 102.3 yards per game and 3.8 yards a carry for the season. That’s a recipe to success for any team – regardless of era.
As for running the ball, St. Louis has been rejuvenated by the presence of rookie Zac Stacy who has taken the reigns as the lead back. The departure of Steven Jackson last offseason left many questions that were still unanswered after four weeks this year, but the bowling ball with legs out of Vanderbilt has provided a definitive solution to those outstanding queries. In the team’s past 11 outings where Stacy has been the featured back, his 234 carries for 954 yards and 4.1 yards per carry average have fueled the Rams to some massive success.
It’s no coincidence that the team’s record is 6-5 since Stacy was inserted as the starter, and that’s even without starting quarterback Sam Bradford under center for all but three of those contests. Imagining what this team would look like with its full complement of players on the field has to instill some serious optimism for a potential breakout campaign in 2014.