Behind the numbers: The Rams offense & the killer instinct

Michael Thomas

The Rams earned a big win to start the season last week, but the stats reveal one major area for improvement.

A win, complete with dramatic fourth-quarter comeback, reflected fairly well on the St. Louis Rams in this week's advance stats measurements at Football Outsiders.

Overall, the Rams ranked as the 10th best team in terms of DVOA. However, the defensive adjustments don't get calculated into the equation until after Week 4, so this is just VOA. As a reminder, DVOA (VOA) is a system that breaks down every snap and compares a team's performance to the league average in every situation to come up with the overall performance rating above the average, represented by percentage. More here.

The numbers are tied to the points, so negative numbers are better for a defense, since they're tasked with preventing points.

The Rams 10th ranked VOA sits at 18.9 percent. That overall mark derives most of its strength from the defense and special teams performance.

Defensively, the Rams checked in with the ninth-best showing, VOA of -8.9 percent. Considering the four sacks, fumbles and runs stuffed, it comes as no surprise. The special teams graded out as the third-best in the league, for this week, with 12.6 percent.

The offense had a below average performance with a -2.6 percent that ranked 21st in the league this week. How can the offense check in so low considering that the Rams won the game? The pick six hurts the overall score, even if it wasn't the team's undoing on the field.

Two other things to consider: the Rams were 4-for-11 on third downs, 36 percent. They also had two drives start inside the red zone -- one at the Cardinals' 4-yard line in the third and another in the fourth from the Cardinals' 22-yard line -- that both ended with field goals rather than touchdown.

Think about this. With a full set of downs at the 1-yard line, an NFL offense has a 96 percent chance of scoring a touchdown. I don't have the exact formula, but you can extrapolate that the odds for punching it in from the 4-yard line are pretty good, if a bit lower than that.

If the Rams would have scored a touchdown from the 4-yard line in the third quarter, the score would have been 17-10 in favor of the Rams. Same goes for the drive when they started on the 22-yard line. A touchdown there, and suddenly the Rams have a four-point lead early in the final frame.

It goes beyond statistics. This is the killer instinct, taking advantage of the opportunities to put teams away when those opportunities present themselves. That's what the league's best teams are capable of doing, beating inferior opponents.

Now, I'm not slinging mud at a positive start to the season for the Rams offense. The pluses far outweighed the minuses last week, and it's been awhile since we've had the luxury to say that about the Rams offense.

But this is a year for taking the next step forward. Fisher's defense is going to get turnovers; it's built that way. When that happens, it's up to the offense to capitalize and bury the opponents.

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