Really, we're still getting to know these St. Louis Rams. The offense is brand new, some of the old players remain, but things look a little different. I try to avoid putting too much emphasis on what unfolds during the preseason, and Saturday night's game featured a streamlined version of the offense, reflecting a limited playbook installation and players with barely two weeks of work since January.
In an effort to better get to know this group, using the win over the Colts, I want to breakdown the starting offense's key drive, the 14-play, 63-yard, 7-minute scoring drive spanning the first two quarters of the game. The first three possessions, specifically the two drives resulting from interceptions, were quick, basic strikes, a basic offense taking advantage of preseason opportunity as you would expect. The starters' longest drive offers a little more insight into these Rams.
1-10-SL 37 (3:14) S.Bradford pass incomplete short middle to B.Miller [D.Nevis].
Bradford has oodles of time in the pocket on a play action pass. Danny Amendola is open on a 12-yard hitch route. I can't tell whether or not Gibson is open on the other side. Bradford also has a couple of checkdown options in front of him, Cadillac Williams and Brit Miller. However, Bradford hesitates, unsure of where to throw the ball, and when pressure finally does catch up to him, he throws it away. Play action passes will be a staple of the Rams' playbook. As far as the QB and his receivers on this one, it's hard to tell what happened. A misfire on a route, QB looking for the best play...hard to tell, but it was definitely an example of a misfire.
2-10-SL 37 (3:06) C.Williams left end to SL 42 for 5 yards (P.Wheeler).
Simple handoff as Cadillac takes off the left, led by Brit Miller. Jason Brown throws a nice block in the second level to allow an extra yard or two.
3-5-SL 42 (2:25) (Shotgun) S.Bradford pass short right to L.Kendricks to IND 43 for 15 yards (C.Brown; A.Afalava).
This was a swell play to watch again. In fact, I had to make myself stop hitting rewind so I can get this dam thing done. Kendricks is on the line, right side, with 2 receivers to his right, a receiver out wide on the left and one running back. The rookie TE gets five yards down the field, turns right and catches a rope from Bradford. Easy. He then stretches it for another 10 yards through a few defenders. With the 3-WR set, the defense was spread out, and Kendricks, though covered, finds his space with a nice route. Had the Rams been able to run a play like this last year, as in have the personnel to do so, they would have scored more.
1-10-IND 43 (1:51) C.Williams right tackle to IND 40 for 3 yards (C.Brown).
They ran the ball an awful lot in this game, for as much talk as we've given the passing game with McDaniels running the offense. Much of that has to do with the limited prep time so far. It also has to do with the Rams needing to establish their running backs.
2-7-IND 40 (1:11) S.Bradford pass incomplete deep left to B.Gibson.
Bradford threw it to the end zone, Gibson ran a different route. This was classic preseason, and a much talked about reminder as to just how much work this offense has left to do.
3-7-IND 40 (1:04) (Shotgun) S.Bradford pass short middle to L.Kendricks to IND 32 for 8 yards (B.King).
Almost a carbon copy of the last third-down play. Kendricks is at the line on the right, lined up in pass protection. Instead of the right side, there are two receivers on the left and one on the right. Kendricks gets downfield, turns and catches the pass. No YAC, but he's in exactly the right spot to get the first, a great example of knowing his route and role. This kid could be huge for the Rams this year.
1-10-IND 32 (:30) C.Williams left tackle to IND 28 for 4 yards (D.Nevis).
Remember how hard it was to get 4 yards on the ground last year? Great blocking again. And, yes, I realize just how bad the Colts are in the preseason.
2-6-IND 28 (15:00) (Shotgun) C.Williams right end to IND 24 for 4 yards (J.Chick).
Williams gets a full head of steam and some solid blocking by the right side of the line and Billy Bajema for the pick up.
3-2-IND 24 (14:29) C.Williams left tackle to IND 23 for 1 yard (J.Hughes).
I guess I would have liked to have seen them just power down and run through the middle, the blocking had been that good. And it wasn't bad here. Players on the bottom of the pile cause Cadillac to trip; otherwise, he would have had it.
4-1-IND 23 (13:46) B.Miller left guard to IND 20 for 3 yards (P.Wheeler).
Going for it on 4th down inside the opponents' 25-yard line in the preseason should be required. This was a great play. The defense waits for Williams. Bradford instantly gives it to Miller who sneaks across for the pickup.
1-10-IND 20 (13:12) C.Williams up the middle to IND 10 for 10 yards (J.Lefeged).
Runs up the middle...for more than 3 yards? Who are these Rams? This might have been the most beautifully executed play of the drive. The line explodes into the defense, pushing them out like the ring of a rain drop hitting a serene lake. The receivers launch out of their spots and block down field, as the offensive line gets to the second level. Had Steven Jackson been running the ball here, he might have taken it even further. This is five straight runs for the Rams.
1-10-IND 10 (12:37) (Shotgun) S.Bradford pass short right to C.Williams to IND 4 for 6 yards (C.Brown).
Once again, Bradford has seemingly limitless time in the pocket. Cadillac runs a swell crossing route, and Bradford finds him with ease. There are two defenders between Williams and Danny Amendola in the end zone. Amendola wasn't covered, but it was a high risk throw with two defensive backs in front of him and an easy dump to Cadillac. Under different circumstances, i.e. more practice time, this seems like a play made for red zone threat Mike Sims-Walker, out of the game at this point. In a way, I'm kind of surprised they didn't try to find Kendricks here.
2-4-IND 4 (11:59) C.Williams left tackle to IND 1 for 3 yards (A.Afalava).
God, the offensive line looked good in this game. Blockers push their men back downfield as Williams breaks to the left. Harvey Dahl can be seen brutalizing his man all the way back into the end zone. There's just not quite enough room to push it in though.
3-1-IND 1 (11:23) C.Williams left tackle for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN.
Raw power. The Rams didn't have the blocking to punch it in with a goal line run last year. This time, they did it with ease.
Of the 14 plays on this drive, 9 were runs. All credit to the offensive line which really showed well in this game, and this drive in particular. The Colts defense looked like what the Rams hoped other defenses will look like this year: confused. With Bradford at the helm, they have to account for both his passing and the run, and they can't adequately do both. Pounding the ball set up a couple key throws, but for the most part, this was all about the running game. It should be fairly obvious why that was the case: it's the preseason.
Credit Lance Kendricks for some fine blocking as well.
Obviously this would have looked different in the regular season. Had Steven Jackson been in the game, you have to think the Rams would pass more as defenses load up the box to stop him. Jackson could have done some real damage in this situation, and should really benefit from improved blocking. Having that duality is exactly what they're talking about when you hear "stressing" the defense. Defenses should be plenty stressed to see these front five forming a wall in front of Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson.