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Correcting misconceptions about the Rams running game

The Rams aren't running because they're constantly playing from behind, right? Not so fast.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Fisher didn't have much to say in his Monday press conference. His St. Louis Rams team played a terrible game this week against the Dallas Cowboys, one in which they were annihilated in all phases. Besides the usual comments about executing better and blah blah blah, he brought up the running game, or lack of one as it were.

No doubt about that first point. The Rams ran it a total of five times in the first half of this week's embarrassment. Two of those carries came via receivers, including a maddening call to run Tavon Austin off the right tackle. But let's not kid ourselves about the Rams not getting the opportunities to run because opponents are burying them by halftime.

The first play of the game this week was that brutal Austin run. After that, the Rams passed it twice, short passes, before the three-and-out. They ran it on first down on the next drive, another three-and-out. Two rushing attempts on two drives with the score tied 0-0.

Dallas scores on the next drive, taking a 7-0 lead. The Rams start their next possession with a three-yard dump off on a quick out to Tavon Austin, who has somehow become a glorified running back waiting in the flat under Brian Schotenheimer. That drive's a three-and-out, and the Rams don't even try to run the ball.

The Rams run it once on the last drive of the third quarter, repeating the play one first-and-19 following holding penalty on Harvey Dahl. Benny Cunningham gets one yard.

First quarter: 10-0; four possessions; three running plays.

Dig through the rest of the data, and the numbers just don't jive with the idea that the Rams abandoned the run because they so often find themselves trailing in the game.

On first-and-10 situations this season, the Rams have run the ball 25 times. They've throw it 52 times. On second downs, they've run the ball 16 times; nine of those rushing attempts came with four yards or less to go. The Rams have thrown the ball 49 times; seven attempts with four yards or less.

On third-and-one, the Rams have run the ball three times; they've passed in the same situation three times. On fourth downs, the Rams have two rushing attempts, both on fourth-and-one. They have one passing attempt on fourth-and-one.

In Week 1 against Arizona, the Rams stayed committed to running the ball in the second half, even when trailing Arizona. Daryl Richardson accounted for two first downs on the last three drives that put the Rams back in the game, tied it and eventually won it.

What Fisher didn't say is just how ineffective the team's been at running the ball. St. Louis is averaging 3.17 yards per attempt. The league average is 4.06 yards per attempt. The blame there lies with both the running backs and the blockers.

The idea that the Rams aren't running the ball because they're trailing in games doesn't hold up. The Rams aren't running the ball because the game plan has abandoned the run, regardless of the score.