Are the St. Louis Rams going to run the ball more on Thursday night against the San Francisco 49ers? Maybe. Jeff Fisher made it sound like that earlier in the week. And the 49ers sound fairly convinced of that too.
"I think the Rams philosophically are a run-first team," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio told the media this week. "I do believe that the Rams will try and run the ball. That to me is their roots."
Jason Chilton, NFL contributor at SB Nation, dug into the overall status of the running game in the NFL, and touched on what each team has done so far this season. What's most surprising about the Rams is just how much the rushing numbers have fallen off.
Between 2012 and 2013, the Rams average rushing yards per game has fallen off by 47 percent, 107 yards to 57 yards per game. The average number of carries per game is down from 26 to 18. Some of that can be attributed to the Rams being behind on the score board for most of the last three games. But then there's also this number: yards per attempt, which has fallen from 4.2 to 3.2.
Of the six touchdowns the Rams have scored this season, all have come through the air.
Break it down by down and type of play, and the numbers get especially bleak for the Rams. The table below uses the DVOA numbers from Football Outsiders for running the ball on a specific down.
Not good, not good at all. So is it the line or the running backs?
It's probably a little of both. The nice thing about a player like Steven Jackson, is that he can make his offensive line look a little better than it is. But it's not all bad for the blockers. When the Rams do run the ball, 68 percent of their attempts happen over the middle, where they average 3.99 yards, according to Football Outsiders, which is the 13th best in the league right now. They're getting negative yards off the left end, but receivers and tight ends aren't doing much blocking in Schottenheimer's pass-first offense.
The running backs aren't helping. According to Pro Football Focus, Daryl Richardson is getting just 1.6 yards after contact and has an elusive rating of 24.5. Those are pretty dismal numbers. How bad? Adrian Peterson is getting 3.13 yards after contact, on average; Ben Tate is getting 4.96 and has an elusiveness rating of 113.4.
Isaiah Pead's numbers are a little better, but in limited work. Pead is averaging 2.86 yards after contact and has an elusiveness rating of 53.6 on 16 total touches.
We haven't seen enough of Zac Stacy to know what he's capable of, but he might get some looks on Thursday. Richardson is battling a foot injury, and could end up sitting this one out.
There isn't much positive to say about the running game right now. And hopefully, the numbers are depressed in part because the Rams haven't had the opportunity to run much given the scoring deficits. Regardless of recent results, the offense is simply going to have to do more, at least try more with the running game. By deferring to the dink and dunk passing game, the Rams are cutting off any chance they have of making waves with the play action, where Sam Bradford's been successful in the past.
The only question now is will the Rams run more?