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Los Angeles Rams vs. Houston Texans: 2nd down, second guessing

The Rams are better than what was on display in the first half of last week’s game.

Houston Texans v Los Angeles Ram Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images


Heading into Week 10, the Los Angeles Rams were 12-point favorites against Houston Texans at kickoff.

At halftime at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, it certainly looked like the Texans were going to cover. If you had bet the money line on Houston to win, it looked like a good bet.

Then the wheels fell off the Texans’ pass defense.

It all started with the 94-yard bomb by Rams QB Jared Goff to WR Robert Woods beautifully designed and executed. This led to a 21-point avalanche in the third quarter aided by another Texans turnover and the game was over.

For the first two quarters, the Rams looked like Jeff Fisher’s 2016 version on offense with bad passes, dropped passes and no running game. It appeared to be a tragedy in the making. The score at half was 9-7 in favor of the Rams and had not Texans K Ka’imi Fairbain missed a gimme field goal earlier, the Rams could have been easily trailing.

Luckily for the Rams, they didn’t have to play against the Texan’s phenom rookie QB Deshaun Watson. Instead, they got QB Tom Savage. Savage managed to commit four turnovers against the Rams defense which continues to improve weekly under Wade Phillps’ tutelage. Had Watson been playing, the Rams might not have won 33-7.

If the Rams want to win the NFC West, they must address the issue of what went wrong in the first half.

The simple fact is that Rams had plenty of chances to turn this game into a rout before the half. Instead, they failed score touchdowns in the red zone as the offense sputtered. Even a 17-7 at halftime lead, would have felt a lot better then 9-7.

The Rams offense in the first half was terrible. Here’s why.

The First Half Blown Chances

The Rams’ biggest problem which led to first half blunders were the direct result of the Rams’ own failures to execute on first down inside the red zone and just outside Houston’s 10-yard line including one those scoring opportunities being the result of the defense causing a turnover. In each instance, the Rams came away with just three points.

The Rams CANNOT do this.

They must, given the schedule ahead, score touchdowns against the good teams they will play like the Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles. Failure to do so is a killer against these teams, all of whom the Rams must defeat if they want to have the best record in the league and win the NFC West.

There’s only eight games left so the Rams inconsistent red zone play offense must get fixed permanently and soon.

The best way to accomplish this goal when they find themselves just outside the opponent’s 10-yard line is for the Rams to run the ball right up the middle. The worst that should happen is no gain. Without picking anything up, your team knows what it has to do on second down—pick up yardage to either make a first down inside the five or simply get the ball closer to the end zone.

One doesn’t necessarily have to pass on second down when first down doesn’t work. But, if your team loses five yards by attempting to run wide with WR Tavon Austin, you leave yourself with more than 80% chance that on second down your team is going to pass. Defenses will play to the odds, making it even more difficult to execute the pass play perfectly.

The Rams’ inability to score on the three different times they were in the red zone was the consequence of bad run calling, poor execution and self-inflicted penalties.

Head Coach Sean McVay called this ineptitude “adversity” which the Rams successfully overcame in the second half. The adversary which McVay was referring to was the Rams themselves.

The daunting task in the next three to four games is to find a way to convert red zone opportunities into seven points, not three. Three field goals led to a just a two-point lead at the half against a bad Texans teams.

The Rams’ failure to capitalize in the red zone caused the Rams to lose against their division rival Seattle Seahawks when they were only able to score a measly 10 points. If the Rams have plans to upset the Seahawks for the NFC West title, it won’t happen unless the Rams can put up more than 10 points.

The future, whether it’s in the playoffs or the remaining schedule, is to SCORE lots and lots of points.

Scoring touchdowns when opportunities present itself in the red zone, especially if it’s the result of a turnover, changes the whole dynamic of the game and the game plan of your opponent.

Very few teams have the kind of offense the Rams, Vikings, Saints and Eagles have. These teams will score points, and it’s up to the Rams to match those teams scoring when they play them in the regular season or the playoffs. Field goals in the red zone against these high-powered offenses, despite the improved Rams defense, isn’t enough to win—that’s Fisherball.

The Rams have been getting better in the red zone, but let’s not begin to consistently squander away these opportunities. This is a bad habit, since the most powerful offenses in the NFL lie ahead. The Rams’ offense can’t rely solely on the defense to win against these teams in the games ahead.

Football is a team sport encompassing not just the defense and special teams units. Offense has to do its part, especially when the Rams defense gets its offense a turnover. Move the chains and score touchdowns.

“The Future Is Now”

Despite the criticism I have for the lack of red zone production in the 1st half, there is not enough praise I can give for the second half play against Texans. The 94-yard bomb from Goff to Woods was a thing of beauty. It was simply the most remarkable play thus far in a ton of big plays the Rams have made this year.

Rams fans, this is a very good football team. There is no reason why the Rams cannot be in the Super Bowl this year. The only true adversary is themselves.

Keep getting better.

Keep winning and all things good will happen.