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Los Angeles Rams-Seattle Seahawks Film Preview: The importance of the red zone

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The Rams are the top scoring offense in the NFC. But they’re middle-of-the-road when scoring touchdowns in the red zone.

The Los Angeles Rams in their offensive huddle against the New Orleans Saints, Nov. 4, 2018. Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the one of the most important aspects of offenses. Yet when the Los Angeles Rams have one of the top offenses (No. 2) in the league, the ability to score in the red zone can get overlooked.

More specifically the ability to score touchdowns in the red zone, which is the main objective for offenses.

The Rams offense scores a touchdown on 56 percent of their red zone trips, which is 16th-best in the league, according to FootballOutsiders. It doesn’t seem like that big of an issue. Sure, it’s not a great stat. But it’s certainly not a big problem. The Rams score plenty. They’re 8-1. So, who cares?

Former New England Patriot Rob Ninkovich was asked during training camp what the most important practice periods Bill Belichick was going to run. His answer: the red zone.

The Patriots are currently No. 10 in the league in red zone touchdown scores.

“If the Patriots have four possessions and the other team has four possessions and the Patriots are four-for-four in the red zone and the other team is kicking field goals, it’s already out of reach,” Ninkovich said, according to NBC Sports Boston. “The game is over, you know? I think that there’s going to be a big emphasis on the red zone, like there always is.”

For the Rams, four of the last six games were decided by seven points or less. Sure, a win is a win. But the offense is leaving valuable points on the table.

Broncos-Rams Week 6. Rams won by three.
Red-zone touchdown scores: 2-of-5

On third-and-six, Denver goes with a nickel package. The defensive backs are playing everything underneath and the Broncos expect the pass.

Rams go empty backfield and shift Gurley to WR. LA sends everyone but Robert Woods into the end-zone with no slant routes in the flat. Goff forces a pass and is off-target.

On third and goal, the Rams need six for the score. The play falls apart almost immediately after the snap. John Sullivan collapses and can’t get to the second level and Robert Havenstein lets up on his block. Von Miller roams back inside and hits Gurley. There was little, if any, chance of the score here.

Unlike Brian Schottenheimer, the Sean McVay is rather successful with his shotgun play-calls near the goal line. But it’s not always a given. Sometimes the Rams go with shotgun when the previous plays saw them record as many or more yards than they need on the current drive.

Seahawks-Rams Week 5. Rams won by two.
Red-zone: 4-of-6

The Seahawks have most of the flat covered, but Brandin Cooks gets separation, which Goff doesn’t seem to notice. He chooses Gurley, who is shadowed. The ball is deflected and picked off.

This is second-and-goal from the 2-yard line. The play before, Gurley rushed for three yards in a single back formation. The Rams go single-back on the following drive and score from the 2-yard line. Go figure.

The last two weeks have arguably been the toughest on the Rams. The loss against the Saints magnified the problems we already knew existed on the defense. The second half saw the Rams nearly pull off a big comeback. They were three-of-five from the red zone during that game.

The Green Bay game was a great example of how important the red zone is because of how rare they were in the first half. The Rams couldn’t get into the red zone during the first five drives of the game. It wasn’t until the very end of the first half that they came inside the 20-yard line.

Josh Reynolds runs a slant and cuts back outside, which gives him the separation he needs for the catch. This was the first red zone trip and the Rams scored a touchdown when they needed it most. Without this touchdown, who knows how the Green Bay game would have played out.

The Rams offense is great. It’s a unit that’s put up at least 30 points in seven of its last nine games. But LA is not always going to be able to rely on it’s defense to hold the line. With teams like Seattle (touchdowns scored on 72 percent of red zone trips), Kansas City (touchdowns scored on 70 percent of red zone trips), and possibly New Orleans again in the playoffs (touchdowns scored on 71 percent of red zone trips), it’s imperative that LA execute in the red zone.