A long-running narrative about Sean McVay is that he is too quick to abandon the run game and go airborne.
When you build a wide receiver unit that is arguably the NFL’s best; mortgage two years of first round draft picks for a gunslinger quarterback; and lose your top running back before the first day of fall camp, it would be logical to say “sure, why not?”.
The rub is that NFL offenses, particularly McVay’s play-action reliant schemes, need some semblance of balance to succeed.
Some of you may know me as the writer formerly known as “cvram” from writing Fanposts before and today I want to look at the run/pass mix numbers by quarter in each game will provide the information to analyze, and hopefully, reach a conclusion on whether the Los Aneles Rams are really pass happy or not.
Week 1 vs, Bears- Total of 23 runs / 26 passes.
1st Qtr: 3 runs / 5 passes
2nd Qtr: 4 runs / 6 passes
3rd Qtr: 3 runs / 8 passes
4th Qtr: 14 runs / 5 passes
Seemingly well balanced, but in reality, reliant on the pass in a 34-14 win. Rams used the vertical game with nine plays over 15 yards, all passes. Four of the runs were kneel downs by Matt Stafford. One jet sweep. Rams only ran 50 offensive plays and lost Time of Possession 35 minutes to 25.
Wk 2 vs. Colts- 29 runs / 30 passes
1st Qtr: 3 runs / 5 passes
2nd Qtr: 7 runs / 9 passes
3rd Qtr: 6 runs / 8 passes
4th Qtr: 13 runs / 8 passes
Almost perfect overall balance in 27-24 win. Colts head ball most of 1st Qtr. Rams had only two possessions in 2nd, one a quick interception and the other a 16 play field goal drive. On the opening drive of the 3rd, a long completion led to six straight runs and a touchdown. Only two other drives of the Qtr. were all passes and 3-and-outs. Rams finished off game with 9 consecutive runs.
Wk 3 vs. Bucs- 24 runs / 38 passes
1st Qtr: 6 runs / 11 runs
2nd Qtr: 4 runs / 12 passes
3rd Qtr: 4 runs / 11 passes
4th Qtr: 10 runs / 5 passes
Tampa Bay’s stellar run defense is a good answer for the run/pass discrepancy. Again, the Rams used the vertical game to pull away with eight plays over 15 yards, all passes. Rams closed out the game with six straight runs, of which three were kneel downs
Wk 4 vs. Cardinals- 23 runs / 41 passes
1st Qtr: 8 runs / 12 passes
2nd Qtr: 5 runs / 12 passes
3rd Qtr: 3 runs / 10 passes
4th Qtr: 6 runs / 11 passes
In a 37-20 loss, McVay pulled the plug early on the run game. Rams ran the ball well in 1st half (77 yards). After the Sony Michel fumble at 10:14 of the 2nd Qtr., Rams ran only 11 more times. Five of those were Stafford scrambles. The Cards were moving the ball at will, but it seemed early to discard the run.
Wk 5 vs. Seahawks- 29 runs / 38 passes
1st Qtr: 5 runs / 12 passes
2nd Qtr: 11 runs / 8 passes
3rd Qtr: 5 runs / 12 passes
4th Qtr: 8 runs / 6 passes
This this is how the Ram offense should run. Almost. 70 plays, nearly 500 total yards, and 33 minutes to 27 in TOP. The score, 26-17, was kept close by a dreadful 2-10 on 3rd downs. Most of those were errant passes. Here, the Rams stayed with the run and it payed off in the 2nd half. Ten plays went for over 15 yards, nine passes and one run.
Wk 6 vs. Giants 34 runs / 30 passes
1st Qtr: 2 runs / 8 passes
2nd Qtr: 7 runs / 17 passes
3rd Qtr: 11 runs / 5 passes
4th Qtr: 12 / 3 passes
Not much to glean from this game, Against the floundering Giants, the Rams did whatever they wanted in a 38-11 beat down. A ticky-tack foul cost Darrrell Henderson a big run and a 100 yard game.
Qtr. 1- 27 runs (34%) / 53 passes (66%)
Very consistent from game to game. Only averaging a little over 13 plays per 1st Qtr. Slow starts on offense or is the defense to blame.
Qtr.2- 38 runs (37%) / 64 passes (63%)
Again, a steady two out of three favoring the pass. Only outlier was Seattle game, skewing the run totals up
3rd Qtr- 32 runs (37%) / 54 passes (63%)
Staying on track at 2⁄3 passes. Last Sunday vs. Giants brought up run percentage.
4th Qtr.- 53 runs (58%) / 38 passes (42%)
Big changes here. The only game where Rams didn’t run more than pass was the Cardinal debacle
These aren’t the Rams of the recent past. They still start games feeling out the defense, but are using the pass to do it. Stafford has struggled with accuracy early in games, the extra throws may help to settle him down and get him in the flow. The loss of Cam Akers doesn’t seem a likely reason to throw more, Henderson and Michel have ran well.
The passing game is setting up the run, chalking up about 10 plays per game over 15 yards. Defenses have to respect the Rams vertical air attack, allowing a run-blocking numerical advantage. The offensive line has been stellar overall and handled A-gap blitzes, so there’s no need for a lot of receiver screens and hitches.
Run game is still predominately zone oriented. One thing I have noticed is less zone blocking inside the 10 yard line and more man blocking. Gone are the four or five jet sweeps per game, only four so far this season. Late in game, the Rams are going to take the air out of the ball and let the line beat on the defense.
Looking at it dispassionately, McVay and the Rams are not pass happy. In today’s NFL environment, running an up-tempo offense and throwing the ball 2⁄3 of the time is a semblance of balance and will still allow for a flourishing run game. Being 6-1 are the important numbers. There was a lot more to the Cardinals loss than getting away from the run game.