1st-down plays key for Rams ..
BY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Friday, December 10, 2010 9:55 am
Happy Friday ...
* In Thursday's Bytes we wrote about the heavy use of blitzes by the New Orleans defense and how the Saints will try to pressure Rams QB Sam Bradford. Here's one way for the Rams to alleviate that stress: have success on first down. Obviously, every offense helps itself by having positive plays and yards on first down. That prevents getting into those third-and-longs. But against the Saints it's especially important, because defensive coordinator Gregg Williams saves his most creative and confusing blitz packages for third down. And the longer the distance the offense must go to pick up a first down, the more it plays into Williams' hands.
* Along those lines, the Rams figure to have a chance to get something done on the Saints. And Rams RB Steven Jackson figures prominently into that. The Saints are allowing 4.6 yards per rushing attempt on first down this season. That puts them in the bottom half of the league in that category. And when they blitz on first down the Saints give up 4.7 yards per rush.
* This is an esoteric stat, but I'll throw it in for the hardcore helmet heads who will hopefully appreciate it: the Saints rank 31st among the 32 NFL defenses in average second-down yards to go. Offenses have 7 yards or less to go against the Saints on 52 percent of their second-down plays; only three NFL defenses have a worse percentage.
* How does this apply to the Rams? Well, the Rams are averaging 4.2 yards per rush on first down, which ranks 15th in the league. Not bad. And the Rams have been a little creative with their first-down rushes; WR Danny Amendola, for example, has been handed the ball 7 times on 1st down to run reverses or the end-around play. And Steven Jackson certainly found some running lanes last season when the Rams played New Orleans; SJ had 16 carries for 100 yards in the 1st half and finished with 131 yards on 26 carries.
* One thing the Rams haven't done well is throw the ball successfully on first down. I'm not sure why this is -- perhaps a lack of creativity or aggressiveness -- but Sam Bradford is essentially at the bottom of the NFL rankings with a 1st-down passer rating of 60.0. He's thrown 1 TD pass and has been intercepted five times on first down. His YPA is a modest 5.05. The ineffective passing game on first down explains why the Rams are rated among the worst first-down offenses. But that's misleading in this regard: they're a pretty good running team on first down. And that could be a factor against the Saints.
Thanks for reading ...