Bernie Bytes: Rams sputtering in Red Zone

BERNIE MIKLASZ
Friday, December 17, 2010

READING TIME 5 MINUTES:

* If Sunday's game between the Chiefs and Rams is close, the contest could be determined by performance in the red zone. The Rams have been struggling mightily in the RZ as of late, scoring only one TD in seven opportunities over the last two games. For the season, the Rams rank next to last (31st) in the NFL in RZ touchdown percentage, with 17 TDs in 47 attempts (36.2 percent).

The Kansas City offense is among the best in the NFL at cashing in for red-zone touchdowns, with 25 TDs in 42 opportunities (59.5 percent.) That's 9th-best in the NFL.

However, it's a different story on the defensive side. The Rams are in the upper half of the league rankings (13th) in limiting scoring in the red zone. Opponents have scored 18 TDs in 37 RZ chances, or 48.6 percent. The Chiefs defense has been weak in the red zone, giving up 25 TDs in 42 chances; that percentage of 59.5% ranks 31st among the 32 teams.

Can the Rams' red-zone offense get well -- and get into the end zone -- against Kansas City on Sunday?

* Notes on Matt Cassel: The Rams have been an effective blitzing team this season. But if Cassel (as expected) starts at QB for KC, we'll see strength vs. strength. Cassel has done a super job against the blitz this season, completing 60 percent of his passes with 12 TDs and 2 INTs for a passer rating of 108.9 ... Cassel's overall TD/INT ratio of 23 touchdowns and 4 picks is the second-best in the league, behind Tom Brady ... Cassel does a lot of damage with first-down passing; 10 TDs and 2 INTs and a rating of 97.6 ... in the red zone Cassel has completed 56 percent (which is very good for the RZ) with 15 TDs and only one INT and a rating of 94.3 ... Many NFL quarterbacks put up their best numbers in passing out of the shotgun formation, but not Cassel. His rating out of the shotgun: 88.4. His non-shotgun rating: 108.9.

* The Chiefs are a terrific running team, leading the NFL in rushing yards and yards per attempt. But there is a home/road disparity; the Chiefs average 5.4 yards per carry at home and 4.2 per carry on the road.

* The Chiefs have two good cover CBs in Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr. According to STATS LLC, Carr has given up a completion rate of only 40 percent, which is one of the best marks by an NFL corner this season, though he has been beaten for five TDs. And the completion rate against Flowers is 47.7 percent; he's allowed one TD... rookie safety Eric Berry has given up 6 TD passes according to STATS.

* KC's Tamba Hali is having an excellent season on the pass rush; he has 11 sacks and is also among the league leaders with 36 combined QB hurries and knockdowns.

* Another no-show by the San Francisco *****; this talented team that should be leading the NFC West fell again, 34-7 at San Diego. The Niners played dumb, undisciplined football. Overmatched head coach Mike Singletary, as usual, had no answers and couldn't summon the necessary response from his team. After teasing ***** fans with a great performance in las week's win over Seattle, QB Alex Smith reverted to mediocre form against the Chargers. The ***** (5-9) are still alive in the NFC West but need the Rams to lose to KC this weekend.

Thanks for reading ...

-Bernie