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  1. #1
    Nick's Avatar
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    Interesting LA Times Article on Rams Playcalling

    Found it on the PD website, thought I'd move it here for some quality discussion.


    THE ST. LOUIS RAMS with the best pass design in football — and some of the best pass-offense personnel of recent NFL years — are for familiar reasons only 4-4 as they start the second half of the schedule against division-rival Seattle Sunday. The Ram problem is play-calling.

    Through three years and two Super Bowls, Coach Mike Martz has shown that he's the best passing coach football has yet seen, but, now, he wants to integrate running plays with pass plays and can't find the right recipe. In their big years, the Rams didn't need a running game. And now, every week, they're proving that they still don't understand the problem.

    Thus, Martz has been operating a schizoid offense. Running the ball when defenses expect a run, he bulks up with tight ends and blocking backs. Then, passing the ball when defenses expect him to pass, he takes out the beef and inserts more speed.

    The result is that, at the start of most of their offensive series, the Rams — instead of passing aggressively to take a lead, as they once did — are now wasting downs with power runs into run defenses. Falling behind, they try to catch up by passing into pass defenses; and with quarterback Marc Bulger a sitting duck in the pocket, sacks are inevitable. And the offensive line takes the blame.

    A 40-22 loser again last Sunday, Martz could have taken New England with two simple play-calling changes.

    First, he could have more often parlayed first-down passes, as he did for the only touchdown scored by the Rams when in the first three quarters the game was on the line. That time, 59 yards away from a touchdown, Martz called a beautiful first-down, fake-pass, fake-draw-play bomb that advanced the Rams to the Patriot 11. There, where Martz has lately tried to run the ball on futile power plays, he called a first-down touchdown pass, Marc Bulger to Isaac Bruce, a play on which Bruce was in the clear by five yards in all directions.

    Second, Martz could have made the Ram running game an integral part of the passing game by lining up in a pass formation even on running downs. Twice, he did do that, most notably when the Rams spread the defense with four wide receivers on a two-point conversion try and then sent Marshall Faulk scooting straight ahead for the points.

    Passing is what the Rams do best — better than anyone — and the most effective way for a passing team to run is to:

    1) Threaten pass on every running play with three or four wide receivers (as Indianapolis and Minnesota both did Monday night.) This pays off particularly in short yardage.

    2) As a general rule, run on passing downs and pass on running downs.

    The most effective way to play offensive football, as the Rams proved long ago, is to pass aggressively at, say, the start of each game, striking for the lead while defenses are bulked up and psyched up to stop the run. Whenever the Rams have come out in their best basic formation — with one back and three wide receivers (Indianapolis' basic set Monday night) — at least one wide receiver has customarily been open.

    But that hasn't been the Ram way lately.

    On any Ram first down, a power run is a wasted play. Even if the runner pounds out a decent five yards, which essentially never happens, the offensive team has thrown away the best passing down.

    On every first down, the defense has to honor the run, and Martz is free to choose from his endless selection of marvelous pass plays, short, mid-range and long.

    On first down, Bulger can neutralize the blitz by alternating one-step, three-step, five-step and seven-step drops or with a short rollout in either direction.

    Football fans across the nation, who fondly remember the magic of The Greatest Show on Turf, would love to see the results of a one-game experiment in which Martz never fielded fewer than three wide receivers on any down. The pass would be there. And so would the run.

    Definitely some interesting suggestions. Opinions?

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  2. #2
    elAcky Guest

    Re: Interesting LA Times Article on Rams Playcalling

    this is truely an excellent article... essentailly what has happened is that mad Martz has given in to popular opinion and maybe, just maybe.... he was right all along i.e. we need to trust his madness

  3. #3
    moklerman Guest

    Re: Interesting LA Times Article on Rams Playcalling

    I somewhat agree with the article but it's too easy to oversimplify things and make them look good on paper. The main problem Martz has had for a while(not always) is timing. The article mentions that to some extent and I don't think any of us really think or expect a 50/50 run/pass ratio to solve the Rams' problems right now.

    On top of that, his Indianopolis reference isn't the best analogy to me. Indy is predicated on having a series of plays called each time they go up to the line of scrimmage. That's why Peyton does so much audibilizing and why they run the no huddle. Indy calls plays based on spot matchups. The Rams, as far as I know, still don't do any audibilizing.

    The Rams' adjustments seem to come after the snap. The qb, wr's and lineman have to make on the fly reads and make their adjustments on the move. I think this is part of the complexity of the offense and why it takes new players to get acclimated. Bulger basically had to learn what Bruce, Holt and Faulk were seeing, anticipate it and make a play based on it.

    Truly a thing of beauty when it's clicking. Out of rhythm, it looks like a real mess. There are some situations that call for the obvious and that's what Martz has had trouble doing since the league caught up to him a little bit. When and if Martz ever starts calling the right plays at the right times on a regular basis the Rams offense will be fine.

  4. #4
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Interesting LA Times Article on Rams Playcalling

    I don't think he was comparing the way the offense is run to what Indy does, but rather used Indy as an example of a team that will run the ball out of formations with 3 WRs and have had success. Edgerrin James has a 4.7 ypc average (better than his overall average) out of formations with three WRs. He has double the number of carries in three WR sets than he does in only two WR sets. Meanwhile, Faulk's numbers show that he has more attempts in formations of two WRs than he does of three and four WR sets combined, and he's actually averaging over six yards a carry when rushing out of formations of four wide receivers.
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  5. #5
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    Re: Interesting LA Times Article on Rams Playcalling

    Great article, Nick. Thanks for bringing it over.

    The article is dead on. The offense has become predictable. Even those of us sitting at home can see what's coming quite often. I don't understand why we don't go with more 4 receiver sets, to run out of. We can't do it too much or we'd have to start passing out of it. And unless we start passing the 3-ins and 5-ins out of it, Bulger simply won't have enough time. But still, why not throw it in the mix ocassionally, just enough to keep teams off balance? It's hard to move the ball when the opposing defenses knows what's coming.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

  6. #6
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    Re: Interesting LA Times Article on Rams Playcalling

    I think one thing that is over looked in this artical is the fact that the O line is in bad shape and Buldger just dosen't have the time to let the plays develop fully.
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  7. #7
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Interesting LA Times Article on Rams Playcalling

    Good point, Ramman. It'd be nice if Martz would adjust to this by calling plays that don't take as long to develop in terms of routes. Some quicker slants or outs might work.
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