Offense Looks to Build on Big Performance

Posted Nov 14, 2012

For the better part of the first half of the season, most of the times the Rams offense has been flagged for any sort of violation, it’s seemed to doom that drive, bringing any momentum to an abrupt conclusion and leading to a punt.

Something was different last week against San Francisco, though, as quarterback Sam Bradford and Co. repeatedly overcame any self-inflicted wounds and found ways to keep drives going and ultimately score points.

In fact, of the Rams’ four scoring drives, two of them saw them overcome a penalty that normally would have killed it off.

“There were several times in that game where we had penalties on first downs where early in the season that was pretty much the end of a drive for us whereas last Sunday we were able to overcome some of those and keep drives going,” Bradford said. “We sustained long drives several times against that defense which is not easy to do so I’m definitely happy with the progress we’ve made.”

For a long time running, one knock on the Rams offense is that it hasn’t had the ability to overcome adversity within a drive let alone a game. The popular theory has been that they had to be perfect or nearly perfect to put points on the board.

There is, perhaps, no better sign that the offense is starting to find some traction then that it was able to not only overcome its mistakes but also to do it against one of the best defenses in the league and finish drives with touchdowns.

In the end, the Rams posted 458 yards of total offense against a Niners team that entered the game allowing almost 200 yards less per game. They also scored 24 points, nearly twice what San Francisco had previously yielded.

“I think our offense as a whole has really made a lot of strides in the past couple weeks,” Bradford said. “Obviously we didn’t have our greatest game in London but I think last week was evidence of what we’re capable of when we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, we don’t make mistakes. We still made mistakes but for the most part I think that was our most complete game as an offense. We put up a lot of yards and a fair amount of points against a really good defense.”

It remains to be seen whether Sunday’s performance against the vaunted Niners defense is a harbinger of things to come or a glorious day in which the Rams caught San Francisco off guard but there is a growing sentiment in the Rams locker room that this is an offense on the threshold of consistent production and performance.

“I think we are on the verge of something special,” tackle Rodger Saffold said. “This is a young, talented team. All I see is nothing but good things on and off the field. The emotions and feelings of the players off the field is good and that positivity really does direct right back to the field.”

Coming off that effort against the Niners, that positivity is at an all time high. In that game, the offense established precisely the identity that coach Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer want to see.

That brings up the question as to what, exactly, led to the team’s offensive outburst? Well, looking at it on the surface, things seem to be coalescing nicely at just the right time.

Perhaps most important is a group of previously injured key players returning to health. Receiver Danny Amendola and Saffold lead the charge there and their performances showed just how integral they are to the offense.

Saffold knocked some rust off and battled against the likes of Aldon Smith and Justin Smith all day. Amendola’s return brought more tangible things such as his 11 catches for 102 yards.

Eight of Amendola’s grabs resulted in first downs and he was pivotal in the offense converting seven-of-16 third downs, for a solid 44 percent.

“That’s what you try to do every week,” Fisher said. “Getting Danny back helped that. Danny kept drives alive for us and allowed other people to keep drives alive as well. When you are converting third downs and keeping the offense on the field, that increases your scoring opportunities, too.”

Likewise, another key to offensive progress is the simple passage of time, the time that allows players, who haven’t played together before to form bonds, communicate better and ultimately perform.

Although Saffold returned to the mix, the Rams have had continuity on their offensive line for a few weeks running and all are more comfortable in the offense.

Bradford now has a half-season of this offense under his belt and is clearer on his checks at the line of scrimmage.

Make no mistake, there are plenty of areas in which the offense must improve – including cutting down on those aforementioned penalties – but those are the types of things that can be corrected.

“Are there things we can improve on or things we need to fix?” center Robert Turner said. “Absolutely and you’ll have that every game. You are never going to play the perfect game; you are going to make mistakes. The question is are they fixable mistakes? Are they mistakes that I got beat on a play or is it that I beat myself on a play with alignment or assignment, things like that.
“Those are the things that you really look at when it comes to mistakes. Is it mental? Was it something I did? Or was it something where I got beat, the guy got me? The more we put it in perspective, the better and more effective you’ll see us be.”

With a balance being struck in the run game between starter Steven Jackson and rookie understudy Daryl Richardson, an offensive line that’s performed well beyond expectations and seems to be improving each week, a quarterback in Bradford who played one of his best games and a group of wideouts and tight ends buoyed by Amendola’s production and leadership, the only thing that may have been missing was the type of performance that group produced against the Niners.

What that effort could do for the offense moving into the final seven games is immeasurable even if there is still plenty to work on. 

“It’s a big load of confidence but at the same time we know that we have to be better so we can finish a team like that,” Saffold said. “We are going to continue to work on that and that’s always going to be a standard with the offense is you always finish the game.”

Call it the next step in the evolution of an improving offense.