Finishing drives is often the difference between winning and losing in the NFL. But here's the strange paradox of the 2019 Rams: Last season was by far the most efficient of the Sean McVay Era in the red zone; yet they produced fewer points and victories than the two campaigns prior.
The Rams earned a robust 5.25 points per trip inside their opponent's 20-yard line, despite landing in the middle of the pack in overall points per possession.
More specifically, they finished the year on a tear – scoring touchdowns on 14 of their last 15 trips to the red zone, and perhaps therein lies the sample size we can and should focus on: December's 29 points per game.
"Getting the 'reds,' that's the most important and emphasized part of our offense," said tailback Malcolm Brown, who accounted for five such scores last season. Los Angeles ranked fifth in the league in red zone touchdown percentage and sixth in opportunities. "There's no complicated answer to it. I think it's a pure mindset, we have to go score. We're this close, there's no way this defense can get us off the field right now."
While Brown and Todd Gurley feasted on favorable and-goal situations, quarterback Jared Goff continued to outperform in the red zone as well. His 112.0 rating in that area trailed only MVP Lamar Jackson among qualifying passers, according to Sharp Football. Goff delivered 18 touchdowns (plus two rushing scores) without an interception.
Despite a prolific finish to the year, tight end Tyler Higbee actually feels he owes Goff a couple – which is an interesting tangent, related to this discussion.
"Me personally, I came up a couple yards, couple inches short at the goal line this past year," said Higbee, who was tackled at the one-yard line in games at Carolina, versus Seattle, and at San Francisco.
Those were three of six such instances in which a Goff completion was carried down to the one – but not across the plane for a touchdown. You can imagine the narrative being a touch less critical this offseason had he finished 2019 with 28 passing touchdowns (matching his 2017 Pro Bowl campaign) rather than 22.
Fortunately for the Rams, all of those drives culminated in rushing scores, immediately thereafter, buoying the team's red zone efficiency. Now the question becomes, can they carry over that momentum in a statistical category which is notoriously fickle?
"Our object as an offense is to score every time we touch the ball," continued Higbee. "And when we do get in those short field, it heightens it even more, you know, the focus and just trying to put that ball in the endzone."