To the casual football fan, the St. Louis Rams didn't look too much like the lesser team in Sunday's loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Sure, both teams currently sit at 3-3 following the game but so do 10 other NFL franchises, including the entire AFC East. The game didn't get nationally televised thanks to the Dallas Cowboys – Baltimore Ravens battle, but it still pitted two of the up-and-coming defenses in the league against each other in a defensive affair. The Rams’ offense rolled up a season-high 462 yards — including a relatively impressive 162 on the ground — against the NFL's No.1 rush defense in the Dolphins.
Only one little problem: the Rams again found difficulty punching the ball in the end zone after crossing their opponent's 20-yard line. It took Sam Bradford almost being broken in half to get a touchdown in the red zone, a perfect representation of the fight and the struggle the team has.
I argued with my father yesterday about the problem, stating that it isn't just limited to the home team. With the league's gradual shift to more dominant passing attacks came smaller offensive linemen and skill players, allowing defenses to match up better when their backs are against the wall.
Nevertheless, St. Louis is much more promising this year than recent campaigns. With a strong defense and constantly-improving offense, the Rams prepare to face what could be their four most difficult games of the year, with a bye week sandwiched in-between.
Here's what the Rams can take from Week 6.
—Steven Jackson gained five yards on the first play of the game, only to be usurped by rookie Daryl Richardson on the very next play with a 44-yard gallop down the right sideline. Jackson re-entered the game following that, and the rest of the contest followed a similar theme.
—Jackson continued to run as consistently as he has for his entire career. The blocking seemed to improve as it has done each week, and Jackson took advantage by turning what would normally be runs of no gain or two yards to carries of over 10 yards. He still isn't a home-run hitter though, like Richardson is proving to be. Richardson posted 76 yards by running patiently behind fullback Brit Miller and getting to the second level on almost each of his 11 carries.
—Brandon Gibson was targeted with nine passes, hauling in seven for 91 yards in what was a very promising performance in Danny Amendola's absence. On 2nd-and-10 from their own 27, Gibson punctuated this performance with a spectacular leaping one-handed grab down the left sideline for 22 yards in crunch time. The catch helped to move the Rams’ offense into field-goal range on their final drive. Catch of the year, maybe?
—Greg Zuerlein was the goat Sunday. No, not the “greatest of all time”; the man of many nicknames missed his first three field goals of the season against Miami after starting his rookie campaign 15-of-15. The wind looked like it affected his accuracy (each kick missed left), but the distance was easily there, even from 52 yards.
—Rookie defensive tackle Michael Brockers showed his effectiveness in stopping the run Sunday. Although it may not have showed up on the stat sheet, Brockers did what he was drafted to do: occupy one or two running lanes to allow linebackers to move freely.
—I've yet to figure out what the cause of this recurring issue is, but the Rams are developing a trend on third down: drop back to pass, give up a sack. Bradford suffered three sacks on third down against Miami. Maybe the offensive line deficiencies become more apparent when the defense knows they are planning to pass, maybe Bradford holds the ball too long, maybe the receivers are failing to get open quickly… who knows?