Secret Ingredients of Rams’ Success: Downfield Blocking

Maybe, like me, you’re wondering how the Rams have suddenly become so effective on offense. I mean, Bradford is walking on water and all of that, but he’s just one player, and we’re seeing team-wide effects. Did Pat Shurmur suddenly get a whole lot smarter? Did Dick Vermeil share sprinkle some magic coaching dust on Coach Spagnuolo during his training camp visit? Maybe, but there are some subtle things happening on this Rams team, and their ability to turn small plays into big ones in the last two weeks provides a clue.

@RamsHerd Rams are certainly better on o-line — they were blowing it out on screens. They get to the second level so much more quickly now — that was obvious in the Redskins game.
Carroll said that defending the screens was major issue in the game. Almost 100 yards on screens alone; big plays allowed on 3rd down.

The difference is the Rams’ newfound ability to block downfield — without getting flagged for it.

There were two big screen plays that were dependent on strong downfield blocking — Steven Jackson’s 49-yard rumble, and Ken Darby’s 21-yard touchdown. Here’s a blow-by-blow on the key blocks that sprung those plays.

2nd-and-10, STL 30: Bradford pass short right to 39-S.Jackson to SEA 21 for 49 yards

[Watch Video]

Block 1: Adam Goldberg on Aaron Curry


Block 2: Mike Karney on Lawyer Milloy


Block 3: Brandon Gibson on Marcus Trufant (no camera angle, but you can see the evidence of their jousting in Trufant’s exposed shoulder pad in the next frame)

Block 4: Mark Clayton on Kelly Jennings


Like a beautifully orchestrated concerto of pain, the Rams kept crunching and shoving Seahawks players away from the point of impact, reopening the hole in their defense and allowing their horse to plod along at far less than full speed, untouched. It was a thing of beauty. And three plays later, the Rams struck again.

3rd and 10, SEA 21: Bradford pass short left to 34-K.Darby for 21 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

[Watch Video]

Again, the offensive line lets the rush flow well past the line of scrimmage, sucking multiple defenders away from the play as Bradford calmly floats the ball to Darby, who is now flanked by a formidable convoy made up of the beefy center of his offensive line — Jason Brown, Adam Goldberg, and Jacob Bell. With only one defender between Darby and a first-and-goal, Bell draws first blood.

Block 1: Bell (and Brown) on Will Herring


Block 2: Daniel Fells on 36 Lawyer Milloy Block 3: Adam Goldberg on 28 Walter Thurmond (?)


The latter blocks weren’t of the bone-crunching variety, but they were perfectly positioned screens for Darby to run behind, letting his momentum carry him into the end zone even as one defender finally gets to him.

This is something that, frankly, the Rams tried to do last year but weren’t very good at it. We need only recall huge plays taken back thanks to illegal blocking, like Danny Amendola’s 90+ yard kickoff return against the 49ers, or numerous other plays that simply got blown up because of poor blocking, or a QB that wasn’t patient enough to let the play develop.

The time it takes for the QB to backpedal, and the WRs routes to clear out, creates the critical space where the line of scrimmage used to be. Bradford’s athleticism and patience, as well as improved discipline and, yes, perhaps the coach’s emphasis on special teams play for all his young players, are paying big dividends in this subtle but crucially important area.