Secret Ingredients of Rams’ Success: Running it up the gut

Steven Jackson vs Chargers

There’s no secret to the way Spagnuolo wants to attack you on offense, particularly when the Rams have the lead. He wants to stuff the ball down your throat. With the game on the line, Spagnuolo approached his running back on the sideline and essentially said, “Win the game for us.” And with five consecutive clock-draining runs, that’s exactly what he did.

These consecutive runs were gutsy play-calls, particularly the inside draw on a critical third and five. The Rams have not been a very strong or consistent interior running team under Spagnuolo, and part of the problem has been continuity on the offensive line.

As Ron Clements points out, though, continuity is now here: this week will make seven consecutive games with the same O-line, the longest such streak since 2003. And as Jackson approaches Eric Dickerson’s franchise record for running yards, the attitude of the big uglies is changing. For the better.

The linemen view themselves as a fist, with each player representing a finger coming together as a unit. When they “break down after practice, we put our fists in the circle and say ‘Fist,’” Brown said.

“If you’re going to hit something, as a fighter, you’ve got to hit it with your fist. All five fingers represent our linemen banded together to make that fist to hit whatever is in front of us,” Smith explained. “That’s what a fist is and does. That’s what we want to do as an offensive line – hit whatever’s in front of us.”

Jackson said he has noticed the chemistry developing with the line, adding they’ve worn opposing defenses down late and that it’s allowed rookie quarterback Sam Bradford to make plays down the field.

“Working with the same guys really helps you understand what’s going to happen before it happens,” Bell said. “You get a feel of where each other is going to be and get used to that. When a new guy comes in, you have to adjust. It’s a little bit different, but not a huge deal, as long as you’ve got a guy who knows what he’s doing.”

— Alton Telegraph: “Fist of Fury

Poring through the game logs shows us how strong the Rams committed to running straight up the gut in this matchup. Twenty of their 29 carries in this game — a season high — went right up the middle, or behind the guards. Here’s a look at those runs.

Infoshot: Game-6-steven-jackson-runs

For another look, here are those runs mapped out on the field:


Not surprisingly, we can see the Rams continuing to use Steven as their horse in the middle of the field, while primarily going to the air once they get into the red zone. This is a continued trend in the Shurmur offense. However, he made his one carry inside the 20 count, getting a huge seven-yard touchdown and rolling the dice.

This week, Jackson takes the field only 31 yards shy of Dickerson’s franchise record. When he takes ownership of this mark, there will be six men celebrating — the big men and their running back.