What caused the LA Rams offense to stall against the 49ers?

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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LA Rams News Sony Michel
(Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images) /

Rams abandoned the run

The LA Rams offense has been nullified by the 49ers’ defense this year, far more effectively than other NFL defenses. And yet, the Rams put up 17 points in one half of football against them. So what changed?  In short, the Rams ran the ball in that first quarter, however ineffectively. The Rams play calling in the first half practically split the running plays and the passing plays down the middle: 15 runs and 16 passes.

Well, it turns out that a recent article by Tareq Rafiq may hold the key to unlocking that puzzle. In his article expressing frustration with the Rams’ sixth straight loss, he may have stumbled into the key of what the Rams do wrong when facing the 49ers.  Check out his play-calling analysis re: the second half?

1st possession – 2 runs (4 yards), 1 pass (incomplete), punt
2nd possession – 3 passes (sacked for six-yard loss, incomplete, interception)
3rd possession – 6 passes (4 passes incomplete), 1 pass 24 yards, 1 sack for a 10-yard loss, punt
4th possession – 6 runs (37 yards), 3 passes (40 yards), Touchdown
5th possession – 3 runs (5 yards), punt *
6th possession – 2 passes, 1 pass 12 yards, 1 sack -3 yards

* Rams led by 7 points, and 49ers defense knew Rams wanted to run and use up the game clock.

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Rams scored once in the second half by running the ball

The only scoring drive in the second half moved the football 77 yards, consumed over five minutes of the game clock, and was successful because the Rams did the last thing expected by the well-schooled 49ers’ defense, they ran the ball.

In fact, the rushing attempts by the Rams in the two games totaled 37 attempts. That breaks down to 18.5 rushes per game. In the two games, the Rams’ offense totaled 74 passes, which breaks down to 37 per game.

For the season, the Rams rushed 420 times and passed 607 times. That averages out to 24.7 rushes per game, and 35.7 passes per game. Why does this matter? It’s evidence that the LA Rams allow the San Francisco 49ers to dictate the down and distance play-calling by the Rams offense, and then use that to their advantage to sell out their defense to defend that passing attack.

How did Matthew Stafford perform against the 49ers? He completed 47 of 73 passes for 481 yards, four touchdowns, and four interceptions. Those are not the same numbers he generated against the rest of the NFL.