Rams 2nd half play-calling played right into the 49ers hand
The LA Rams held a halftime lead on the 49ers at halftime, and did so by balancing their offensive drives with a solid balance of runs and passes.
- Offensive Drive I - 11 plays | 50 yards | 6:31 time| 4 runs, 7 passes | 43-yard Field Goal
- Offensive Drive II - 8 plays | 60 yards | 3:43 time | 2 runs, 6 passes | 6-yard TD pass
- Offensive Drive III - 13 plays | 88 yards | 5:17 time | 7 runs, 6 passes | 4-yard TD run
- Totals - 32 plays | 198 yards | 15:31 time | 13 runs, 19 passes | 17 points
By halftime, the Rams had rushed 13 times, passed 19 times, and had 17 points on the scoreboard. But that would soon change. The Rams ran a balanced offense until the 49ers intercepted a pass and converted that turnover into a field goal, a score that would place the 49ers back on top by a score of 20-17. From then on, the Rams would pivot to a pass-centric offensive game plan.
An all too familiar pattern
Let's examine how the Rams' play selection changed after that 49ers' field goal.
- Offensive Drive I - 3 plays | (-10) yards | 1:01 time | 0 runs, 3 passes | 72-yard punt, 13 yard return
- Offensive Drive II - 14 plays | 45 yards | 4:15 time | 1 run, 12 passes | 48-yard Field Goal
- Offensive Drive III - 3 plays | 5 yards | 0:41 time | 1 run, 2 passes | Interception
- Offensive Drive IV - 4 plays | 8 yards | 0:38 time | 1 run, 3 passes | turnover on downs
- Offensive Drive V - 11 plays | 50 yards | 1:34 time | 1 run, 9 passes | 50-yard Field Goal
- Totals - 35 plays | 98 yards | 8: 09 time | 4 runs, 29 passes | 6 points
It seems clear that the San Francisco 49ers know how to push the buttons on the LA Rams. It was clear that the Rams offensive play-calling flipped to a pass, pass, pass format immediately after the 49ers took a three point lead. And it was also a horrendous strategy to opt for a pass-centric offense, because the Rams defense was getting plenty of rest in the Time of Possession battle up to that point. After that three-point advantage, the Rams lost their time of possession advantage.
It's tough to play on the offensive line in the NFL. But that task is exponentially more difficult if the defense knows that what you are doing on offense. And after the 49ers took a three-point lead, the 49ers had an 87.8 percent chance of correctly guessing that the Rams would be passing on any given play. That pushed the odds far too much in favor of the defense in that situation.
I believe that the Rams must do a better job of balancing their play-calling, even if I am the lone voice shouting that belief to the win. The benefits to the Rams' defense, the better chances of successful pass blocking for offensive linemen, and preserving QB Matthew Stafford from needless QB hits and sacks, make it a more desirable option. Not many share that view yet. But I'm not one to wilt because I see a bad trend forming before others.
The Rams offensive line benefits from balanced play-calling.