Rams-Falcons study session: Offense

EARTH CITY, Mo. – A look back at the St. Louis Rams' 31-24 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday after reviewing the coaches’ film.

The Big Play: With 11:42 to go in the second quarter, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford throws a pass in the flat to running back Daryl Richardson that bounces off Richardson’s hands and into the waiting arms of Atlanta defensive end Osi Umenyiora. Umenyiora returned it 68 yards for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead.

The Rams lined up with two receivers, two tight ends and Richardson in the backfield. Receiver Austin Pettis went in motion to the left, with Chris Givens next to him.

Atlanta had five defenders on the line with a linebacker, and Umenyiora drops into zone at the snap.

Richardson stayed in to block, but released into the left flat in front of Umenyiora. Bradford looked downfield but didn’t have anyone clearly open. However, tight end Jared Cook appeared to be on the verge of coming clean as Bradford threw to Richardson.

Bradford’s throw came out a bit hot, but it still hit Richardson in the hands and he simply didn’t handle it. The bad news for the Rams was that the Falcons just so happened to have the perfect call in place, with Umenyiora in the right spot at the right time.

While Bradford might have had a small window to deliver it to Cook as he ran toward the deep left, the pass was catchable for Richardson. From there, the interception and return was the result of some old-fashioned bad luck.

Hidden Play: With 3:23 to go in the second quarter, Bradford narrowly misses a deep connection down the left sideline to Cook.

The Rams lined up with four receivers and a running back with Bradford in the shotgun. Givens lined up to the right, with trips to the left including Cook, Pettis and Tavon Austin.

The Falcons had cornerback Robert Alford playing press coverage on Givens on the right, with their other defensive backs off of the trio on the left.

At the snap, Alford came off Givens and went after Bradford on a corner blitz. Bradford didn’t see the blitz and missed a chance for a quick delivery to Givens as he looked to the left, where Austin was running a deep in, Pettis was running a quick out and Cook was running a deep route down the outside.

Cook ran clear of cornerback Desmond Trufant and Bradford let it go, but Bradford had to rush the throw a bit as Alford closed in on him. The ball landed a bit to the outside of Cook’s left shoulder, and he appeared to get himself turned around as the ball fell incomplete.

The play wasn’t obviously important but it was one of the few opportunities Bradford had to get the ball down the field against the Falcons, especially in the first half. At the time, the Rams trailed 21-3, and a big play that could have jump-started a touchdown drive would have gone a long way toward igniting a comeback earlier in the game.

Other observations:

  • It’s definitely worth leading this with since I wrote about it Monday morning. After getting a chance to look at the film, Bradford really didn’t have many opportunities to get the ball down the field. He threw 35 passes 5 yards or less down the field, but in looking back at it, there might have only been a few chances to take deeper shots on some of the balls he checked down on (and not all were checkdowns, either). That’s exactly why I qualified that post with the mention that it wasn’t wise to make sweeping judgments without seeing the film. Interestingly, the success in the shorter passing game came in the middle of the field, many of those completions coming on short crossing routes.

  • One thing that flew a bit under the radar after the game but must improve for the Rams is the drops they had in this one. I counted five total, with Austin responsible for three. Kendricks and Richardson were also guilty. That’s a disappointment for the Rams after having just one in Week 1.

  • Open space continues to be hard to come by for Austin as teams seem content to let him catch the ball in front of them and then rally to the ball quickly. The offense also hasn’t had much luck running Austin from anywhere other than a normal backfield spot.

  • I counted 13 second-half plays the Rams ran without a huddle (not including plays that started drives in which they didn’t huddle). Those plays gained 97 yards.

  • Richardson didn’t have much room to run when he got carries, but he also didn’t make much happen with his opportunities in the passing game. More of a one-cut-and-go-type of runner, Richardson didn’t make many tacklers miss after making the catch.

  • Bradford and the Rams continue to have issues with batted balls. Atlanta knocked down three passes a week after Arizona knocked down a pair.

  • The player that was most consistently excellent against Atlanta to my eyes was left tackle Jake Long. He was stout in pass protection and even got to the second level a few times. He had linebacker Sean Weatherspoon frustrated early in the game.