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2011 Rams Week 9: Five observations

Five things I noticed while watching the St. Louis Rams' most recent game, a 19-13 overtime defeat to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 9:

  • Shotgun running game. Steven Jackson rushed nine times for 61 yards from the shotgun formation, an average of 6.8 yards per carry. He rushed 20 times for 69 yards (3.5 per carry) when Sam Bradford was under center. Shotgun formations suggest pass. Jackson took the ball aggressively and got up to speed quickly on shotgun handoffs. Cadillac Williams had some success from the shotgun as well.

  • Josh Gordy could be a keeper. The Rams seem to have stabilized their cornerback situation after losing their top corners to season-ending injuries. Gordy has been a helpful addition since the team signed him to its practice squad in September. Gordy went to camp with Green Bay. The Rams could do worse than signing players the Packers' personnel department valued when Green Bay cannot find room for them on its roster. Gordy broke up a ball for Larry Fitzgerald. His tenacity also showed up blocking Cardinals receiver Early Doucet during a Rams punt return.

  • Darian Stewart definitely a keeper. The Rams have too many older players on defense, but Gordy and Stewart give them promising young players to develop in the secondary. Stewart flies around the field and sometimes overruns plays, but he makes quite a few good ones, too. Stewart shot into the backfield to take down Beanie Wells for a loss. He forced Doucet to fumble. He tipped away a deep pass to tight end Jeff King.

  • Bradford wasn't quite right. The Rams had open receivers deep down the field. Bradford did not find them. A first-down play early in the second quarter stood out. The Rams provided Bradford with a perfect pocket on the play. Austin Pettis was open deep. Bradford overthrew him. Bradford was obviously rusty after missing extensive practice time with a high-ankle sprain. He needs to connect on these throws. Bradford has completed 7 of 24 passes for 252 yards with one touchdown and one interception on throws traveling more than 20 yards past the line of scrimmage. Those numbers must improve the longer Bradford plays with Brandon Lloyd. Last season, Bradford completed 11 of 36 such passes for 366 yards with one touchdown and two picks.

  • Easterbook raises an interesting point. We've discussed in detail whether the Rams were smart for running the ball instead of attempting a field goal on a late fourth-and-1 play. Gregg Easterbrook thinks offensive creativity has eluded teams in short-yardage situations. He touches on the Rams' situation and others around the league. I'm not sure how creative teams could actually get when seeking to gain a single yard. They could out-think themselves. But it's a point to consider.

The Rams' inability to score touchdowns stood out in this game. Bradford has gone 11 games in a row without throwing more than one scoring pass in a game. Their Week 10 opponent, Cleveland, has allowed one or fewer scoring passes in six of eight games this season.