For much of the lost decade of Rams football the red zone was the dead zone. It’s where potential scoring drives went to die. Over the four-year period that encompassed the Steve Spagnuolo coaching tenure and the last year of the Scott Linehan regime the Rams finished either 31st or 32nd in red zone offense. Things weren’t much better in ‘07 (25th). Last year under Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer the Rams improved to 19th scoring touchdowns on 51.35 percent of their drives inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Things have been even better six games into the 2013 season. The Rams - yes the Rams - lead the NFC in red zone efficiency and are third overall in the NFL. They have scored TDs on 12 of 18 trips inside the 20 for a 66.7 percent success rate. They trail only second place Miami at 71.4 percent (10 of 14) and the off-the-charts Denver Broncos at 82.1 percent (23 of 28). In most seasons anywhere from the mids 60s to the low 70s in red zone percentage will lead the league. Peyton Manning and the Broncos may set new standards this season. In any event the Rams have been very efficient in the red zone all season. Their success in finishing drives has been particularly noticeable now that they have discovered a running game — one that features Zac Stacy and two- and three-tight end sets. “One of the things that has helped the red zone production has been our ability to run the football” Fisher said. “A number of these opportunities that we’ve taken advantage of have been off of play-action. And so we establish the run and now you force the defense to be balanced. “We’ve yet I believe to score a rushing touchdown this year but that’s coming. But because we’re running the football a little bit better it’s creating opportunities. Our first touchdown was a good run fake. Cory (Harkey) did a nice job with his patience and escaping to the flat so we got people involved and committed to the run.” The Rams went 3-for-3 in the red zone in Sunday’s 38-13 victory over Houston with the first of those three touchdowns coming on a two-yard pass from San Bradford to Cory Harkey a tight end who was lined up at the fullback spot on the play. As the ball was snapped Harkey started to his left as if lead blocking for Stacy. The Rams had three additional tight ends lined up to that left side in Lance Kendricks Jared Cook and Mike McNeill. Basically the entire Texans defense headed to that area once the ball was snapped. But Harkey changed directions before he made contact as a blocker heading to his right and leaking out into the flat. He was wide open. Touchdowns rarely come as easy as that. It happened again in the second quarter with Kendricks.
Rams finding rare success in red zone
St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Oct 19