Rams Rode Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin to the End Zone

Big gains can happen anytime, but it takes efficiency and consistent execution to move the ball down the field on a long scoring drive. The St. Louis Rams won the turnover battle, and Mark Schofield‘s efficient drive of the week, as he breaks down how the Rams rode Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin to the end zone.

Through the first three weeks of the 2015 NFL season, the St. Louis Rams relied on their dynamic defense to keep them in football games. But in Week 4, their fans got a glimpse of what their young athletes can do on the other side of the football, especially rookie running back Todd Gurley and third-year receiver Tavon Austin. On a key drive in the second half, the offense got the ball to these two young players, and they went to work.

Key Play One

Following a Cardinals field goal to cut the Rams lead to 17-15, St. Louis takes over on its own 20-yard line. Gurley is stopped for no gain on first down, setting up 2nd and long for the offense. Nick Foles (#9) lines up under center as the Rams have 11 offensive personnel in the game, with pro formation on the left and slot alignment right. Austin begins this play in the slot to the right:NFLReview4RamsPlay1Still1

Arizona has its 4-2-5 nickel package in the game, showing Cover 1 in the secondary. Before the play they bring safety Tony Jefferson (#22) down into the box over tight end Jared Cook (#89). The Rams run an end-around with Austin on this play, and with the safety in the box Cook forgoes blocking the defensive end to handle Jefferson:NFLReview4RamsPlay1Still2

This means defensive end Josh Mauro (#97) is unblocked, and has a free shot at Austin on the edge. It is up to the WR to make him miss:

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The shifty WR does just that, rounding the bigger defensive end and turning upfield for the sticks. He dances out of bounds after gaining 12 yards on the play, giving the Rams a fresh set of downs.

Key Play Two

On the next play, St. Louis keeps its 11 offensive personnel on the field, setting up in a weak slot right with Cook lined up as a fullback in the offset i-formation, staggered behind the left B Gap:NFLReview4RamsPlay2Still1

The Cardinals keep their 4-2-5 package in the game, showing Cover 1 in the secondary.

The Rams utilize the split zone running play, with the line firing out to the left on their blocks, while Cook cuts back against the grain to handle the backside defensive end. Adding to the deception is a fake end around to Austin after the handoff. Gurley is tasked with flowing to the left, reading the blocking and either cutting inside, outside or back depending on his reads. 

The blocking sets up perfectly for him to just cut inside:

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While Cook gets a solid block backside, credit must be given to the combination of left tackle Greg Robinson (#73), left guard Jamon Brown (#68) and center Tim Barnes (#61). Robinson is isolated on Mauro, and seals off the defensive end from the play. Calais Campbell (#93) lines up in a 3 technique outside Brown, and at the snap the LG and C execute a perfect combination that knocks the defender to the turf, allowing the center to work to the next level and handle Jefferson once more:

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From there, Gurley does the rest, outrunning defenders and racing to a 52-yard gain, down to the Arizona 16-yard line.

Key Play Three

After a delay of game penalty, the Rams now face a 1st and 15 at the Cardinals’ 21-yard line. They line up with Foles in the pistol formation, with pro formation left, a slot alignment to the right, with Austin the outside receiver. Arizona has its 4-2-5 defense in the game again, showing Cover 1 once more:NFLReview4RamsPlay3Still1

The Rams set up a tunnel screen to the right for Austin. Kenny Britt (#18) is lined up to the inside  and immediately cuts toward Patrick Peterson (#21) off the snap. Simultaneously, rookie RT Rob Havenstein (#79) releases outside to try and block free safety Tyrann Mathieu (#32), who is covering Britt in the slot:NFLReview4RamsPlay3Still2Mathieu, who must study film in every spare moment he has, recognizes this play right at the snap and explodes forward. Disaster is imminent for the offense:

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The safety explodes forward, nearly arriving at Austin as the football does. Havenstein makes a last ditch effort, diving at Mathieu, and does just enough to shield the defensive back from Austin. From there, the shifty WR makes a few more defenders miss, and angles up the sideline for a gain of 9:

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Key Play Four

On second down, the Rams tested the interior of the defense with Gurley, but the rookie was stopped for no gain. This set up a big 3rd and 6 on the Arizona 12-yard line. The offense has the QB in the shotgun with 11 offensive personnel in the game, with a stack-slot on the right using Cook and Austin, and a slot formation on the left with Britt and Stedman Bailey (#12). The Cardinals now have their 3-3-5 package in the game, and they look like they’re coming:NFLReview4RamsPlay4Still1

The Cardinals blitz, sending six defenders after Foles, while dropping safety Deone Bucannon (#20) off the line of scrimmage into a robber position and playing man coverage across the board:NFLReview4RamsPlay4Still2

The blitz pressures Foles, but doesn’t get home, giving the quarterback enough time to pump fake and then find Austin on a slant route:

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From this angle, you can see why Foles pump fakes. When Bucannon drops off the line of scrimmage, he drops right under the slant route:

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This forces the QB to double-clutch, and then execute a throw hoping Austin gets to the spot. The receiver does, pulling in the pass and diving into the end zone for the score.

The TD gave the Rams a 24-15 lead with just more than 8 minutes to play, and they were able to hold on for the victory. The win moved St. Louis to .500 on the year, but with two big divisional wins under their belt against the Cardinals and the Seahawks, the Rams look to be a team on the cusp of contention.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.

Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.

All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.

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