That was the last time the Rams lost a game when they scored three red zone touchdowns.
The Rams enter 2021 with this rare streak: Five consecutive victories when they complete the hat trick of scoring inside an opponents’ 20-yard line. Overall, the franchise was 6-1 in games when they scored three red zone touchdowns or more.
However, this doesn’t mean all was consistent inside striking distance.
The production took a dive toward the end of 2020, with inconsistent blocking up front and an inability to find the end zone plaguing the team in December and January. And, according to sharpfootballanalysis.com, the Rams showed a distrust in quarterback Jared Goff by opting to run the football 60.5% of the time between the 20 and goal line. The Rams were additionally reliant on the ground attack inside the 10, opting for 60 total running plays over 23 passing plays according to the analytical report by Rich Hribar on June 30.
But changes on the perimeter, two backfield promotions and some rookie additions all point to the red zone production trekking upward this fall, and the Rams becoming a consistent three or four touchdown threat once the ball is inside the opposing 20.
The Ground Options
Yes, losing Cam Akers hurts. Especially from a versatility standpoint.
It’s not just the fact that Akers could catch out of the backfield, but could score off of direct snaps.
But fear not Ram fans. There are still ground-based scoring options left over.
One is Xavier Jones who is likely to see an increase in snaps. Even while playing in a pass-happy offense like the SMU Mustangs’ Air Raid, Jones still has the ability to be a TD threat inside the 10, proven by cutting back to his right and scoring from inside 10 yards out in the first touchdown highlighted here.
Plus Jones shows his nose for the end zone and the willingness to trust his blockers at the goal line near the 2:20 mark of this highlight.
But the one likely to make the ground game go is the new projected RB1: Darrell Henderson. Of his six touchdowns from a year ago, five came inside the 20 – already making him a valuable red zone option for the Rams.
Henderson isn’t just a running back option when the Rams are in close proximity to the goal line, but can be a WR presence too.
Even the seventh rounder Jake Funk could make his mark near the goal line, since he’s done it before at Maryland.
Funk could also get consideration as a goal line back on third downs for the Rams, proven here in this short-yardage situation.
Despite Akers’ loss, there are still red zone options the Rams can turn to who could run and catch. Speaking of catchers.
The Aerial Options
Atwell was drafted to spark the deep attack. But the first highlight clip shows he can get open inside the 10 as well.
The Rams may additionally be convinced to snatch this from Atwell’s alma mater, which shows the 5-foot-9, 165-pounder used in a gadget play at the 54 second mark. Watch how Atwell breaks out of his motion.
Atwell can create mismatches off of his speed. Harris, though, produces mismatches with height and speed. The 6-foot-5, 211-pound Harris was called “physical freak” by one scout.
Though he’s penciled in to play tight end, Harris has been used in the slot before, shown here during his Central Florida days which could give head coach Sean McVay another playbook idea.
UCF masterfully placed Harris in one-on-one’s with cornerbacks inside the red zone, taking advantage of the height advantage he has while executing this corner route.
A personal favorite? At the 1:27 mark here, Harris is aligned to the right by himself against Memphis. Two Tiger defenders try to double him, but Harris slips by both and scores on the 10-yarder.
In 2020, the Rams ranked 19th in red zone TD production, making them the second lowest rated NFC playoff team in that category (Chicago was lower). This team has proven to thrive better when they hit the three TD mark inside the 20.
But now, the new weapons in place and the returners give the Rams the potential to become the league’s most dangerous team once defenses are backed into a certain 20-yard area of the field. The 2021 Rams red zone personnel has the look of a group that will keep the field goal unit on the sidelines.