The Week 13 Smash Mouth

Chet Gresham looks at injuries and weather going into Week 13 of the NFL season

The St. Louis Rams obliterated the Chicago Bears rush defense in Week 13, continuing to prove that their newfound running game is no fluke. Later in the article, we are going to take a look at what is behind the Rams' rushing game success other than Zac Stacy.

Remember when you thought it was important to get your Ben Tate handcuff to go along with your Arian Foster draft pick? Well, that sure sucked, didn’t it. Tate followed up a previous week dig at Houston Texans fans with one yard rushing on seven carries.

The San Francisco 49ers shut down the vaunted Washington Redskins rushing attack and it looks like the 49ers' run defense might be getting its mojo back. The Arizona Cardinals defensive mojo was in full effect against the Indianapolis Colts and their matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend promises to be a battle of speed up front.

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Moving the Sticks

* I’m not just saying this because he is a casual reader of this article, but Chiefs backup guard Geoff Schwartz has done a really nice job when he’s had to step in for starters Jeff Allen and Jon Asamoah. Schwartz is a little bit stiff and very average when the Kansas City Chiefs run their outside zone plays, but he plays with power and consistently got movement against the San Diego Chargers, as well as shut down their pass rush. I’m not sure that the Chiefs shouldn’t consider starting him over Jeff Allen.

* There is no getting around the fact that Keenan Allen and his San Diego Chargers running mates got the best of the Chiefs secondary last weekend, but for the second week in a row, Dontari Poe was a relative non-factor. If the Chiefs want a shot at beating the Denver Broncos, Poe must do a better job of controlling the line of scrimmage.

* The Green Bay Packers were very physical against the Detroit Lions in their first matchup, with G Josh Sitton kicking Nick Fairley’s butt all over Lambeau. Fairley had a bum shoulder that probably contributed to his struggles. Lately, the entire Lions run defense has been on fire thanks to dominant play from their defensive line as well as consistent downhill play from LB DeAndre Levy and the entire secondary. Eddie Lacy experienced that on Thursday.

* The list of issues for the hapless Houston Texans continues to grow and that list includes offensive line help. The Texans will have a new left guard and right tackle next year, but the entire line needs to be re-evaluated in the offseason. The most troubling concern is their frequent busts against blitz packages.

* 2013 has featured a growing number of teams using unbalanced offensive lines for running plays as well as a trend toward using their swing tackles as tight ends for more strength at the edge against the run and more bulk in pass protection.

The Rams and the Inside Zone

I’ve written in the past about how teams can get their rushing games going through scheme or through running back/offensive line talent. In some cases, we’ll see a running game start to blossom despite average talent up front and a no-name back. Regardless of how a team prefers to run the ball, a commitment to the cause is a necessary ingredient.

Say what you will about Jeff Fisher, but that joker wants to run the football. Fisher wanted to run the football in Tennessee and he did. Fisher wants to run the football in St.Louis and that is beginning to happen thanks to a better understanding of what the Rams are best suited for by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

Over their first four games, the Rams averaged 47 rushing yards per game, but that number soared to 151 yards per game over their next seven games. It all started with the Rams turning to Zac Stacy, a no-nonsense runner who is decisive, shows good vision and finishes off his runs with authority.

Getting the right running back in the game was only half of the equation. The Rams also figured out that they were best suited to lock in with their inside zone attack, which gets the offensive line flowing in one direction and has the running back getting the handoff headed toward the guard on the same side where the offensive line is flowing. After getting the handoff, Stacy will usually look to make a quick cutback to the left over left tackle Jake Long, who is washing his man down the line of scrimmage in the opposite direction of where Stacy is cutting back.

The Rams will run their inside zone as a “split zone” with a tight end coming across the formation as a lead blocker on the backside cut. And they will run it with a fullback Cory Harkey as a lead blocker. Long, left guard Chris Williams, Harkey, and the wide receivers have been key components in the running game turnaround for the Rams. The Rams aren’t going to be the most talented running game, but they are executing at a very high level right now.