For once, St. Louis’ soft coverage may pay off.
The San Francisco 49ers allowed a 54.3 percent completion rate to Schaub in Week 5, as the Houston Texans passer went 19-of-35 for 173 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. He eventually was benched in favor of T.J. Yates, who completed three of five balls for 15 yards.
On its pick-six, San Francisco lined its three cornerbacks up in an off-man coverage look with two deep safeties. In reality, the two corners at the top of the screen were responsible for adjacent zones.
The Rams—despite possessing corners who can keep up in man coverage—have run a lot of zone this year, so in the look prior to their own pick-six against the Jacksonville Jaguars, they manufactured a Cover 2 with base personnel against three wideouts.
Both plays resulted in touchdowns for the defense.
In Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins, Houston has two physical receivers who present real matchup problems. The Rams have been dealing with destructive pairs of wideouts all season, but they have not fared too well: Wide receivers have caught 65 of 101 (64.4 percent) targets for 929 yards (14.3 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns against them.
Those eight scores are tied with the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville for the second-most allowed in the league, behind the Philadelphia Eagles (11). With Jo-Lonn Dunbar back in uniform, St. Louis allowed 47 rushing yards through three quarters in Week 5.
The Rams will have a considerably tougher rushing attack to corral in Houston, but Week 5 was a good start. If they can continue to allow fewer than four yards per carry, though, they’ll be able to force Schaub into some mistakes throwing the football.
St. Louis, meanwhile, must avoid making more mistakes of its own. Tavon Austin may or may not be irritated by the idea of 200 return yards being left on the field due to penalty, but the story of his rookie season would be vastly different if laundry didn’t decorate the field every time he had a long return.
If the Rams can’t—or won’t—block legally on special teams, they might as well stop wasting Austin’s energy in that department. They need to get him the ball in space, and head coach Jeff Fisher knows it, per Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com: “We’ve got to get him in position to where he’s got a chance to make somebody miss and go. That’s just a matter of continuing to work on things, and maybe experiment with some different things.”
That sounds like St. Louis may finally open up the offense, which is exactly what I’ve been calling for for weeks now.
At this point, though, I’ll believe it when I see it.
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