But too many times this season, as happened Sunday against Washington, they haven't been able to run. Teams put eight in the box, daring the Rams to pass, and often that results in sacks or hurried throws.
The offense has broken down too often, failing to block blitzers, and when runs were tried, Steven Jackson faced a stone wall.
"We wanted to run the ball more, but every time we wanted to run the ball, they were in the backfield," interim coach Joe Vitt said of the Redskins. "That is just the truth. Pretty soon you are just wasting plays, and it is minus one, and minus one, plus one, then it is third-and-9. We have to take a hard look at what we do schematically, because we did not run the ball well at all today."
The game opened with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick trying a safe quick pass in the flat to tight end Cam Cleeland. He had no blockers, and he was dumped for a 7-yard loss. Jackson went for minus-2 on the next play, and Fitzpatrick was sacked for a 10-yard loss on third down. That's minus-19 yards on their first three plays of the game for those who are counting.
Still, the Rams trailed only 10-7 entering the fourth quarter, and they had a long completion to the Redskins 16-yard line called back by holding on guard Adam Timmerman in the third quarter.
Despite being gashed for big plays in the running game, they were still in the game after a safety gave the ball to the Rams at their 37-yard line. On second-and-3, Fitzpatrick lost control of a handoff to Jackson, who couldn't control the ball after diving for it. Redskins defensive end Renaldo Wynn did recover, and nine plays later (eight runs and one pass), the one pass resulted in a 4-yard touchdown to H-back Chris Cooley.
"I was going back to give Steven the ball," Fitzpatrick said. "I knocked against the fullback's side. Completely my fault."
Defensively, the Rams allowed 257 yards rushing on 40 attempts, with 140 coming on four plays.
Said Vitt, "We will go four, five, or six plays and stop the run. When the run does break at the second level, we either miss a tackle out there or we can't make it. If you look at teams in the National Football League with good run defense, they have good tacklers on the defense, and we have to get better tacklers. We were in position five times today to make a play, and we missed tackles and gave the opponent yards. That is not the structure of the defense, that is not the call. The player that is playing that position has to make that play and make that tackle or he has to be replaced."
The Rams scored less than 10 points at home for only the third time since moving to St. Louis. The last was against Seattle in 1997 in a 17-9 loss. In 1996, the Rams lost at home to the Packers, 24-9.
Although Fitzpatrick said he wasn't nervous, he did admit, "I felt like a rookie out there. There were some things out there that confused me a little bit. I missed some throws, missed a few of those hot reads with the blitz. We need to get the ball in the hands of our playmakers, and today I just didn't do a good enough job of that."
He did scramble for 22 yards on five carries, ending up with 2 yards less than Jackson, and he scored the Rams' only touchdown of the game on a 7-yard run.
Said Washington linebacker LaVar Arrington, "The guy can run, man. I couldn't catch him. He peeled out on me on that score. I was kind of upset when he did that. He doesn't have very much fear out there. That was pretty cool. I jumped over him on the one play thinking that he was going to slide. He went head-first. If given that opportunity again, he might not be able to play next week. No really, he is a pretty good player."
Asked to assess Fitzpatrick, interim coach Joe Vitt said, "I thought he did some good things, I think that we didn't help him a lot in the beginning. I think that he is the type of player that we are going to have to do some things like moving him around the perimeter a little bit more than we did and let him get out in space. I think he did a great job handling the offense.
"I have said this all week long; this is different for him because the opponent has had the chance to get ready for him all week long. They did some good things on defense, they didn't do anything we weren't prepared for, but I think he was OK."
Said interim coach Joe Vitt, "He's a warrior. He's a heck of a leader. And a heck of a player. And we're going to miss him. It's a shame."