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NFL Team Report - St. Louis Rams - INSIDE SLANT
Sometimes it can be good for a team to play another game quickly after a particularly poor performance. That's certainly what coach Jeff Fisher hopes is the case this week as the Rams prepare to play the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday night, just four days after being outclassed in all phases by the Dallas Cowboys.
Said Fisher, "You know, we have a philosophy here in the building and we're gonna follow that philosophy as far as how we go about correcting things on short weeks, on long weeks, on bye weeks, and things like that. And that's our business, OK? I've been doing this a long time and we're gonna get it done and we're gonna have their focus on the 49ers."
Earlier, Fisher had acknowledged that "this is a defining moment for us right now. We've got to get past this and get ready for the 49ers."
Fisher met with the media earlier than usual (at 1 p.m. instead of 4:40) the day after the Dallas game, before he saw any players. There was a light practice at 5 p.m., and Tuesday's practice was scheduled late in the day at 4:30.
Fisher said Monday, "We let them rest. When they walk in the building, we're not gonna discuss anything as far as the Cowboys are concerned. I'm gonna start talking about our challenge on Thursday night because it makes no sense to do that."
Of course, everyone knows the challenge even with San Francisco's problems the last two games. The 49ers travel on the short week, and will be without linebacker Aldon Smith, who was placed on the reserve/non-football illness list Monday.
Last season, both games against the 49ers went to overtime, with one ending in a tie and the Rams winning the other. The Rams had a chance to win the tie game, but had a delay of game penalty on what would have been the winning field goal. Conversely, 49ers then-kicker David Akers missed field goals that would have won both games for San Francisco.
Insisting the Rams will "be fine" rebounding from Sunday's beatdown, Fisher said, "I'm not concerned about them putting this behind them, moving forward. All you have to do is put on a series here or a series there of our matchup last year in one of the two games against the 49ers and we'll have their attention.
"This is the National Football League; you can't dwell on it. You have to have a short-term memory. And if you don't, then you won't bounce back. This team by and large, despite the fact that it's young, has a short-term memory and understands the next challenge. And that's where we're going.
"So you explain what we haven't done over the last three weeks, and where we need to get better. Here's what we can do and here's what we have to do, OK? Just point it out and give them a list of things they need to do to improve."
SERIES HISTORY: 127th regular-season meeting. Rams lead series, 62-61-3. In addition to last season, the teams also went to overtime in a 2010 game in San Francisco, so three of the last six games have required extra time.
NFL Team Report - St. Louis Rams - NOTES, QUOTES
--Coach Jeff Fisher believes the largest issue with the Rams the first three games is third down. He has good reasons for that thinking.
Defensively, opponents have converted 50 percent of their third downs, the worst percentage in the NFL. On offense, after being 1-for-13 against Dallas, the conversion percentage is 29.3 percent, which is 30th in the league.
Said Fisher, "Really, the key is third down. When you're playing a good offensive team like we faced (Sunday), and where our offense is struggling, the defense is going to have to get turnovers or get the ball back and we didn't do that. That really to me is the difference in the game. So that'll be our focus this week as we get ready for the 49ers."
--Poor starts made it tough for the Rams in the first three games. They overcame an 11-point lead by Arizona in the season opener, but fell even further behind against Atlanta and Dallas.
Said linebacker James Laurinaitis, "You get behind in the first quarter and you're at a huge disadvantage. It's one thing to be at home, but you can't be on the road and do that. We have to find a way to start faster. How do we do that? And that's all three phases of the game, the offense, defense and special teams. We have to get out there and go. Because when we've shown that we can kind of turn it on in the second half of games, it's been pretty good. We have to fix that inconsistency."
--Regarding the game against Dallas, defensive end Robert Quinn said to the Post-Dispatch, "It was just a bad day. I was talking with James, and it seemed liked they called the perfect play every time on offense. As defenders, we've got to adjust and make plays. Kudos to them, they had an excellent game plan against us."
Said defensive end Chris Long, "It wasn't pretty. We just got beat. There are days you just get flat out beat, and today was a day like that. It sucked and we hated every minute of it. ... If you can't get 'em in third-and-long, they're not gonna throw the ball. So you have to stop the run, and we didn't do that.
"If we want to be an elite defense, which we're far from right now but we have the capability of being, you have to stop the run. Football on first down can't be seven yards down the field. It can't be second-and-3 every time. So we need to get that handled."
BY THE NUMBERS: 8-85 - Rushing attempts and yards on first down for Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray in the first quarter Sunday. Three of those runs were for 14, 14 and 36 yards. The Cowboys didn't pass on first down in the quarter.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't know to be honest, and it's something that we need to figure out because you're not going to win in this league if you continue to put yourself in holes the way we've done the first two weeks. Obviously, we came back the first week and were able to get a win. It'd be nice for us to come out and establish a lead and let our guys on defense really pin their ears back and go to work." - QB Sam Bradford on the Rams' poor starts.
NFL Team Report - St. Louis Rams - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--DE William Hayes, who injured his knee Sunday against Dallas, has been declared out of Thursday's game against the 49ers.
--T Rodger Saffold is out and will miss his second straight game since suffering a knee injury against Atlanta.
--T Joe Barksdale, who missed practice Tuesday for personal reasons, was back at practice Wednesday.
GAME PLAN: The Rams have to somehow find a way to get the running game going early and get off to a good start. They were able to do that in the two games last season against the 49ers. Said offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, on the importance of getting the running game going, "Obviously, it's very important. I think you look at both games last year against them, we ran the ball pretty well. We were able to get some chunk runs early in the game, kind of help us with field position and that sets up a lot. It's never an easy task against them. They are big and physical and the good thing is we're going to know where they're going to be. They're not real complicated - never have been. They play with great fundamentals and technique, but we need to get the running game going. Again, I think schematically we know where they're going to be. The big thing for us is just kind of handling some of the movements and things they'll do up front."
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Rams running game vs. 49ers inside linebackers - The Rams will hope to establish a physical presence against 49ers inside linebackers NaVorro Bowman and maybe Patrick Willis. Willis did not practice Tuesday because of a groin injury, and if he is unable to play Thursday, his replacement will be Michael Wilhoite.
Rams run defense vs. 49ers RB Frank Gore - Gore has usually had good days against the Rams, but he has just 142 yards through three games on 41 attempts (3.5-yard average). It is expected that San Francisco will also try and establish the run early to open up the passing game for QB Colin Kaepernick.