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NFL Team Report - St. Louis Rams - INSIDE SLANT
Rams coach Jeff Fisher had a unique message for his team the day after a bad Thursday night loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 26.
As everyone gathered for a team meeting, Fisher abruptly left. A few minutes later he returned, dressed in the clothes he normally wore during training camp.
His words to the team were that the first four games of the season, in which the Rams were 1-3, was part of the preseason and that the real regular season would begin against Jacksonville.
They didn't play particularly well against the Jaguars, but a running game was found with rookie Zac Stacy and the Rams won, 34-20. That was followed by Sunday's 38-13 demolition of Houston, and as Fisher entered the locker room, the team chanted, "2-0. 2-0."
Talking to the media shortly afterward, Fisher smiled and said, "That was a long preseason, but it's behind us now."
The 38 points were the most the Rams have scored since 2006 and the 25-point win was the biggest since a 31-point win over Minnesota in 2003.
Said quarterback Sam Bradford, "If you look at the way we've played the past two weeks, it's been a completely different mindset, a completely different attitude. It was nice to hear that the season opener was last week against Jacksonville."
Said defensive tackle Michael Brockers, who had two of the team's five sacks, "I think that was the greatest speech he could have gave. New start. New season. Let's turn it around. And as you see, that's what we're doing."
Added, defensive end Robert Quinn, "We are playing back up to the level of where we should be. We're starting to look like I always thought we should look. It took a little time, but we're back and now we have to stay here.
"The guys in this locker room weren't happy with the way we played those first four weeks. And (coach) knew he had to do something to get us back up again. Coach Fisher's been doing this a long time and he knows how to jump-start a team."
As defensive end Chris Long said, "When you have a mentally tough head coach, he can will your team back into it."
With an actual record of 3-3, the Rams are tied with division rival Arizona and behind Seattle (5-1) and San Francisco (4-2). Aside from the Seahawks and 49ers, the Saints (5-1), Bears (4-2) and Lions (4-2) are the only other NFC teams with more than three victories. Green bay is 3-2, with Dallas and Philadelphia also 3-3.
NFL Team Report - St. Louis Rams - NOTES, QUOTES
--Entering Sunday's game against Houston the Rams had converted 60 percent of their red-zone chances for touchdowns (9-for-15). That ranked ninth in the NFL. Houston ranked 30th defensively, allowing opponents to score touchdowns on 10-of-14 red-zone trips.
Sunday, the Rams built a 17-6 halftime lead and 24-6 lead in the third quarter on the strength of three red-zone touchdowns in three trips. A 2-yard touchdown pass from Sam Bradford to tight end Cory Harkey gave the Rams a 7-0 lead on a six-play, 65-yard drive helped by a 40-yard pass interference penalty.
Early in the second quarter, there was another 2-yard score, this one to tight end Lance Kendricks at the end of a 10-play, 80-yard drive. A 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on Texans linebacker Brian Cushing aided that drive.
Finally, another 10-play, 80-yard drive culminated with a 4-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Brian Quick. There were no Houston penalties on that drive with key plays 11- and 34-yard passes to tight end Jared Cook, a 12-yard completion to wide receiver Austin Pettis and a 14-yard run by Zac Stacy.
For the season, the Rams are 12-for-18 scoring touchdowns in the red zone and all 12 have been passes. They moved up to third in the league and Houston dropped to last. Four of the touchdowns have been on third down, with one on fourth down. Bradford has 17 total completions in the red zone, so he has just five completions that weren't touchdowns.
In their 18 red-zone trips, the Rams have 12 touchdowns and five field goals. The one miss shouldn't count; it was at the end of the Jacksonville game when they had three kneeldowns to end the game starting at the 4-yard line.
Meanwhile, six different players have scored red-zone touchdowns: Pettis (3), Kendricks (3), Cook (2), Austin (2), Harkey (1) and Quick (1).
Houston entered the game ranked one spot ahead of the Rams, scoring eight touchdowns in 13 red-zone trips (61.5 percent). Sunday, when the game was still potentially up for grabs in the first half, the Texans had 63- and 78-yard drives that ended in the red zone with field goals. On one, the Texans were affected by a false start on third-and-goal at the Rams' 4-yard line. In the second half, Houston had two turnovers in the red zone and then scored a meaningless red-zone touchdown with 3:15 left in the game.
--Also entering Sunday's game, the Rams were plus-2 in turnover ratio and had just six turnovers in five games. The Texans were minus-8 and had just three takeaways.
Following Sunday's game, the Rams are now plus-6 for the season (tied for fifth in the league) and still have just six turnovers, while forcing four Texans turnovers. That puts Houston at minus-12 for the season (31st in the NFL) and they still have just three takeaways.
Any hopes Houston had for a comeback ended on successive third-quarter takeaway touchdowns by the Rams: Daren Bates' 11-yard fumble return on a kickoff and Alec Ogletree's 98-yard interception return that pushed the lead from 24-6 to 38-6.
As Bradford said, "We come off the field and we're up 24-6 and the next time we take the field we're up 38-6. So those are two huge plays in the game and gave us a lot of momentum and kind of sealed the deal."
Quick's touchdown came with 7:42 to play in the third quarter and the Rams didn't have the ball on offense again until there was 11:56 left in the game.
--On the touchdown scored by Cory Harkey, he was one of four tight ends on the field. That was the only snap Mike McNeill played in the game. Harkey (24), Lance Kendricks (36) and Jared Cook (26) combined to play 86 snaps.
Meanwhile, the wide receivers played a total of 81 snaps with rookie Tavon Austin on the field for only three snaps. Chris Givens (36), Austin Pettis (26) and Brian Quick (16) combined for 78.
NFL Team Report - St. Louis Rams - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--RB Isaiah Pead dressed for the game against the Texans, but did not play.
--WR Brian Quick started the game against the Texans instead of Austin Pettis. Quick played 16 of the team's 42 snaps, while Pettis played 26.
--DE Eugene Sims started the game against Houston at left end instead of Chris Long. Sims ending up playing 323 of the team's 76 defensive snaps while Long played 55.
--DE Chris Long did not start the game, but had a sack for the third consecutive game. Long ended up playing 55 of the team
S's 76 snaps.
--K Greg Zuerlein connected on a 42-yard field goal against Houston, making him a perfect 9-for-9 on field goals this season. He has 11 straight sicne the end of the 2012 season.
--LB Daren Bates suffered a hip injury against Houston, but it did not occur after leaping into the end zone on his touchdown return and landing on the ground. Said Bates, "I had tweaked it before that. But I'll be good; back on Wednesday."
--T Rodger Saffold (knee), who practiced on a limited basis last week, was inactive for the fourth straight game.
--CB Cortland Finnegan missed his second game because of a hamstring injury.
REPORT CARD VS. TEXANS
PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus - QB Sam Bradford passed only 16 times, completing 12 for a mere 117 yards. But he wasn't sacked or intercepted and had three red-zone touchdown passes. That resulted in a 134.6 passer rating. No player had more than two receptions.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus - Zac Stacy had his second straight productive game, rushing for 79 yards on 18 attempts (4.4-yard average). His long was 18. The Rams had 24 called running plays and 17 called passes.
PASS DEFENSE: B - Matt Schaub and T.J. Yates combined to complete 27 of 38 passes for 284 yards. However, there were no touchdowns and the Rams intercepted Yates twice, while compiling five sacks. There was also a forced fumble on a first-quarter completion to DeAndre Hopkins at the Rams 14-yard line
RUSH DEFENSE: C - Arian Foster gashed the Rams for 141 yards on 20 attempts and had runs of 18, 22 and 23 yards. They were able to keep Foster out of the end zone, and as the lead expanded, the Texans didn't run as much. Foster had 98 yards in the first half and 43 in the final two quarters.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus - The Rams went an entire game without a special teams penalty, and scored on a touchdown on a fumbled kickoff return by the Texans. P Johnny Hekker had 43.0-yard net on three punts and K Greg Zuerlein hit his only field-goal attempt from 42 yards. Benny Cunningham had two kickoff return for 56 yards.
COACHING: A - Jeff Fisher and his staff had the Rams ready and in the right frame of mind to play on the road where they won three times last season. Overall, the attention to detail on offense has resulted in significantly improved production in the passing game.