NFL Team Report - St. Louis Rams - INSIDE SLANT
According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there have been more than 360 sets of brothers that have played in the NFL. But rarely does what will happen in St. Louis Sunday take place.
When the St. Louis Rams take the field against the Chicago Bears, Rams left defensive end Chris Long will be lined up very close to Bears rookie right guard Kyle Long.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher said, "They're going to smell each other's breath. They're about a yard apart and there'll probably be some contact on occasion. It's a great thing for the family. It's a great thing for the National Football League, when you get that kind of situation going on. But, when it comes down to it, kickoff, both players are doing their best to win regardless of (the) matchup. I'm just going to ask big brother not to get caught taunting little brother."
Because of the unique matchup, Fox TV suggested that studio analyst Howie Long take the day off for the first time in the 20 years he has been with the network so he could be in St. Louis to watch his sons play. He will be in an Edward Jones Dome suite with wife Diane, son Howie Jr., and about 40 other family and friends. Howie Jr. is also getting the day off from his position as an intern in football operations with the Oakland Raiders.
Howie Sr. told ESPNChicago.com, "They said, 'This is so special, so unique. We want you and Diane and your family to be there together.' (We've talked about) understanding the significance of the moment and taking a mental Polaroid in your head, to take a second and enjoy it because the next minute will be here quickly, and you don't know when you'll be down this road again. I know I'll be trying to take a Polaroid of this."
While the brothers won't be lined up opposite each other, they are on the same side of the line. With the way the Rams do "games" on the line with Long stunting, they could bump heads.
Asked about potentially being responsible for his brother, Kyle said, "Yeah, he'll definitely be in my peripheral. I'll see him and I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to throw a couple wrinkles in where he's lined up over top of me to try and get me out of my element. But, it's still football. There's still assignments that need to be executed. Just going to try and stick to the basics, stick to my techniques, and try to get the job done up front. The goal is to get out of there with the win. So, the beautiful thing will be getting to hug my brother afterwards and seeing him before the game in warm-ups."
Chris tried to downplay the brother-brother angle while acknowledging how special it is and how proud he is of his younger brother.
"He's had some bumps in the road, but he fought through it," Chris said. "It's a nice time for the family, but the emotions have to be so tough for my parents. But I've played against my best friends before. It's weird at first, but when the whistle blows, it's time to roll."
As Howie Sr. said, "I'm always mindful of how the Mannings feel, but Peyton is not hitting Eli, and, trust me, I'm not sure what we're going to be feeling on Sunday. I'm nervous every Sunday. I have a hard time when they're playing simultaneously. Hopefully Chris doesn't reduce down over the guard a lot."
Kyle told ESPNChicago.com. "It's going to be awesome. I sent him a text the other day saying something like, 'How pumped are you for next week?', and then I was like, yada, yada, yada and we were talking smack, and he said something like, 'When I beat you, my dance will be directed at you.'"
And Chris? He finally admitted, "It will be a lot of fun, but as much as I'm going to try to treat it like a normal game, I'm a little torn. When you get on (the) field, it's such a violent, competitive game and winner take all. It's a blurred line where you're trying to soak it in and enjoy the moment and think about how many people get to do this, but also play the game to the last play and take no prisoners."
SERIES HISTORY: 89th regular-season meeting. Bears lead series, 51-34-3. The Bears have won four straight games in the series, including two games in St. Louis in 2006 and 2008. Chicago has won the last four games by a combined score of 109-45.
NFL Team Report - St. Louis Rams - NOTES, QUOTES
--As the St. Louis Rams rested during their off weekend and watched what was happening around the NFL, they probably couldn't help but wonder what might have been.
Right in their own division, the San Francisco 49ers lost to the New Orleans Saints and saw their record drop to 6-4, tied with the Cardinals for second place in the division after Arizona defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Rams reside in the cellar with a record of 4-6, knowing that two recent home games there to be won against Seattle and Tennessee could have also left them with a 6-4 record. That's the fine line that exists between success and failure.
This Sunday against the Chicago Bears, the Rams hope to continue any momentum there might be following their 38-8 thrashing of the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 10.
They also realize the final six games will be a grind. Three are in the division, all on the road, and two of the other three games are against teams - Chicago and New Orleans -- with winning records. The sixth opponent, Tampa Bay, has won two consecutive games and four of their eight losses are by a combined nine points.
The combined record of their final six opponents is 38-23 and 36-15 without the Buccaneers.
It's a cliche, but the Rams can't think about the six remaining only the one this week.
Running back Zac Stacy said of the team's goal, "Just to try to win every game we can. And with that comes great preparation throughout the week, which is what we've been doing the past couple weeks. We want to keep that mentality and that process going."
Added defensive tackle Michael Brockers, "Over the past three games or whatever, we're putting games together. But the first two (Seattle and Tennessee), we really weren't finishing. In Indy I think everything came together the way we wanted. If we can keep that momentum going and keep games like that going, who knows what we can be at the end of this thing?"
Brockers added that the goal, while difficult, is simple: "Just a run for the playoffs," he said. "I think that's what every team is looking for these last six games. The ultimate goal is to win out and get in. That's the only goal."
--Safety T.J. McDonald hopes to be able to play in the Rams' Dec. 1 game at San Francisco. It was against the 49ers on Sept. 26 that the rookie broke a bone in his leg, and feared his season would be over.
But there wasn't any other damage in the leg, so the Rams placed him on reserve/injured, designated for return. On that list, players must miss a minimum of six weeks before they can begin practicing and eight weeks before they can play.
McDonald did some work in the team's light practices during their bye week and was officially returned to practice Wednesday, where he saw significant time even though he can't play until the game against San Francisco.
What was eerie is that his father, safety Tim McDonald, broke his foot in his rookie season in the NFL in St. Louis with the Cardinals and it ended his year. That was in the third game of the season, while T.J.s was in the fourth game. Father and son went to the same high school, the same college (Southern Cal), and were drafted by the St. Louis NFL team. Thankfully for T.J., his injury wasn't season-ending.
But, the chain of events did make T.J. wonder. He said, "His rookie year he breaks his foot, I break my leg. So the similarities are crazy. I talk about it with my mom all the time. Like, this is freaking me out. Something's gotta change. I don't know if I've got to go talk to some voodoo (lady)."
He didn't do that; he just went to work rehabbing and staying mentally sharp in meetings after talking to his dad.
T.J. said, "The biggest thing that he told me was just don't forget how you got to the point where you were before you got hurt."
BY THE NUMBERS: 9-7-1 - The record for Jeff Fisher-coached teams in games after the bye. However, Fisher is 9-4-1 the last 14 seasons. The tie was last season against the San Francisco 49ers. The Rams are the only team in the NFL that has failed to win at least one game after the bye since 2009. Their record is 0-3-1.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've played I think 14 games including preseason, so any time you get a bye, obviously it's good for your body. So it definitely helped out a lot of guys in terms of being banged up a little bit." - RB Zac Stacy on having the team's bye after 10 regular-season games. Stacy often missed practice on Wednesdays after games, and coach Jeff Fisher said, "He came back feeling much, much better. The rest was good for him."
NFL Team Report - St. Louis Rams - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--OL Rodger Saffold will remain the starter at right guard after playing there against the Colts. Coach Jeff Fisher said Saffold did "a nice job there." Said Saffold, "I surprised myself, almost. I didn't make any mental mistakes."
--TE Lance Kendricks will play after missing one game because of a broken bone on the outside of the pinky finger of his right hand. Kendricks said he expects no issues either blocking or catching.
--QB Sam Bradford underwent knee surgery Monday (Nov. 18) to repair a torn ACL suffered on Oct. 20 against Carolina. Rams trainer Reggie Scott accompanied Bradford to Pensacola, Fla., where Dr. James Andrew did the surgery. Scott told coach Jeff Fisher the procedure went "very, very well." Fisher added, "It's a very, very healthy knee considering the circumstances, and so they were pleased."
--CB Cortland Finnegan did not practice Wednesday with what was listed as an eye injury.
--RB Chase Reynolds, one of the team's standouts on special teams, did not practice Wednesday because of a knee injury.
--S Darian Stewart was limited in practice Wednesday with a foot injury.
--S Matt Giordano was limited in practice Wednesday with a thigh injury.
--QB Brady Quinn missed practice Wednesday with what was listed as a hip injury, but coach Jeff Fisher said, "Brady had some issues with his low back in the weight room. It was just kind of a freak thing, and we're trying to get him back as quick as we can."
GAME PLAN: The Rams will try and control the tempo with RB Zac Stacy while seeking to protect the ball. The Bears have a knack for getting takeaways, and the Rams can't turn the ball over if they expect to have any chance of winning.
Defensively, the Rams will look to slow down RB Matt Forte, while finding a way to defend Chicago's big-body receiving targets Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Rams RB Zac Stacy vs. Bears run defense - Chicago has been vulnerable against the run and Stacy has upgraded the Rams ground game since he became the starter. Stacy rarely practiced on Wednesdays after playing on Sunday, but he was fresh this week after the bye. "He came back feeling much, much better. The rest was good for him," coach Jeff Fisher said. "He'll continue with what he's been doing. The difference is he's able to practice more now."
Rams DRE Robert Quinn vs. Bears LT Jermon Bushrod - Chicago paid big money in free agency for Bushrod, and he will be tested by Quinn, who has developed into one of the best pass rushers ihn the league.