posted on October 17, 2012 08:15
In the last three games, the Rams have allowed a total of 33 points while winning two of three games and losing 17-14 to Miami. The defensive progress now has them in the top 10 in the NFL in eight defensive categories:
The Rams are fifth in points per game and passing yards per play, sixth in passing yards and percent of passes intercepted, seventh in total yards, yards per play and third-down conversions and 10th in sacks per play.
But even coach Jeff Fisher was mindful of not getting too far ahead of things when he was asked about the play of the defense the day after the loss to the Dolphins. When the top-10 rankings of the defense was mentioned and Fisher was asked if he is pleased how the defense is playing, he said, "Well, I'm pleased with where we are, but we have a lot of work to do and we have, clearly over the next two weekends, we have significant challenges. So, ask me that question again after the next three games."
Fisher talked about two weekends and three games, so he was clearly referencing a home game against Green Bay this week and a trip to London to play New England on Oct. 28. A Nov. 11 game at San Francisco after the bye might also be on his mind, although that game isn’t as much of a challenge in terms of quarterbacking.
While the Packers are the 18th overall offense in the league, they are averaging 255.3 passing yards per game and quarterback Aaron Rodgers is coming off a six-touchdown performance Sunday night against Houston.
The Patriots are the league's top-ranked offense, averaging 445.3 yards per game (152.3 rushing and 293.0 passing).
With his comment, Fisher realizes the Rams' defensive standing has been helped by facing bottom-tier offenses of Arizona (31), Seattle (29), Miami (22) and Chicago (20).
Having said that, he does like the direction they are headed, and the improvement against the run.
The Rams limited Dolphins running back Reggie Bush to 17 yards Sunday on 12 attempts, just 1.4 per carry.
Said Fisher, "Well, we're attacking the line of scrimmage. We're setting our edges. We've got the safeties involved. It's just something that we have to continue. It was an emphasis of ours early in the week. As soon as our Thursday game was over, we came back and said, 'We have to run the football and stop the run over this next month to put ourselves in position to win games.' That's what you do at this time of the year, so we have to keep that going."
The one disappointment was that Miami was the first game this season in which the Rams failed to force a turnover. In six games, the Rams are plus-1 in turnover ratio with nine takeaways and eight turnovers.
The closest they came against the Dolphins was on a play that was typical for how the game went. On first down at their own 26, quarterback Ryan Tannehill was hit by linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar and the ball came out on a backward pass that went for minus-17 yards and out of bounds.
Said Fisher, "We were minus-1 and in games like that when you're minus in takeaways-giveaways, you're not necessarily going to win close games."
Referring to the Dunbar play, Fisher said, "How often does that happen? Usually, that ball is laying around and somebody scoops and scores with it and that was the kind of play that we needed in this game."
Without Danny: Wide receiver Brandon Gibson was targeted nine times against Miami and caught seven for 91 yards including a remarkable 22-yard catch in the final possession that moved the Rams close to field-goal range.
Still, a drop by Gibson deep in Miami territory on the team's first possession of the game, helped the drive stall and the Rams settled for a Greg Zuerlein 48-yard field goal.
Discussing the little things that lead to losses if they aren't accomplished, coach Jeff Fisher said, "It's hard to find a better catch than that catch in that last drive and a couple of the other catches that he made. But he double-catches one that he should have got his feet in in plus territory. So, he's had a great game, but what if he would have made that catch? Would things have been different down there?
"That's basically the definition of how you lose close games is you have a lot of little things add up."
With Amendola sidelined Sunday, quarterback Sam Bradford spread the ball around to 10 pass-catchers with 14 going to wide receivers for 206 yards (Gibson, 7-91; Chris Givens, 3-85; Steve Smith, 2-18, Austin Pettis, 1-11, Brian Quick, 1-1); six to tight ends for 55 yards (Lance Kendricks, 4-40; Matthew Mulligan, 2-15); and six to running backs for 54 yards (Steven Jackson, 3-28; Daryl Richardson, 2-23; Isaiah Pead, 1-3).
Most notable is that of the 174 snaps for wide receivers, Givens easily led the way with 61 (83.6 percent of the 73 snaps). He was followed by Gibson with 47 (64.4 percent), Smith with 27 (37.0 percent), Pettis with 22 (30.1 percent) and Quick with 17 (23.3 percent).
Said Fisher, "When Danny was injured, we were asked, 'How are you going to replace him?' We said, 'Everybody was going to step up,' and they have. Chris Givens in three consecutive weeks has a reception over 50 yards. That hasn't happened since 1983, that a rookie has had a 50-yard reception or more in three consecutive weeks. Austin Pettis shows up and helps to keep drives alive in the slot. Steve Smith makes some catches, so the guys are all contributing."