After their four days off, the Rams returned to the field Tuesday for a short practice to get begin preparations for the second half of the season.
With a 3-5 record, the Rams face five games on the road, including one against each team in the division. It all starts Sunday at 6-2 San Francisco, also coming off a bye. So far, the Rams have lost three "official" road games, plus the last game before the bye, a 45-7 pasting by the Patriots in London.
Concerning the bye after eight games, coach Jeff Fisher said, "I don't think you'll find a coach that is not happy with the timing of their bye week, regardless of where they fall. But, this was a necessity because of the trip. Yeah, you break the season down, the first half is over. We're going to start over with the second half. You take the halftime approach. It's halftime. We're trailing right now at halftime, and we've got to make some adjustments and get caught up."
So, what was worked on during the down time, and the two practices before the off days?
"Well, it was to work and focus in some specific areas, namely, touchdowns, takeaways. We worked a lot on third down. We got some valuable reps to some of the younger guys that haven't been getting team reps, which is good because you never know when you're going to call on them. So, we've got a lot of people moving through the offensive line as usual. Overall, it was good."
Fisher knows the challenge is great, going against a team that was 13-3 last season, was a few plays shy of advancing to the Super Bowl and that has allowed only 103 points so far this season.
The 49ers' defense returned all 11 starters this season and is currently ranked second overall and fifth against the run. The actual numbers are 271.4 yards per game with just 87.4 rushing.
Said Fisher, "They've got a good thing going. It started years ago and coach (Jim) Harbaugh's really got things cranked up there. Obviously, that's what you want to try to do is be able to keep your good players and they've done a good job with it."
With excellent players throughout the roster, headlined by lineman Justin Smith and linebacker Patrick Willis, Fisher said, "This is a really good football team and they're very well-coached. They've got young players that are ascending. They've got some good players, even from last year's draft that can't get active because there's so much depth there. It's a good football team."
Fisher said he also has a lot of respect for quarterback Alex Smith, who has completed 69.4 percent of his passes, averaged 7.94 yards per attempt, with just five interceptions and a 102.1 passer rating. He grimaces at those that label Smith a "game manager."
"There was a lot of criticism of Alex, undue criticism," Fisher said. "You don't go to the championship game unless you've got a quarterback that can throw. He played very, very well for them. I don't like to say manage the game; he's winning games for them because they can run the football. He's making some good decisions and when you're 19-for-20 in a ball game (actually 18-for-19), you're doing the right things."
Givens healthy: Wide receiver Chris Givens acknowledged that a toe injury he suffered early in the Oct. 28 game against New England "hindered me the whole game." Givens injured the joint next to the big toe on his left foot on a 50-yard touchdown pass on the Rams' first possession of the game. He came back later in the half, but caught only two more passes for 13 yards.
Givens said the toe feels fine now although he is wearing a piece of support between the big toe and the toe next to it. He also hopes to be even more involved in the offense. Consider that Givens has receptions of at least 50 yards in the last five games. Those catches total 274 yards. For the season, he has only eight other receptions for 59 yards.
Asked about Givens' impact, coach Jeff Fisher said, "Well, he's made the big plays for us, but we'd like to continue to keep him more involved. We're thinking that the big plays should create opportunities for him underneath as well. Thirteen catches is not a lot of catches, but when you take into consideration the long ones, he's been productive. Like the rest of the group, we want to get them more involved in the offense."
Amendola says he’s ready: If it's up to wide receiver Danny Amendola, he will be on the field Sunday for the game against the 49ers.
Amendola suffered a separation of the sternoclavicular joint (between the collarbone and breastbone on his left side) during the Rams' Oct. 4 game against Arizona. Estimates then said Amendola could be out anywhere from four-to-eight weeks. He returned to practice on a limited basis in London, but was inactive for the game against the Patriots.
Sunday's game will be five weeks and three days from the injury, and Amendola said after practice Tuesday, "I'm ready to go. I feel good. In my mind I'm playing. If you're asking me, I'm playing."
He showed that by dunking with his left hand on a mini-basketball setup on the wall of the Rams’ locker room.
Despite missing three games and part of the Arizona game, Amendola remains the team's leading receiver with 32 catches, four ahead of Brandon Gibson.
Asked how much Amendola's return can help an offense that has scored only 11 offensive touchdowns in eight games, Fisher said, "When Danny returns, that should help us. You need to have balance in the plus territory. You need to be able to have a run threat and a passing threat. So, with Danny coming back, that should help us."
Injury notes: Center Scott Wells, who injured his knee in the season opener and was placed on reserve/injured with the designation to return, might return to practice this week. Wells was with the team at practice Tuesday.
Tackle Rodger Saffold spent the days off during the bye week at Rams Park, continuing to get treatment on the knee he injured against Washington in Week 2. "Every day I'm injured is an off day," Saffold said Tuesday after he participated in the team's brief workout coming back from their bye. Saffold added, "It keeps getting greater and greater every day."