On the final offensive play for the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 4, Rams defensive end Robert Quinn stripped the ball on a sack of quarterback Kevin Kolb and defensive end William Hayes recovered, ending any hope of a comeback in a 17-3 Rams victory.
That play is notable for several reasons. It was the first forced fumble of the season for the Rams (in their fifth game) and it remains the only fumble recovery they have had this season. It is also the last turnover the Rams have caused this season.
The loss for Arizona started a six-game losing streak. The win for the Rams put them over .500 for the first time since 2006, but they haven't won again. The teams meet again Sunday in a game that will see one of those streaks end.
The Rams' 3-2 record at the time was helped by nine takeaways, eight of which were interceptions. But the ball hasn't bounced their way over the last five games, and the Rams are the just the third team since 1950, joining the 2011 Colts and 2006 Redskins, to go five consecutive games without a takeaway.
Said coach Jeff Fisher, "We're stripping, the ball's flying around, it'll just happen. But I don't think I've been in a stretch before that long. You win games when you turn it over."
Illustrating the frustration of the situation, Fisher referred to last Sunday's game against the Jets, saying, "They strip-sack and they pick it up and run it 50 yards (actually 38). We strip-sack and it falls in (Mark) Sanchez's lap."
The week before, in a key juncture of the game against the 49ers, the Rams strip-sacked quarterback Colin Kaepernick on a play that began at the St. Louis 38-yard line in the fourth quarter. Quinn closed on the ball, but 49ers fullback Bruce Miller recovered. Four plays later, the 49ers scored a touchdown to cut the Rams' lead to 17-14 in a game that ended in a 24-24 ties.
Said linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, "We've got to do something about it. You never get tired of preaching turnovers, that's one of the key factors in wins and losses. I never get tired of talking about it, and I hope the guys don't get tired of it. We're getting them out, we're just not recovering them."
However, the Rams aren't exactly forcing a lot of fumbles either. In 10 games, they have forced eight fumbles (actually seven because one by the Jets came on a botched center exchange), which is the lowest in the league. Every other team has recovered at least two fumbles (chart below).
Said assistant head coach Dave McGinnis, “It’s an ongoing issue. We need to get turnovers. It’s been documented. We’ve knocked six of them out in the last two weeks and haven’t gotten any of them. So, it’s going to start bouncing our way, but we’re continuing to work on it. You continue to stress it and then you’ve got to play your defense. You’ve got to play at an extremely high level. You’ve got to play with speed and you’ve got to go in there and then once you’ve get a chance to get them, you get them. I’m hoping they come in bunches because we need them.”
Defensive end Chris Long knows the only way to end the discussion is to take the ball away, starting this week against Arizona.
Long said, "We can't get caught up in thinking, 'Oh, this has been the longest streak,' or 'Man, it's been this many weeks.' Our opportunity is Sunday to get the ball out, so these past weeks are non-existent."
NFL Opponent Forced Fumbles (through 10 games)
24: New England; 21: Chicago; 19: New York Giants, San Diego; 17: Cincinnati; 16: Baltimore, Denver, Miami; 15: Minnesota, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle; 14: Houston, New York Jets; 13: Buffalo, Green Bay, New Orleans, Pittsburgh; 12: Atlanta, Detroit, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Washington; 11: Arizona, Cleveland, Dallas; 10: Carolina; 9: Indianapolis, Tennessee; 8: Rams.
NFL Recovered Fumbles (through 10 games)
14: New England; 11; Chicago; 10: Baltimore, New York Giants, New York Jets, San Diego; 9: Cincinnati; 8: Arizona, Atlanta, Houston: 7: Carolina, Cleveland, Dallas, Jacksonville, Minnesota, New Orleans, Oakland, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington; 6: Buffalo; 5: Denver, Detroit, Tampa Bay; 4: Green Bay, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Tennessee; 3: Miami, Philadelphia; 2: Indianapolis; 1: Rams.
Forced Fumbles/Recovered Fumbles Ratio
Generally, a 2/1 ratio of forced fumbles/recovered fumbles is considered good. After 10 games, there were 17 teams with a 2/1 ratio or better:
Arizona 11/8 (1.38); New York Jets 14/10 (1.4); Carolina 10/7 (1.43); Cleveland, Dallas 11/7 (1.57); Atlanta 12/8 (1.5); Baltimore 16/10 (1.6); New England 24/14, Jacksonville, Oakland, Washington 12/7 (1.71); Houston 14/8 (1.75); New Orleans 13/7 (1.86); Cincinnati 17/9 (1.89); New York Giants, San Diego 19/10 (1.9); Chicago 21/11 (1.91).
Minnesota, San Francisco, Seattle 15/7 (2.14); Buffalo 13/6 (2.17); Tennessee 9/4 (2.25); Detroit, Tampa Bay 12/5 (2.25); Kansas City 12/4 (3.0); Denver 16/5 (3.2); Green Bay, Pittsburgh 13/4 (3.25); Indianapolis 9/2 (4.5); Philadelphia 15/3 (5.0); Miami 16/3 (5.33); Rams 8/1 (8.0).