Despite the playoffs being an extreme longshot, Rams coach Jeff Fisher wants his team to remain focused on the final two games of the season at Tampa Bay and at Seattle. In his mind, there are still important goals to reach, as well as simply continuing to improve.
Said Fisher, "We have a chance, with success this week, if that happens, we have chance to finish with a winning record. We have a chance to, if we're successful this week, we have a chance to be undefeated in the division, which is going to be a very, very difficult task, especially up there, so there's challenges. We talk improving. From day one we've talked about improving and you just don't stop improving in Week 17 when the game's over. You push right through the season, then you push in the offseason and then you move forward improving the big picture with this football team."
Acknowledging the disappointment of Sunday's loss, especially the way the Rams fell behind 30-7 at halftime, Fisher said, "It is deflating, but you deal with it and you move on. That's the approach that we took (Monday) morning. We have that 24-hour rule. You mull it all over, you get it corrected and then you move on. Our challenge is do we want to mope around as a result of a loss to the Vikings and be that team, or do we want to be the team that's won three out of the last four games that's going to go out and try to win another one. So, that's the approach that we're taking."
After the game Sunday, Fisher referred to having a good group in the locker room, and he later expanded on that theme.
"They like coming to work," Fisher said. "That's the kind of environment you want to create for them is that even though what took place (Sunday) was not easy, you come back in here the next day knowing you're gonna get it behind you and move on."
While the playoffs were likely lost with the loss, the players were repeating Fisher's mantra.
Defensive end Chris Long told the Post-Dispatch, "That word, 'playoffs,' I don't think about it. I really, really don't because you have to take things one week at a time. We knew that going in. And we would've had to win two more after (Minnesota). If you can't win the first out of the three, you can't worry about the playoffs.
"So I think we just need to focus on getting better as a football team. I think we've got the right guys in here to do it, and hopefully next year we'll be in meaningful games in December again."
When asked if he sensed that the team knew this would be a growth season with the emphasis on the future, Fisher disagreed.
"No, I don't think they're thinking about next year and the future when you come to work on Wednesday and you're digesting a game plan," he said. "I think they're thinking about doing the best they can improving their skills. You see a lot of individual work outside and in the room a lot more. A lot of work being done on their own to try to get better. As long as they continue to do that, then that happens. But, I don't see any one of those guys thinking about the future. They've been very focused week to week on each opponent."
Where was Steven? Prior to Sunday's game against Minnesota, the job-share between running backs Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson had decreased significantly. The week before, against Buffalo, Jackson had 62 snaps and Richardson seven.
However, against the Vikings, it was virtually equal with Jackson participating in 41 snaps and Richardson 40. Jackson had 21 touches on his 23 snaps plus two targets on passes that didn't connect. He often left after multiple touches, and the unofficial word was that he was hampered by an injured foot that has limited his practice time the last few weeks.
Richardson had just six touches on his 40 snaps plus three incomplete targets, and he hasn't been as effective lately as he was earlier in the season.
Richardson had 66 rushes in the first nine games, he averaged 5.7 per attempt and gained 10 or more yards on 10 carries. However, in his last five games, the average is 3.3 on 22 attempts with one run (11) of 10 or more yards. He has rushed five times for 15 yards in the last three games.
Dahl on IR: Right guard Harvey Dahl missed the final 10 snaps Sunday after suffering a torn biceps tendon and he was replaced by Shelley Smith. Smith started four games at left guard earlier in the season, but returned to a backup role after center Scott Wells was activated from injured reserve and Rob Turner moved back to left guard.
Smith might start at right guard, but the Rams want to get a look at Chris Williams there to see if he is worth bringing back next season. Williams has more starting experience, and he might have the inside track on being the starter, although it’s possible both will play.
Dahl was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, but no immediate move was made to get the roster back to 53 players. It’s possible someone could be signed from the practice squad prior to Sunday.