Fisher, Rams Focused on Big Picture

Posted Aug 13, 2012

By his own admission, there were plenty of things Rams coach Jeff Fisher wasn’t pleased about in his team’s debut preseason performance yesterday against the Colts.

As the Rams dropped a 38-3 decision to Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium, Fisher saw plenty that his team needed to work on. In reviewing the tape on Monday, he also saw plenty of things he did like.

More on both of those things in a moment but if nothing else, Fisher certainly had not intention of letting the result of a single preseason game affect his approach to the preseason as a whole and he’s not going to let it bother his team, either.

“I don’t think there were many tears on the airplane coming home yesterday,” Fisher said, a grin creeping across his face. “What you want to see is you want to see them play hard and they did.  We’ve got to play better.  Believe me, we’re not ready for Detroit yet, and we will get better.”

Since he was first asked about it last week, Fisher has done nothing but be transparent about his approach to the preseason. In the days leading up to the game, he was open and honest about getting his younger players a lot of playing time and mixing and matching personnel throughout the game.

Likewise, Fisher made it known that his top priority in the preseason games is evaluating players and developing them in hopes of finding the best 53 players for the roster. While of course the goal is to win any time you compete, it takes a backseat in the preseason to other variables.

“You want to win the games, but yeah, the preseason is to get ready for the regular season,” Fisher said. “It’s to fine tune and prepare and get them to a level where you’re ready to compete when the season starts.  When we look at it from that perspective, yeah, we saw some good things.”

Upon the team’s return to St. Louis, Fisher sat down and watched a chunk of the game tape before finishing up his review of it this morning. Despite the 35-point deficit, Fisher – as he predicted he would in the aftermath of Sunday’s game – found a number of things he liked in his team’s performance.

Standing out first and foremost were a few intangible things.

“As I said yesterday after the ball game, I am quite sure we’re going to find some good things and we did,” Fisher said.  “Good effort, tremendous effort for the most part, all three phases.  Some things that need to be cleaned up, things that can get fixed, and we expect to be able to do that this week.  We got through this ball game healthy, which was a huge plus for us, and we’ll get some guys back this week.”
Fisher cited strong run blocking from the offensive line, particularly the first group on the first series. He saw quarterback Sam Bradford throwing accurately and getting the ball out quick, running back Steven Jackson running hard, rookie Brian Quick making a tough catch to move the chains.

The special teams performance also caught Fisher’s eye, specifically the work of rookie linebacker Aaron Brown and rookie punter Johnny Hekker, who boomed one 67 yards that went out of bounds at the 2 with no chance for a return.

“There are some good things, we got some young guys on special teams understanding concepts and our punter hit the ball in the first half about as good as you can hit it,” Fisher said. “Both of those punts we try to put it on the boundary and he did.  That ball was about 67 yards or something, net and gross.  That’s a huge change in field position. From that stand point he probably gets the game ball.”

Of course, with the good comes plenty of bad and plenty of things that need work moving forward.

Clearly, the Rams’ inability to finish drives and put points on the board was frustrating for Fisher but maybe nothing bugged him more than the team’s issues on third down on both sides of the ball.

For a team that works on situations as much as the Rams so in practice, the final tally wasn’t pretty on third down conversions. Offensively, the Rams were five-of-13 on third downs and one-for-three on fourth down.

On the other side, things were much worse as the Colts converted 11 of 15 third down opportunities, good for a 73 percent conversion rate. In other words, the Rams couldn’t get off the field.

According to Fisher, some of that was failure to execute and some of it was the opposing philosophies in terms of what the Rams were running from their playbook and what the Colts were running from theirs.

“We were not good defensively as far as third down efficiency is concerned,” Fisher said. “A good defense is going to be around 20-25 percent consistently.  We didn’t get the ball back, we couldn’t, we had one ball on the ground, picked it up, and dropped it and couldn’t get off the field.  A lot of great things to learn from, but again, referring back to third down, we didn’t have a lot of pitches in the game plan, they did. I don’t think they repeated anything on third down.  It’s just different philosophies and not one’s right or wrong, but it’s just how the game unfolded.”

This week, the Rams will continue to work on the things that plagued them in the preseason opener. In addition, Fisher said he expects safety Darian Stewart, receiver Brandon Gibson and cornerback Bradley Fletcher to be available for Saturday night’s game against Kansas City at the Edward Jones Dome.
The game plan won’t be expansive by any means but Fisher said as the preseason goes on, he and the coaching staff will expand the plan a bit more than the simple approach to the opener.

“Now we build, we typically will build we will have significantly more things to do on both sides of the ball this coming weekend than what we did yesterday,” Fisher said.

Regardless, don’t expect any players or coaches under Fisher to press the panic button following one preseason contest.

The process has been tried and true for Fisher in the past and isn’t going to change now and that’s why he prefers to look at the big picture instead of viewing the game in a vacuum.

“We are going to learn from it, we are going to correct the mistakes and we are going to move on,” Fisher said. “Even in a losing effort last night and it’s a preseason game, we got a little bit better because we got a chance to go out and compete against somebody else and we did some good things. And that’s the big picture; are you getting better? We did and we have to continue to do so.”