Monday Wrap-Up: Finishing the Season Strong

Posted Dec 28, 2015

After Sunday's victory, the Rams have a chance to finish at .500 for the first time since 2006 with a win over the 49ers.

NAPA, Calif. -- The Rams’ 23-17 victory over the Seahawks on Sunday was significant for a number of reasons, starting with St. Louis breaking a long losing streak in the Pacific Northwest.

But it also brought the Rams to 7-8 with a week to play, meaning there is still an opportunity to finish at .500. While that isn’t satisfying for a team that had much higher expectations for itself at the season’s outset, it still would be a significant accomplishment. St. Louis hasn’t reached the .500 mark since 2006, when the club last went 8-8.

“I’m certainly by no means satisfied with it, but 8-8 is better than 7-9,” head coach Jeff Fisher said on Monday. “We’re certainly not satisfied with being 8-8, but we don’t have any options right now. Probably more [important] to be able to win four straight, finish the year with four-straight wins, and get a little momentum into the offseason.”

“Right now, I think the goal is 8-8 to be honest with you. To get to the point where I’ve never been, and that’s just 8-8 -- .500," linebacker James Laurinaitis said after the game Sunday.

Getting to the brink of that step has not been the smoothest process, particularly during a five-game stretch that saw the Rams’ record fall from 4-3 to 4-8. But the players remained focused and motivated, and over the last three weeks, that perseverance has paid off.

“We’re prideful. We’ll fight no matter the situation,” defensive lineman William Hayes said. “That’s why I can really appreciate this team. We go to work every day. We’re really hustling, and we put our best foot forward. We were 4-8, those eight losses, there was great effort in those eight losses. You couldn’t be but so upset about it. The goal is to just to continue to grow and try to get better day in and day out.”

“They’re not giving participation trophies for us not quitting, but this team, that’s not what we do,” defensive lineman Chris Long said. “It starts with Coach Fish. Coach Fish preaches we’re going to come to work and we’re going to fight every day. Even when the chips are down, I think that’s when you find out what people are made of. And I think we’ve got the right kind of guys in this locker room.”

Fisher said maintaining an environment that stresses week-by-week improvement is key to keeping a team together that can eventually make this kind of run.

“It’s a one-week-at-a-time process. And that’s the key and you have to be consistent every week,” Fisher said. “At the same time, you can’t dwell on the wins. You can’t get over-worked over the losses. You just keep going and get them to trust what we’re doing and the way we’re doing it is the right way.”

There have, however, been adjustments that have worked out -- namely inserting Case Keenum as the starting quarterback and Rob Boras as the offensive playcaller.

“We’ve made a couple changes -- difficult changes -- one to go with Case and then gave the offense over to Rob,” Fisher said, “and it appears after three weeks that those were good decisions.”

The results -- a three-game winning streak -- are hard to argue. Plus, the Rams were able to go into CenturyLink Field, notoriously one of the most difficult places to play, and leave without a false start or sack. Fisher had plenty of praise to go around for that aspect of Sunday’s performance, from coaches, to the quarterback, to the offensive line.

“I don’t think there’s many teams that can say they came in and out of there without either one of those two things,” Fisher said.

Those are the kinds of elements a team often needs to beat the Seahawks in Seattle. And according to Laurinaitis, a victory like Sunday’s can have long-term positive effects.

“For this organization, this is a big step. It really was a big step,” Laurinaitis said. “I feel like when the Cardinals won up here a couple years ago, I think it really gave them a belief that they could go anywhere and get a W. It’s the same thing for this team. If you can win up here, to me, there’s no excuse for why you can’t win on the road.”

Now the challenge will be for St. Louis to close out the season the way it wants to -- by sweeping a second divisional opponent.

“We treated this like a playoff game. We’ll treat next week at San Fran the same way,” Laurinaitis said. “Our goal, like I said three weeks ago, was to go 4-0 in the last four. We’re 3-0 right now and hope we can keep it going.”