Rams Look to Improve Over Bye

Posted Oct 30, 2012

When Rams coach Jeff Fisher addressed his team on Tuesday afternoon about the importance of moving on from Sunday’s loss to New England during the bye week this week, he made a simple comparison, put easily into football terms.

“The analogy that I gave them is, if we had an opportunity to go play 16 plays and we just had a bad play, can you put the bad play behind you and move on and put together eight good plays?” Fisher asked his team. “So, that’s where we are.”

Coming off what clearly was their worst “play” of a 2012 season that is now officially halfway finished, the Rams enter this week’s bye with plenty to work on and plenty to fix before going into the second half of the year.

Last week’s 45-7 loss to the Patriots left a sour taste in the Rams’ collective mouth, to the point that defensive end Chris Long said if his team had to let it linger longer in order to ensure it never happens again, that’s what they’d do.

“It doesn’t matter if we have to come to work tomorrow or not come to work tomorrow; guys will get the week off and come back and play hard next week whenever that is,” Long said. “If we were going to line up and play in two days, this feels the same way. We’ll try to subscribe to the 24-hour rule; maybe it goes to 48 because we have the bye week. It should. And then we’ll come back and work hard.”

The Rams were back at work on Tuesday going through what would be a normal Monday schedule that was pushed back because of Monday’s travel day from London. They had meetings, went through correction periods and watched the grisly film from Wembley Stadium.

That’s now in the past and the mission for the rest of the week is to do everything necessary to get back on track. After a 3-2 start that had the Rams above .500 for the first time since 2006, they have dropped three in a row, including two consecutive double-digit losses.

The new collective bargaining agreement stipulates that teams must give players four consecutive days off. The Rams will practice Wednesday and Thursday before getting Friday through Monday off.

“I think it’s important: how do we respond to this? How do we come back on Wednesday and Thursday and practice hard and really try to focus and focus on the little things and details that make us better?” middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “Because this thing doesn’t get easier for us.”

While Fisher said his team has “a lot” to work on over the bye week, he was able to boil the team’s recent struggles down to two major issues, one on each side of the ball. Although those issues may be obvious, they are going to be the points of emphasis in this week of practice and moving into next week before traveling to San Francisco.

“Having had the opportunity to look back at the tape now, we have a lot of work to do in all areas,” Fisher said. “Halfway through the season, right now, we’re not scoring touchdowns, we’re not getting takeaways. That’s going to be our focus here during the bye week. Highly unusual that in eight games and all the touches that are involved in eight games, our opponent has fumbled two balls and we’ve recovered one. We need to place a great deal of emphasis on that and getting the ball back. Then, of course, the numbers are what they reflect on offense. We just needed to get the ball in the end zone.”

The lack of turnovers in recent weeks has been alarming after an avalanche of takeaways – namely interceptions – to start the season. In the past four games, the Rams have just one takeaway.

In the first four games, the Rams had eight takeaways. Of course, Sunday’s loss to New England brought to light some other defensive issues such as inconsistent pass rush, misreads in coverage and communication breakdowns.

A defense that had jumped into the top 10 as recently as two weeks ago has been beaten up a bit in the past two weeks, forcing captain Laurinaitis to say its time to do some self-reflection over the bye week.

“For me, first you have to look at yourself,” Laurinaitis said. “How are you playing? How are you going to improve, especially during the bye week? Then lead by example, you go out there and do the extra things after practice. We’ve got two days of practice where we don’t have a game on the weekend so what little things are you doing to help out? We’ve got great leaders: Chris Long, Jo-Lonn, Cortland Finnegan, Quintin Mikell. We’ve got guys across the board that are going to work their butts off and we hope the young guys take notice and do the same.”

On the other side of the ball, Fisher cited persistent penalties as an issue that has kept his team out of the end zone consistently. After what seemed like an offensive breakthrough in week 2 against Washington, touchdowns have been few and far between.

Save for some magic from speedy rookie wideout Chris Givens, the Rams have a small margin for error in bouncing back from those penalties.

“As we’re maturing, as were growing, as we’re building, we have to learn to win games and you win games by eliminating those types of things,” Fisher said. “Our penalty numbers have to come down.”

One thing that could help the Rams get it going offensively is the presumptive return of some key pieces during the bye week.

With this week off and more time to bounce back next week, the Rams could get a trio of key offensive cogs back in time for San Francisco and if not, then probably all of them should be back the following week against the Jets.

Receiver Danny Amendola, who has been dealing with a shoulder injury, practiced last week and looks on course for a return in short order.

Left tackle Rodger Saffold (knee) did a little bit of work on the side last week and also seems to be on a positive trajectory.

“We’ve got a chance to get ‘Rodge’ active on the field this week,” Fisher said. “To what extent? I don’t know. We’ll see, but he’s getting closer. I would assume that Danny having practiced on a limited basis last week, will practice this week as well.”

Center Scott Wells is “a little bit behind” Saffold and Amendola according to Fisher but is eligible to return to practice and could be back in the next couple of weeks.