Just when Rams assistant head coach Dave McGinnis thought he’d seen it all in his long NFL coaching career, a career spanning more than 400 games, he was proved wrong.
McGinnis witnessed the Rams’ tie against San Francisco last week and had to check off yet another random occurrence on his list. So maybe now, he finally has seen and done it all in this league.
Or maybe not. What he and coach Jeff Fisher and the rest of the staff has yet to see is how the Rams will respond to such a strange and disappointing finish to a game that was there for the taking.
“It’s kind of like what Coach Fisher said after the game, it’s a different feeling,” McGinnis said. “We know that we did enough good things to win the game, but clearly we did enough things to keep us from winning the game also. It was a strange feeling, but you don’t come out of there with the elation of winning the ball game. But, you don’t come out of there with the near death feeling you have every time you lose a ball game. I didn’t know how to feel. As I’ve said, I’ve been in over 400 NFL games, I’ve never experienced that and it was a hell of a football game.”
Precisely how the Rams will respond to last week’s result will be determined Sunday when they return to the Edward Jones Dome after nearly a month to take on the Jets with a noon kickoff waiting.
The Jets enter this weekend’s game with a 3-6 record and their backs firmly against the wall following a week of random controversy stemming from anonymous comments made about backup quarterback Tim Tebow to a New York newspaper.
The Rams, on the other hand, come in on the heels of a strong performance on the road in San Francisco but needing to find some measure of consistency. Returning to the dome might be the best cure for a team that’s 3-1 there on the season.
“I think this is a game that we would like to defend home field,” running back
At 3-5-1 with a 2-0-1 record in the NFC West Division, the Rams still harbor hopes of making a playoff run down the stretch but in order to do that, they’ll need to get things rolling with a win this week against New York.
Any hopes the Jets have of making a similar push in the AFC hinge on finding a way to get a win this weekend as well. With all of the bluster surrounding them this week, Fisher expects to see a team prepared and ready to go by coach Rex Ryan.
“I don’t know if you’d call them desperate,” Fisher said. “Everybody needs to win this weekend, you know? That’s just how the National Football League is. The Jets are in position. That’s a hard thing to do. We went through something similar to them in London. That’s a hard thing to do, go across the country and not score a point on offense and after a bye week, I think. But, again, that’s a good coaching staff. He rallies that team. He always gets that team back.”
Although the two teams play in opposite conferences and don’t play too often, there are quite a few connections between the sides that make this game particularly intriguing.
Headlining that is the chess match between Ryan, a known defensive mind, and Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who coached with Ryan for three years in New York.
Schottenheimer insists that he has no extra incentive to win this weekend than a normal week but he does have expansive knowledge on what the Jets want to do defensively.
Coming off perhaps its most complete performance of the season against the Niners, the Rams offense looks to continue building on it this week against the Jets.
“I think as a whole group we played pretty well,” Schottenheimer said. “I think that is exciting. We’re trying to build off that, for sure. I think it helps getting (WR) Danny (Amendola). Having him back last week helped. Having (T) Rodger (Saffold) back, that helped. Again, every week in this league is a new challenge. The Jets, they bring a whole lot of challenges with all their multiple blitzes and things that they have. San Francisco had their challenges.”
The biggest challenge from the Jets is an unpredictable defense led by Ryan that isn’t afraid to take some chances. Perhaps lost in the shuffle of the many connections the Rams have to the Jets is the long-time relationship Fisher has with the Ryan family.
Fisher played for Buddy Ryan in Chicago and notes a lot of similarities with Rex and Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob.
“I see a lot of Buddy in Rex and Rob,” Fisher said. “They’re excellent coaches as Buddy was, and excellent defensive minds and flexible. They can go down the street and coach a four-man line one day and come back and coach a three-man line the next day. They understand defense and they understand how to play defense.”
The biggest challenge this week for the Rams will be to find the consistency offensively they’ve been searching for all season.
“I think we preach that,” Schottenheimer said. “We still… we looked at penalties last week. We had a lot of penalties. Some bigger than others, but we’ve got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot. I think when we do that, we can get even better.”
On the other side of the ball, the Rams are also searching for some defensive consistency. The group played well on the whole against the Niners but wore down late and allowed them to come back to tie it in the final minute.
The Jets come in struggling some on offense but still bring a potent running game and a capable passing game with Mark Sanchez. Tebow is the wild card in the whole mix, leaving it on the Rams to be prepared for anything and everything.
“There are no guarantees in this league,” McGinnis said. “You guys all know that. It’s a week-to-week thing. Things change drastically week to week. That’s why to be successful; we talked about it a little bit during the open date, to be successful in this league you’ve got to be consistent. You’ve got to find a standard in a form of consistency. Just because you do something either good or bad the week before guarantees nothing the next week.”
Still, it’s hard to escape the enthusiasm and energy the Rams have put forth on the practice field and in last week’s game. There’s a feeling around the team that it’s on the verge of a second-half breakthrough.
To validate that feeling, though, the Rams must first take care of an opponent they believe presents a number of challenges.
“We’re coming along pretty good as a team,” Jackson said. “Offensively, defensively, special teams, I think you can see the progress over the season to where we’re at now. Of course, our win-loss record is not what we want it to be. It’s not ideal. But, as a young team, we’re definitely growing and the chemistry is being built.”