Rams Still Have Plenty To Play For In Final Three Weeks

Posted Dec 10, 2013

Though Sunday’s 30-10 loss at Arizona dropped the Rams to 5-8 and eliminated them from postseason contention, the final three weeks of the season will still carry a considerable weight for a team in search of its first .500 season in seven seasons.

In addition to the Rams’ pursuit of their first 8-8 record since 2006, a number of Rams have plenty to accomplish in the season’s final three games. From offensive rookies to defensive veterans and potential Pro Bowl specialists, the Rams have a host of players closing in on regular season milestones.

The Rams feature a pair of players making a strong push for their first Pro Bowl appearances, in punter Johnny Hekker and third-year DE Robert Quinn.

Through 13 games, Hekker has produced arguably the best season by punter in Rams history. His net punting average of 43.9 is just shy of the NFL record of 44.0, set by San Francisco’s Andy Lee in 2011. Of Hekker’s 65 punts, only 28 have been returned, for an average of just 2.9 yards.

Quinn has been held out of the sack column for the past two weeks, but still leads the NFC with 13 sacks on the season. With a pair of three-sack games to his credit this year, Quinn remains in reach of Kevin Carter’s 17 sacks in 1999, which remains the most since the franchise moved to St. Louis in 1995.

Continuing on the defensive side of the ball, rookie LB Alec Ogletree led the Rams with 12 total tackles last week to take the season lead over veteran James Laurinaitis, 121-120. If Ogletree averages eight tackles per game to end the season, he will surpass Laurinaitis’ Rams rookie record of 144 stops, established in 2009.

“Each week he does something that surprises you,” Head Coach Jeff Fisher said during his Monday press conference. “You say, ‘Wow’ on a positive side. He’s tackled very well, got off blocks, ran much better this week in his pass coverage and things than he was last week. Didn’t have any issues with the footing, and yeah, he’s making a lot of plays for us.”

Despite his distinction as the youngest member of the Rams’ active roster, the 22-year-old Ogletree has been one of the most consistent members of the Rams’ defensive unit. In addition to leading the team in tackles, Ogletree has forced five fumbles and collected an interception and a defensive score on the season.

Entering the season’s final three games, the Rams’ milestones are not limited to the defensive side of the ball.

RB Zac Stacy enters Week 15 with 721 rushing yards, and is in pursuit of a 1,000-yard rushing season, which would make him just the third by a rookie in team history, joining Jerome Bettis in 1993 and Eric Dickerson in 1983. Eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark would require him to perform just beyond his per-game average of 79 yards in his nine starts this season.

Stacy, Ogletree, Hekker, and Quinn combine for just seven years of NFL experience, though the season-long performance provided by the quartet has given reason for optimism not only for future seasons, but also for the three games still ahead in 2013.

“We’re going to get better, and our focus is going on the Saints,” Head Coach Jeff Fisher said following Sunday’s game. “We’re going to take it one game at a time and we’re going to get better.”