The Rams had the opportunity to punch their ticket from the couch during their Week 12 bye. But of course, the Seahawks beat the Panthers in Charlotte and the 'NFC West Champions' T-shirts will remain in boxes until a Rams victory, or Seahawks loss.
"No that doesn't matter," safety John Johnson told theRams.com following his team's first walk-thru coming off the bye — saying Seattle preventing the Rams from clinching during the week off was no big deal.
"We have to control what we can control — we can't look at the next man or hope that another team loses. We can control our own destiny."
Johnson's Rams will look to improve to 11-1 and win the division on their own terms on Sunday in Detroit. Ford Field may also be the stage for a healthy L.A. secondary — something Johnson hasn't been a part of since Week 3 when veteran corner Aqib Talib injured his left ankle and was promptly placed on injured reserve.
On Monday, Talib was designated to return to football, but is yet to be activated to the Rams 53-man roster. Entering the final stretch of the regular season and almost certainly beyond, Johnson is well aware of what Talib will add to the defense.
"I think he will just put everyone at ease," Johnson said. "He brings that swag to him, the knowledge of the game to him, and we came in with him, so it was kind of like we were missing something and him coming back will just be like a security blanket for us, I think."
In his first three games as a Ram, Talib totalled nine tackles, two passes defensed, and one forced fumble.
Johnson specifically mentioned the 11-year veteran's experience as a potential difference maker going forward.
"[H]e just knows what teams want to do, he's played against every offensive coordinator in the league, or head coach, or some type of combo of all of them, Johnson said. "He just knows how teams want to attack us and just gives us little tips to combat it."
The Rams' defense has been attacked heavily through big plays in 2018 — in fact Johnson's defense has given up 12 passing plays that have totalled at least 40 yards, which is the most in the NFL. Additionally, the Rams have allowed 46 passing plays totalling at least 20 yards — which trails only the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Rams have allowed a passing play of at least 40 yards in eight games this season. In L.A.'s only loss of the season Week 9 against the Saints, wide receiver Michael Thomas' 72-yard touchdown reception sealed the deal in the Superdome.
According to Johnson, L.A.'s big-play problem has been identified and addressed during the club's bye week, and will be a focus from Week 13 on. It's also something Talib mentioned following his first walk-thru back on the field with his defense.
"Our emphasis coming in today was, 'You have to limit the big plays,'" Johnson said on Monday. "Zero is what we are shooting for, but if you keep the big plays to a minimum I think everything else will fall into place."
"Just experience, sharpen up our communication a little bit," Talib said, sharing his thoughts on the difference he could make in his return. "I think we get our communication in order, we eliminate two, three big plays a game, it'll make us that much better on defense."
With or without Talib, Johnson and the defense will be provided their first chance to display improvement as the season rolls on this Sunday against the Lions and veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford.