– Rams coach Jeff Fisher just wrapped up his usual Monday news conference, hitting on a variety of topics on this chilly Christmas Eve. Below are Fisher’s thoughts on a multitude of items.
– First, Fisher said the team got out of the game with no serious injury issues. It remains to be seen whether CB Cortland Finnegan (thigh) will be back up to full speed this week or not but he seems to be the only question mark heading into next week’s game at Seattle.
– Fisher was pleased with how hard his team played in its 28-13 win against Tampa Bay on Sunday. He cited the turnovers for the defense, the job of the offense finishing drives with touchdowns and the work by the special teams, particularly the punt team, as keys to the victory.
– Fisher said P Johnny Hekker punted particularly well and did an excellent job of punting directionally.
– Asked whether he thought CB Janoris Jenkins had a shot to win Defensive Rookie of the Year, Fisher said he thought Jenkins had at least earned “a mention.”
– On Jenkins, Fisher again emphasized that the young corner is playing at a more consistent level from week to week and that’s been a positive sign of progress for the young cover man.
– The Rams have scored touchdowns on seven of their past eight possession in the red zone, another sign of progress from the offense. Fisher credits the improvement to an ability to be balanced inside the 20 as well as the ability to run the ball down in tight there. That not only works for things like RB Steven Jackson’s touchdown run but then opens up play action opportunities for touchdowns like WR Austin Pettis’ against the Bucs.
– Fisher was proud of TE Lance Kendricks for finishing his 80-yard touchdown run and despite taking jokes from his teammates about running out of steam, Fisher was impressed that Kendricks went right back into the game on the team’s next possession.
– After watching the game tape, Fisher was pleased with how the timeshare at right guard with Shelley Smith and Chris Williams went. He indicated that could be the method again this week against the Seahawks.
– One play in Sunday’s game that flew under the radar: following WR Danny Amendola’s early fumble, recovered by LB Leon Johnson, Rams RT Barry Richardson tracked him down and forced a fumble that G Rob Turner fell on to regain possession for the Rams. It was overlooked because the Rams opened a big lead but the Bucs might have been able to jump to a two-score lead were it not for Richardson’s hustle.
– On the win itself and the position the Rams now hold for the season, Fisher refuses to acknowledge satisfaction. That’s not to say progress hasn’t been made. He wants to see how his team will do in Seattle this weekend but either way he has seen steps forward. He did say that the “front page” for his team this year still has no playoff berth which is not what he and his team set out to do.
– Fisher was again asked about how team has been able to maintain a consistent level of effort and he again expressed some surprise about the question. That’s a baseline requirement and Fisher said something he expects of his team. He’s been pleased with that all season.
– This week’s game against the Seahawks will be a huge challenge, according to Fisher. He even went so far as to call it the toughest challenge his team has seen yet. That makes sense considering how well Seattle is playing right now combined with the Seahawks’ absurd homefield advantage. He believe the game is a referendum on the Rams’ season but he’s clearly intrigued to see how his team plays and reacts to the circumstances.
– While RB Steven Jackson is just 10 yards shy of reaching 1,000 rushing yards for the eighth consecutive season, it seems like a near foregone conclusion he’ll get there against the Seahawks. But Fisher said it still needs to get done and expects that to be a motivating factor for Seattle’s defense this week.
– A win in the Seattle game would allow the Rams to finish at 5-0-1 in the NFC West Division. An undefeated season in the division is a huge accomplishment any time but in this era with such a strong division now residing in the West, it would be a big feather in the Rams’ cap. Likewise, Fisher believes that you build your team to compete in the division first and foremost and of all the things his team could achieve this year perhaps that would bode best for the Rams moving forward.
– Fisher wrapped up the news conference by wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. I’ll take my cue from him and do the same. Merry Christmas to all of you and, as always, thanks for reading.
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TAMPA, Fla. –
– On multiple occasions this season, the Rams have found themselves with a choice to make coming off a disappointing loss. Would they let it linger or would they answer the call and bounce back?
– Sunday’s litmus test against Tampa Bay provided even more context into the character of the 2012 Rams because not only were they being asked to come back from a disappointing loss and performance last week against Minnesota but they were being asked to do it without any type of realistic playoff hopes at stake.
– And, as has been the case time and again this season, especially in the year’s final stages, the Rams answered the bell and came through with a performance good enough to wipe away any chance of a lingering issue. This time, it was a convincing 28-13 win against the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium.
– The win featured a defense that came up with four interceptions and five sacks and twice turned the Bucs away inside their own 10-yard line with four-down stands near the goal line. It also featured a plethora of big plays on both sides of the ball that spurred the Rams to a victory.
– With the win, the Rams move to 7-7-1 on the year and the opportunity to go to Seattle next week to play for a winning record for the first time since 2003 and go undefeated in the division. They were officially eliminated from the playoffs when Minnesota knocked off Houston but they seemed wholly unconcerned with anything besides getting a win against Tampa Bay on Sunday.
– At first blush, it seems the Rams came out of the game without any serious injury issues. We’ll know more on Monday but nobody missed any serious time Sunday.
– Game ball after the game went to LB James Laurinaitis and one for TE Lance Kendricks.
– Let’s start with the man who jumpstarted the Rams again Sunday, much as he did last month against Arizona: rookie CB Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins has an absurd knack for finding the end zone after he come up with a takeaway. I don’t think it’s something that can be taught. He just innately has it and he displayed it again. DT Kendall Langford described it as “automatic.”
– Laurinaitis made a nice interception and again showed why he’s one of the best inside linebackers in the league at dropping in coverage. Unofficial pressbox stats had him down for 12 tackles and two passes defended as well.
– Five sacks with a number of different guys coming up with them but how about the pair for DE William Hayes, who now has 5.5 for the season. What a find he’s been.
– Speaking of backup DEs making big contribution, Eugene Sims chipped in his first career interception and continues to be a disruptive force for the Rams lining up all over the D line.
– While Jenkins’ pick went for a touchdown, hats off to CB Trumaine Johnson for perhaps the most textbook interception of the day. He’s quietly really improved here at the end of the season and is showing that he’s going to be a player in the near future.
– Kendricks’ big day is a great sign not only for his future but the Rams as well. Limited in the pass game for most of the season because his blocking services were needed, Kendricks is getting more chances in the pass game and making the most of them. He’s had a few drops this year but he’s improved drastically in that area and he’s playing with a lot of confidence right now. Congrats to him on his first 100-yard day as he posted four grabs for 119 yards and his 80-yard touchdown. That catch, by the way, was the longest by a Rams tight end in franchise history.
– RB Steven Jackson came up 10 yards short of the 91 needed for 1,000 on the season. He’ll almost certainly get those yards next week in Seattle. In the meantime, he should be commended for running hard and making the most of what he could get against a top notch run defense in Tampa Bay.
– Oh, I’d be remiss not to mention the hustle and effort of WR Danny Amendola on Kendricks’ touchdown. Amendola hustled down the field and took out two Bucs to spring Kendricks for the score. You think this team is going to pack it in without the playoffs possible? Look at that play for overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
– Good on the offensive line for keeping QB Sam Bradford from being sacked. It’s the first time in 31 games that Bradford hasn’t been sacked. Pretty good considering the Rams were working with two guys at right guard that hadn’t played there all year in Shelley Smith and Chris Williams.
– Austin Pettis seems to have a pretty solid ability to get open and score touchdowns in the red zone.
– A strong performance from P Johnny Hekker, who didn’t have any that got away from him this week as he punted seven times with an average of 47.9 yards with a net of 46.9 and two pinned inside the 20.
– The Rams will enjoy a victory Monday tomorrow and then have Christmas with their families on Tuesday before practice resumes Wednesday in preparation for Seattle.
– We’ll be back to wrap this one up with Coach Jeff Fisher’s news conference tomorrow.
– Talk to you then. Thanks for reading.
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