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Rams get offense going in second half

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EARTH CITY, Mo. — In the first quarter of the St. Louis Rams’ Sunday win over the Browns, the offense was again having issues moving the ball. The Rams had three yards of total offense on two possessions, and running back Todd Gurley had three carries for minus-2 yards. The Rams led 10-0, thanks to a 20-yard fumble return by safety Rodney McLeod, and a 39-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein after three plays netted four yards following another Cleveland turnover.

The offense got somewhat better in the second quarter, but tight end Jared Cook fumbled after reaching the Browns’ 15-yard line. A Cleveland field goal made it 10-3 at halftime.

Head coach Jeff Fisher said, “As I told the team, it appeared in the first half, with respect to the offense, that it looked like we had a little bye-week hangover. And often times that happens. You worry about timing, and you worry about consistency and continuity. But we rallied, we settled down and we got things going in the second half. So that was obviously the difference.

“I mean, you could sense the level of frustration in the locker room at halftime. We were up 10-3, we’re up by 7, so I just told them to settle down and just keep working at it and we’ll make some plays. Nobody try to do too much. Eliminate the mistakes, which we did.”

Fisher knows, though, that the passing game has to improve. Quarterback Nick Foles passed for just 163 yards with 41 coming on a deep pass to wide receiver Kenny Britt to inside the 1-yard line that set up Gurley’s first touchdown.

“We still need more production from the offense,” Fisher said. “We just can’t rely on Todd all the time. At some point it’s going to get hard to run the football, until we start making some plays on the outside.”

–Earlier in the offseason, Fisher was concerned about the percentage of passes being completed by opposing quarterbacks. However, as the season has progressed, that percentage has remained very high, but the yardage allowed has been kept in check for the most part.

The game plan has been simple, thanks to the Rams’ pass-rush pressure: take quick drops and get rid of the ball quickly.

Sunday, Browns quarterback Josh McCown completed 26 of 32 passes (81.3 percent), but the yards gained was 270 (10.4 per completion).

For the season, opponent’s passers have a 74.9 completion percentage with an average per completion of 10.0.

After the win over Cleveland, Fisher said, “I thought our pass-rushing pressure was good and they came into the game respecting that. The ball was coming out quick and coming out early. Early on, I was disappointed with their completion percentage against our defense, but we’re getting off the field and the balls are going sideways, which is kind of just an extension of the run game for opposing offenses.”

–In a 24-10 loss to Green Bay the week before their bye, the Rams forced three Packers turnovers, but Foles had four interceptions. Cleveland turned the ball over four times, all on fumbles, and the only Rams turnover was Cook’s fumble.

Said Foles, “It’s not always true, but if you can keep clean and hold onto the ball and not give them the short field and give them the ball back, it really helps your percentage of winning.”

Speaking for the defense, McLeod said of the takeaways, “It’s huge. It’s something we stressed all week. From last week during the bye week actually to this week, about getting turnovers and getting the ball back for our offense and putting them in better positions. That’s our focus for the remainder of the season.

“Giving up six points is great. You can’t ask for anything more than that. Got turnovers. Obviously, there’s always things we need to work on. They kind of broke loose on a couple runs and a big pass play, but I think for the most part we did a good job getting sacks and getting our hands on the ball.”

Notes: Safety/linebacker Mark Barron will likely be a strong candidate for NFC Defensive Player of the Week. Tape review by the coaches credited him with 19 tackles (16 solo), two for loss, as well as two forced fumbles and one quarterback hit. Barron has been playing mostly as a linebacker since Alec Ogletree was injured in Week 4 against Arizona. His percentage of snaps for the first four games was 27, 33, 46 and 70 (the game Ogletree was injured) to 81 and 100 the last two. He played all 75 snaps against the Browns and even added five on special teams. … Defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks, who had played mostly tackle in the rotation in earlier games, had a lot of snaps at defensive left end with Chris Long sidelined by a knee injury. Westbrooks had one of the team’s four sacks against the Browns, the first of his career.


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