NFL Wire News

Defense dominant, but Fisher not satisfied


The Sports Xchange

EARTH CITY, Mo. — For the first time since 2006, the Rams have a better than .500 record. After Sunday’s 27-6 win over the San Francisco 49ers, they are 3-0 in the division with victories over each of the other three teams.

Obviously, a large part of the recent success has been the running of rookie Todd Gurley, who rushed for 133 yards on 20 carries including a 71-yard touchdown against the 49ers. But, a large part has, of course, been the defense.

It’s a defense that has been playing without outside linebacker Alec Ogletree and defensive end Chris Long, yet has allowed only eight touchdowns, the fewest in the league. Denver is second with 10. In four home games, the Rams have allowed two touchdowns. That figure is fueled by a red-zone defense that is tied for the fewest opportunities in the league at 16 and is first in the NFL for allowing a touchdown only five times, a percentage of 31.3.

As head coach Jeff Fisher said after the win over San Francisco, “It’s nice to win a game, especially in the division, and not be satisfied. I think we have to be very careful not to be satisfied with the fact that we’ve won two consecutive games here because we still have a long way to go and a lot of room for improvement.”

One might think Fisher was talking only about the overall offense, which has won two straight games while converting a miscroscopic two of 21 opportunities. But, he was also talking about the defense, which allowed just six points in each of the two wins against the Browns and 49ers.

Fisher said, “I told the guys inside, ‘12 points in two weeks is too many.’ That’s the push you have to take. We got off the field on fourth down a couple of drives and once they get down there, we’re stressing field goals, field goals, field goals.”

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is also a perfectionist, but he recognizes the level where his group is playing.

Williams said, “They’re playing very fast. They’re playing with a lot of contact. What we like about is how communicative they are. They’re doing a very good job on somewhat complex things you’ll see out there that are taking place that their heartbeat doesn’t get raced up anymore. They’re pretty comfortable with that. When you play enough games with each other, they start to understand and they also – just through eye contact and just through a hand signal – they know where everybody is at. I like that aspect of it. And I do like the fact that they have taken ownership.

“And I’ve said this to you guys all spring and summer long, when they believe that they’re in charge, when they believe they have a say, then it’ll always go better. And it’s not just what I like doing because I change depending upon what guy has to go in the ball game and play. Those guys recognize that. They see that. They’re very respectful of the part of, ‘Hey, this is the best thing for us to be doing in this situation.’ And you’ll see (middle linebacker) James (Laurinaitis) take ownership of a lot of the checks that we’re doing. That’s a very comforting thing for me and I hope for them, too.”

Laurinaitis acknowledged, “It feels good to be 3-0 in the division. Big division win, rivalry game. I think the thing that’s encouraging to me is that we won this game and there’s still so much we can improve on. We’ve got to stay humble and really go back and look at the tape and try to figure out what things we need to fix and move forward and be ready for a good Minnesota team.”

In essence repeating Fisher’s message, Laurinaitis said the team isn’t satisfied.

“I don’t really think a lot of guys are,” he said. “They’re happy with the result with the ‘W’ and we’re 3-0 in the division, but there’s just a feeling that we could’ve played a lot better. Even though we got the W, there’s still that feeling of, ‘Man, we left a lot on the field.’ I kind of like that feeling. It means that just because we won, we’re not celebrating. We’re not looking to go have a party over it. It’s just like, let’s go back to work and really do the same thing again.”

Concluded Fisher, “We expected to be here in years past, but things just didn’t work out that way. Again, I’m not satisfied. I’m not satisfied overall with the team, with execution, those kind of things. That has to carry over to the players as well, and I know it does. We’ve got work to do and just try to continue to build wins. That’s the one thing we can do.”


–PASSING OFFENSE: C. The best part of the passing game, aside from the big plays to WR Tavon Austin and TE Jared Cook was the fact that QB Nick Foles wasn’t sacked, the protection was better, and he didn’t throw an interception. Foles’ passer rating was 101.9, largely because of the 66-yard play to Austin and a 49-yard play to Cook. Those two plays catapulted his average yards per attempt to 8.30. In his other 21 attempts, that average was just 3.62. WR Brian Quick is still mostly forgotten. Quick played 35 snaps, but had one reception in one target for five yards. WR Kenny Britt was the target of two early deep passes that were incomplete and wasn’t targeted again.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: A. It’s difficult not to give a top grade to a ground game that totaled 197 yards and would have been right at 200 were it not for three kneeldowns to end the game. RB Todd Gurley had another big day with 133 yards and a 71-yard touchdown. Austin had three carries for 21 yards and a touchdown. RB Tre Mason played a lot in the second half as the Rams nursed a lead, and ran hard while gaining 46 yards on 15 attempts.

–PASS DEFENSE: A. The defense kept QB Colin Kaepernick contained, as he was sacked three times and completed just 20-of-41 passes for 162 yards and a passer rating of 59.2. he ran six times for 28 yards. The 49ers converted 3-of-17 third-down plays and many were on passes. The only big play was a 33-yard gain by WR Quinton Patton. Even with that play, Kaepernick’s average per completion was 8.1. TE Vernon Davis led the 49ers with six receptions, but gained just 24 yards.

–RUN DEFENSE: A. Without Carlos Hyde, the 49ers simply had no legitimate running threat. Mike Davis got the start and rushed 10 times for four yards before leaving the game with a hand injury. Kendall Gaskins, signed from the practice squad Saturday, had six yards on five attempts. Overall, of the 15 carries by Davis and Gaskins, six were for minus yardage. Three by Davis came on successive plays on a possession that began at the 49ers’ 3-yard line and resulted in a safety.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: B. P Johnny Hekker was spectacular again, averaging 54.5 yards on his eight punts with four inside the 20 and a 49.8-yard net. It would have been better if not for a missed tackle on a Bruce Ellington return that gained 27 yards. Ellington had just 11 yards on three other returns. Hekker’s season net of 43.7 is third in the league. The negative was a 40-yard field-goal attempt by Greg Zuerlein that was blocked, the second blocked kick this season. Zuerlein did make a 38-yarder, but the block prevented the Rams from taking a three-score lead late in the third quarter.

–COACHING: B. It didn’t take much to have the team prepared to play a division rival, but the 49ers have been dangerous at times this season, and the coaching staff made sure that message was delivered. Most important, when the Rams had a two-score lead in the second half, they got some work for RB Tre Mason and didn’t pile up the carries for Gurley. In their last five possessions, 16 of the 17 plays were runs and only three were by Gurley.

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