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Rams a .500 team at midseason after losing three straight
ST. LOUIS - There's a perfectly good reason for the St. Louis Rams' three-game losing streak on the heels of a three-game winning streak.
Tougher competition has landed the team at .500 midway through Scott Linehan's first year as coach. The Rams (4-4) fattened up on the Cardinals, Lions and Packers, who are a combined 6-18. They came back to earth against the Seahawks, Chargers and Chiefs, a combined 15-8 before Seattle's Monday night game against the Raiders.
The end result: The Rams are squarely in the middle of the pack. They're a team with holes, especially on the defensive line and at linebacker as long as Pisa Tinoisamoa is sidelined with a broken left hand, but with a productive offense that can score enough to make things interesting.
"We're struggling now, but I've been on a couple of bad teams around here that have had multiple injuries and collapsed on itself," quarterback Marc Bulger said. "We're nowhere near that. We have so many good players, too much character."
They're still in the hunt in the NFC West, though, thanks to parity. And veteran players can remember a lot worse situations. Last year's team was also 4-4, but won only twice the rest of the way.
Safety Corey Chavous said players weren't too pleased with themselves when they were 4-1, and shouldn't be too discouraged now.
"The same way we approached those wins, we've got to approach these losses and separate every week from the last," Chavous said. "If you don't do that you'll either keep losing or you'll end up staying too much on the last week.
"I don't think that's something this team is going do, I feel like we'll bounce back."
The Rams will get an immediate opportunity to regain ground on Sunday at Seattle.
"Let's get ourselves ready to play probably the most important division game of the year so far, based on where our division is at," Linehan said. "Let's take care of business, and by performing well and winning this game we can certainly put ourselves back in very good position."
Offensive guard Adam Timmerman said there's plenty of time to regroup.
"There's a lot of season left, it's not like any of our hopes and dreams are shattered," Timmerman said. "There were things we could have done better and we hurt ourselves.
"We've just got to stay the course."
The Rams are fourth in the NFL in total offense at 366.9 yards per game, and adjusted to the Chiefs' deep zone coverage that took away wide receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce by throwing underneath. Steven Jackson caught a career-high 13 passes and had 219 yards rushing and receiving, and Marc Bulger passed for 354 yards, the fifth time in six games he has topped 300.
The offense committed two of three turnovers that allowed the Chiefs to take a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter, but cleaned things up enough to cut the gap to one touchdown in the fourth quarter.
"I think Marc executed the game plan to a T based on how they were defending us," Linehan said.
St. Louis is 27th in total defense at 346.5 yards per game and has been gouged on consecutive weeks by LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson. Johnson had 172 yards on 27 carries, a 6.4-yard average, after Tomlinson piled up 183 yards and scored three times.
The Rams are short-handed on the line after trading wayward end Anthony Hargrove a few weeks after he skipped two days of practice, with rookie fourth-round pick Victor Adeyanju inheriting the starting spot. Jimmy Kennedy is adjusting to a new role as the nose tackle.
Tinoisamoa dressed but did not play for the second-straight game on Sunday, held back to allow his broken hand more time to heal. He's also playing with a dislocated left elbow that requires a brace.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, repeating his assessment from a week earlier, said a handful of big plays make the overall effort look weak. Still, it was a large handful: Johnson had a 45-yard run in the first quarter when the Chiefs were backed up to their own 3, and also had two 16-yard gains and a 15-yarder.
Haslett said there is a lack of trust that the man next to you is going to do his job.
"Everybody has to have an understanding of where everybody fits on the run game, and you'd better have a trust that the guy that is going to be in that spot is going to be there," Haslett said. "Right now, I don't think we are real good on that."