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Rams seek milestone victory in Charlotte ..
By Jim Thomas
CHARLOTTE, N.C. • Coach Jeff Fisher stubbornly lives in the moment. He has disdain for the big picture and distaste for gridiron philosophizing.
So when asked what it would mean for his Rams team to improve its record to 4-3 with a victory Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, Fisher’s reply was predictable.
“It would mean that we won the next game on our schedule, which we’re trying to do,” Fisher said, with a trace of a smile. “That’s the object — one more point.”
As in one more point than the other guy wins the game.
One more point than the Panthers in Sunday’s noon kickoff (St. Louis time) puts the Rams above .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2006. Under then-rookie head coach Scott Linehan, the Rams started the ’06 campaign 4-1 before losing five in a row and seven of their next eight.
Fisher’s first Rams team stood at 3-2 last season following a 17-13 Thursday night triumph over Arizona. But the team then went on an 0-4-1 skid and didn’t top .500 again before finishing 7-8-1.
But ask the players what 4-3 would mean, and the answer’s a bit different than Fisher’s.
“It would mean a lot,” said defensive end Chris Long, who has yet to experience a winning season since being drafted by the Rams in 2008. “We talked about confidence earlier; it’d be another step in the right direction. Another step in being confident, and exhibiting that we can get things done on the field. It’d be another tough road win, and we’d love to go get it.”
And from tight end Lance Kendricks, who was drafted in 2011 — or just in time for Steve Spagnuolo’s ill-fated 2-14 Rams finale: “It would mean a great deal. I think last year we were only above .500 maybe once or twice. So I think this early in the season, being above .500 is very important for us, especially being a young team.”
Plus, should the Rams escape North Carolina with a victory, their next two contests are at home.
“Yeah, exactly,” Kendricks said. “So we’ve really got to just crank it up for this week, get going early, and hopefully we can make some big plays.”
Six games into this season, it’s next to impossible to get a read on the Rams. They opened the season with two spirited fourth-quarter rallies — one that succeeded (Arizona), and one that didn’t (Atlanta).
Then came two dispiriting losses (Dallas, San Francisco) that were painfully reminiscent of football follies of past regimes.
And most recently, with a retooled offensive philosophy and a newfound penchant for takeaways by the defense (and special teams), the Rams posted convincing victories over Jacksonville (34-20) and Houston (38-13).
“I hope that they continue,” Fisher said when asked if defensive scores were contagious. “Two weeks in a row now, but the idea is to get the ball in the end zone. If you get your hands on it, put it in the end zone.”
(That explains why cornerback Janoris Jenkins meandered strangely through the opposite end zone following his fourth-quarter interception of T.J. Yates last week in Houston, and then tried to run it out for a 103-yard touchdown.
“One hundred five, really,” Jenkins corrected. “Coach (Fisher) told me whenever I get my hands on the ball, take it to the end zone. So that’s all I was really thinking.”
That’s the new mentality.
So is muscle-ball on offense; lining up with two or three tight ends and then handing off to bowling ball running back Zac Stacy.
“We saw a clip (Wednesday) in a team meeting of Zac running over (Brian) Cushing, and him running over Ed Reed, and I think that just gets everyone fired up,” Rams quarterback Sam Bradford said. “Gives us kind of a spark to go out there this week and do it again because it’s fun. I think guys feed off that.
“The guys up front feed off that when they know that Zac’s running that hard. And then even the guys out wide (the receivers), I think they buy into the run game. You can’t take that for granted.”
The Rams can’t take anything for granted against a 2-3 Carolina club that like the Rams is hard to figure from week to week. The Panthers have registered a couple of blowout wins, albeit against teams that are a combined 1-10, defeating Minnesota and the New York Giants by a composite score of 73-10.
They gave Seattle all it wanted in a 12-7 loss on opening day; let one get away in Week 2 against a so-so Buffalo team, losing 24-23; and played their worst game of the season in a 22-6 setback at Arizona.
An optimist might say the Panthers are a couple of plays away from being 4-1. A realist might say they’re the epitome of mediocrity.
“The Carolina Panthers are a tough football team,” Long said. “Somebody pointed out their record was 2-3 to me, but you don’t know that when you watch film of them. They’re a physical ballclub with a lot of weapons.”
The Panthers are ranked second in scoring defense and third in total defense in the NFL. They have allowed only 12 points in the first half all season. On the other side of the football it’s all about quarterback Cam Newton. When he’s on, the Panthers are tough to beat.
“Tremendous athlete, great arm strength, and accuracy and mobility,” Fisher said. “He extends plays when he needs to with his legs. Got a very talented group around him — both tight ends, obviously the running back (DeAngelo Williams) is a good player.
“(Fullback) Mike Tolbert now has been a great addition to them for the power game. You have to defend everything. Our defense is going to be very busy this week.”
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Re: Rams seek milestone victory in Charlotte ..One more point than the Panthers in Sunday’s noon kickoff (St. Louis time) puts the Rams above .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2006.
Please win Today. You have basically been irrelevant in the NFL for years now and I spend every off season with high hopes of new players, new coaches, etc... but typically by week 5 or 6 you are all but eliminated from the playoffs, and I am relegated to focusing on my fantasy football team to have any interest in football. I have sadly lowered my expectations from making a championship run, or even making the playoffs, to "please at least be one of the teams after about week 9 that is somewhere, however low, on the list of teams that are not statistically out of the wild-card race".
This year, it appeared you had let me down yet again, going 1-3. On the brink of yet another season of embarrassment, you did just enough to get me reeled back in by beating an 0-5 team, and then looking legitimate against a decent Houston team to get my hopes back up. You have scratched and clawed your way back to .500, and I can't remember when the last time you were above .500. Feels like even longer than 7 years but if the above says so, I guess I'll believe it.
Without looking too far ahead this season, I have one current ask. Since we are scheduled to play on MNF in one weeks time against Seattle in front of the nation, please beat the Panthers so that I can at least get my popcorn and have that game be meaningful.
Should you not beat Carolina, fall to 3-4 and be playing the 6-1 Seahawks.... somehow that game just loses it's luster. However, if we are 4-3, I can break out my popcorn knowing we'd at least have a CHANCE to go to 5-3, and drop them to 6-2, only one game behind.
At least we'd have a chance to do that. The anticipation that upcoming week would be enough for me to have somewhat enjoyed this season regardless of the overall outcome beyond that, and should we actually win on MNF, well, then it's on!
I'm sure I'll take you back, even if you disappoint me yet again, but I figured I'd put it out there officially.
die hard Rams fan #13288081
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