Culver City Observer -

First Place Rams Are Winning New LA Fans

 

October 6, 2016

The Los Angeles Rams' defense got its third consecutive save of the early 2016 NFL season but more impressively may be the impact the team's 3-1 start is having on their new generation of Southern California fans.

The Rams beat the Arizona Cardinals, 17-13, on Sunday afternoon, October 2.

The Rams rallied from behind for the second consecutive game on the road, this time at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. For the third consecutive game their defense prevented the opposing team from scoring on the last drive of the game to remain tied for first place in the NFC West Division.

Ram wide receiver Brian Quick caught a four-yard pass from quarterback Case Keenum with 2:36 left in the fourth quarter for to take the final lead. Tavon Austin set up the winning drive with a 47-yard punt return to the Cardinals' 34-yard.

"It's a different group, it's a young group. The guys that won some close games last year understand there's no sense of panic. You have to keep fighting, and keep working, and the expectation is to find a way to win. The last three all come down to the last play of the game basically," said Head Coach Jeff Fisher at Monday's press conference.

"It would be nice to have one that you can sit down and relax a little bit. But, winning close games is harder to teach a team, than it is the other side of that, which is get up and relax in the fourth quarter. In the National Football League, you can't relax. You never know what's going to happen."

Strong safety T.J. McDonald intercepted a 'Hail Mary' pass in the back of the end zone thrown by Cardinal backup quarterback Drew Stanton from the L.A. 37-yard line on the last play of the game. The Rams also stopped a drive near midfield on Arizona's previous drive with an interception by Mark Barron, his second in two games.

Los Angeles pressured Arizona into five turnovers: three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. They took a 7-0 lead on their second possession with the same combination that won the game but this time Quick caught the short pass from Keenum, split two defenders and raced into the end zone for a 65-yard strike.

Arizona made the score 7-3 on a 25-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro beginning the second quarter. Ram kicker Greg Zuerlein responded with a 29-yard field goal on the next drive. Arizona tied the score, 10-10, with a five-yard pass from starting quarterback Carson Palmer to Michael Floyd 29 seconds before the half.

The Rams' offensive output through the first four games of the season is abysmally near the bottom of the NFL. They rank last in total offensive yards, 30th in points scored, 30th in total passing yards, 30th in total rushing yards, 28th in total scrimmage plays combined with being the fourth most penalized team in the league.

Yet the offense has generated the necessary points to give the Rams their best start since 2006 when the team won four of their first five games before falling off to an 8-8 record by season's end. Yet, the coaching staff's main concern has to be in getting star running back Todd Gurley going, literally and figuratively.

He appeared to be more effective as a receiver against the Cardinals by catching five passes for 49 yards. Rushing, he had 19 carries for 33 yards with no touchdowns one week after showing signs of life against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he rushed for 87 yards on 27 carries and a couple of one-yard two touchdowns.

This season his rushing averaging 2.7 yards per carry and 54 yards per game compared to 4.8 yards per carry and 85 yards per game he ran as a rookie season in 2015. Keenum threw two touchdowns for the second consecutive game while completing 18 of 30 passing attempts for 266 yards and no interceptions.

Fisher: "The line of scrimmage was full of Cardinals yesterday and we knew that, and that's why we made our plays down the field. But we're very close, we're very close and he's (Gurley) healthy, he's feeling good. We just have to, obviously, put a good plan together this week.

"It's nice to be able to turn the page after winning and move on to the next opponent. But before you do so you have to take a hard look at it, and we did. We still have a lot of room for improvement, in at least the two phases, I thought the special teams was outstanding."

Rams Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel at Tuesday's post-practice: "The first four games, I think we've helped... like the Seattle game, there wasn't anything that was spectacular but we gave our team an assist in field position where the drive starts at the 18, the 17, the 12. Last week we had a good punt return that helped the team at the end of the game.

"The Tampa Bay game, we had to go in and punt from the minus-five under two minutes. There have been a few situations where we've had an opportunity to help and I think the guys have stepped up. But we've still looking for the big play, the touchdown or the blocked kick that everybody wants to see. I'm proud of the guys, a lot of young guys, and they're working."

Fisher: "But offensively and defensively, we've got a lot of room for improvement. Too many big plays defensively, struggles when were supposed to run, same thing lack of run game offensively, and then just the inability to go get points when we got around midfield."

Los Angeles now prepares for the second home game of the season in the Los Angeles Coliseum this Sunday against the AFC East Division Buffalo Bills. The Bills are coming off a road shutout victory over the New England Patriots and are 2-2 on the season. Fisher and the Ram coaching staffs' focus was clearly on Rex Ryan's Bills after reviewing footage.

"I'm just a couple hours into it, although, we did look at last week's game. Defensively, they're very, very talented, they'll come from all different directions. They're going to attack your protection. They're going to stop your run. They're going to make the plays down the field.

"Offensively, creative, they had, obviously, the coaching change, but it's built around 'Shady' (running back LeSean McCoy) and the quarterback can extend plays. They're going to miss Sammy (Watkins, wide receiver), but they've got weapons on offense. It's a well-coached team and they play good special teams, as well, they're into special teams... unlike some of the other teams we've faced."

 

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