Tough schedule follows tough defeat for Rams

2013-11-05T05:10:00Z 2015-03-10T17:50:08Z Tough schedule follows tough defeat for RamsBy Jim Thomas jthomas@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8197 stltoday.com

Coach Jeff Fisher has no problem with William Hayes’ passion. He just thinks the Rams’ defensive end took it too far after the team’s wrenching 28-21 loss to Tennessee.

Hayes, one of four former Titans on the Rams’ roster, reacted to Sunday’s defeat by smashing a mirror in the locker room. He cut his forearm and needed several stitches to close the wound.

“We talked and settled him down,” Fisher said. “He was OK. Basically, he expressed how everybody felt and it hit him hard. He played very well in the game and he was just disappointed.

“Use better judgment, you know. You don’t need to punch a mirror and risk cutting yourself — and he did. He got a little cut of his arm, but he’s fine.”

Fisher said the topic was addressed to the team Monday.

“The emotion that he felt — not that everybody else didn’t — I think that’s a good thing. But you’ve got to draw the line and make sure you take care of yourself,” Fisher said.

Hayes had a sack and two quarterback hits against his former team. He’s a popular player on the team with a good sense of humor, and obviously cares about the game.

“Yes, he does,” Fisher said. “This game’s important to him, as are his teammates.”

Hayes’ reaction to the loss spoke volumes about the Titans loss, but also about the overall state of the season. At 3-6 overall, and losers of three straight, the Rams must win six of their last seven games to have any chance at a playoff berth. They must go 5-2 to finish 8-8 and avoid their seventh consecutive losing season.

Their ending stretch of seven games isn’t what you’d call a favorable schedule. Four of the final seven contests are on the road, and the composite record of those opponents was 34-22 entering the Monday night game. Only Tampa Bay (0-8) has a losing record among the seven. Seattle (8-1), New Orleans (6-2) and Indianapolis (6-2) are all division leaders. San Francisco (6-2) trails the Seahawks by a game in the NFC West but is one of the leading Super Bowl contenders in the NFC.

Where there’s hope, there’s usually more effort. But it’s hard to be very hopeful looking at the final seven games. Be that as it may, Fisher as usual declined to go “big picture.”

“This is a whole new challenge,” he said. “A really good opponent, outstanding young quarterback, good football team.”

He was talking about this week’s opponent, Andrew Luck and the Colts. The NFL is a week-to-week league, and that’s where Fisher’s focus and his approach to the team remains.

“Today was more about, OK, here’s what happened, why it happened,” Fisher said. “We’ve got one opportunity right now (Indianapolis) before we go on and take a little break (the bye week). So, we encouraged them to take the day off tomorrow. For the guys who need treatment, come on in. Wednesday come back to work.”

Fisher added: “Eleven other teams lost as well yesterday. We weren’t the only one.”

The most surprising thing Fisher said in Monday’s news conference was on the subject of the Rams’ run defense, or lack thereof, against the Titans.

“I don’t believe that was really the difference in the ballgame,” he said. “It was a contributing factor, but I don’t think it was the difference.”

Maybe he was trying to accentuate the positive, or keep spirits up on the defensive side of the ball. But 198 yards allowed is a lot of yards. It’s the second-highest total allowed by the 29th-ranked Rams run defense this season. The previously struggling Chris Johnson piled up 150 yards, making him the fourth opposing running back to gain more than 140 yards against St. Louis this season.

Johnson had 46 carries for 110 yards in the Titans’ previous four games.

“We had a lot of good running stops against a good running football team,” Fisher said. “But obviously, we’ve got to do better. We told (the players) all week that that was going to be their emphasis, it was going to be their attack. They had two weeks to prepare and (Johnson) can run — he can really go.”

The Titans were coming off their bye week, so they were fresher than the Rams, who had a short work week because of their Monday night game against Seattle.

“There’s all kinds of things that happened in the game,” Fisher said. “Their run defense struggled with our run game. ‘Kel’ (Clemens) played better. But to me, the big difference was the missed field goal and the fumble in that game. ... With that being said, it was a close game.”

After making his first 14 field goals of the season, Greg Zuerlein has missed his last two, including a key 50-yarder in the Seattle loss. Both faded to the right and barely missed.

“We’ll keep working on it in practice,” Fisher said. “Up until the last two weeks, he’s been very consistent. The 50-yarder was not rushed or contested and it sailed. So we’ll look at it and maybe put a little more pressure on him on the practice field.”

Follow Jim Thomas on twitter @jthom1

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