It doesn’t happen very often three four games into a season, but the Rams already have reached a crossroads in 2013.
Just minutes after absorbing the second-worst defeat of his coaching tenure in St. Louis, Jeff Fisher put Sunday’s 31-7 loss to Dallas in quick perspective.
“This is a defining moment for us right now,” Fisher said. “We’ve got to get past this and get ready for the 49ers.”
Will the Rams wallow in the muck of the debacle in Dallas? Or will they refocus, correct mistakes quickly and get ready for rival San Francisco in a few short days? The 49ers visit the Edward Jones Dome at 7:25 p.m. Thursday in a nationally televised game on the NFL Network.
“Oh, they’ll be fine,” Fisher said Monday when asked how his team will respond. “I’m not concerned about them putting this behind them, moving forward. All you have to do is put on a series here or a series there of our matchup last year in one of the two games against the 49ers and we’ll have their attention.”
RAMS CHAT: JIM THOMAS AT 1 PM
The Rams played the 49ers as tough as anyone did last year in a 24-24 overtime tie in San Francisco last November and a 16-13 overtime triumph in St. Louis three weeks later. That 24-24 tie, by the way, came in the next game after the worst Fisher defeat — a 45-7 spanking against New England. But the Rams had the benefit of a bye week after that game in London.
Fisher grew testy Monday when asked several times about how he’ll get the team ready to compete against the defending NFC champs on a short week after its shoddy play in Dallas.
“You know, we have a philosophy here in the building and we’re gonna follow that philosophy as far as how we go about correcting things on short weeks, on long weeks, on bye weeks, and things like that,” he bristled. “And that’s our business, OK? I’ve been doing this a long time and we’re gonna get it done and we’re gonna have their focus on the 49ers.”
The calendar may have said Monday, but the Rams’ routine was more like a modified Thursday schedule during a normal week. (That is, a week with a game on Sunday.)
That meant the team was on the field for practice Monday, albeit for only about an hour or so. Normally, the Rams don’t practice on Mondays or Tuesdays, giving the players a couple of days to rest and heal after a Sunday game. But there’s no time for that this week — not with a game Thursday.
When Fisher addressed the media at 1 p.m. Monday, he had yet to do anything official with the players — although several players had already showed up at Rams Park on their own.
“We let them rest,” Fisher said. “When they walk in the building, we’re not gonna discuss anything as far as the Cowboys are concerned. I’m gonna start talking about our challenge on Thursday night because it makes no sense to do that.”
So no 24-hour rule this week to mull over a defeat, or bask in the glow of victory. Starting with a team meeting at 2 p.m., it was back to work for the players and it was all about the NFC West rival 49ers.
“This is the National Football League, you can’t dwell on it,” Fisher said, when asked how he could be sure that the team will bounce back. “You have to have a short-term memory. And if you don’t, then you won’t bounce back. This team by and large, despite the fact that it’s young, has a short-term memory and understands the next challenge. And that’s where we’re going.
“So you explain what we haven’t done over the last three weeks, and where we need to get better. ... Here’s what we can do and here’s what we have to do, OK? Just point it out and give them a list of things they need to do to improve.”
No. 1 on that to-do list coming out of Dallas, Fisher said, was third-down efficiency on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, the Rams were a mere one for 13 on third-down conversions Sunday, getting that sole conversion on the last play of the game. For the season, the Rams’ offense ranks 30th in third-down efficiency, converting only 29.3 percent of their third down plays into first downs.
They’re even worse on defense, allowing opponents to convert 50 percent of their third downs, which ranks last in the league. The Cowboys’ offense converted five of 11 third downs Sunday against the Rams. Worse yet, two of Dallas’ four touchdowns came on third down.
“Really, the key is third down,” Fisher said. “When you’re playing a good offensive team like we faced (Sunday), and where our offense is struggling, the defense is going to have to get turnovers or get the ball back and we didn’t do that. That really to me is the difference in the game. ... So that’ll be our focus this week as we get ready for the 49ers.”
Rest assured, the running game, where the Rams rank 29th, will also get some attention this week. So will the run defense after DeMarco Murray left his cleat marks all over coordinator Tim Walton’s unit at AT&T Stadium.