NFL Nation: NFC West

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- It was almost one year ago today that the St. Louis Rams contacted Brett Favre to see if he'd be interested in returning to replace injured quarterback Sam Bradford.

When Favre declined via his representatives, the Rams turned back to a familiar face in the form of Austin Davis. Davis, who spent a season and a training camp with the Rams before being released in the final round of 2013 cuts, re-signed with the Rams on Oct. 23 of last year.

Just before the anniversary of Davis' return to the Rams, his name is again tied to Favre, but for quite different reasons.

[+] EnlargeAustin Davis
Michael B. Thomas/Getty ImagesIt's far too early -- and unrealistic -- to compare Austin Davis to Tom Brady or Kurt Warner as backups-turned-starters.
Wednesday morning, Favre told ESPN's Ed Werder that he sees Davis as the next quarterback to rise from obscurity to NFL stardom.

"Austin can definitely play at this level," Favre, the only Southern Miss quarterback other than Davis to start more than one NFL game, told Werder. "Not to sound off my rocker, but [Davis] -- in my mind -- can be the next Tom Brady or Kurt Warner. [Brian] Hoyer, as well.

"Austin, like those mentioned, just needed a legit opportunity."

Since the shooting star that was Warner's three-year run in St. Louis ended in 2003, any time a little-known quarterback has stepped into the Rams' starting job, the hope has existed that the player will somehow morph into the next Warner.

Late-round or undrafted quarterbacks such as Keith Null, Scott Covington, Brock Berlin and a few others have tried their hand and failed only to retreat back into anonymity. Others, such as Marc Bulger and Ryan Fitzpatrick, have developed into starters in the league to varying degrees of success, but none developed into potential Hall of Famers like Warner.

As recently as this preseason, some even went so far as to equate Shaun Hill to Warner after Hill became the starter under circumstances similar to Warner's. That lasted all of one half before a calf injury to Hill gave Davis an opportunity.

But, to the surprise of many, Davis has done enough in his first five starts to give observers pause and consider the possibility that he might have more of a future than the usual third-stringer-turned-starter.

My first reaction to Favre's comments was to answer his rhetorical supposition with a resounding yes: He is indeed off his rocker. To compare Davis to Warner or Brady, two quarterbacks who will end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is simply not realistic. Brady and Warner are legendary aberrations at a position where the failure rate far outpaces the success stories. Brady and Warner aren't just success stories -- they're full-blown outliers.

But before we go too far and offer that Favre has truly lost it, it's important to note that he threw Hoyer's name into the conversation. Hoyer has stepped in and done some good things for the Cleveland Browns this season, but in no way has he flashed anything resembling Brady or Warner. Brady won a Super Bowl after stepping into the starting lineup. Warner did the same and did it while posting video game numbers.

It's also important to note that Favre probably wouldn't mind seeing Davis, who broke most of Favre's passing records at Southern Miss, carry the flag for his alma mater.

As for Davis, he's 2-3 as the Rams' starter, and though he's posted big numbers in some games, his influence hasn't turned his team into an instant winner as Warner and Brady once did.

In five starts plus one half, Davis is completing 66 percent of his passes for 1,517 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions for a passer rating of 94.3 (14th in the NFL) and a QBR of 60.9 (19th). He's alternately flashed promise (leading a comeback win against Tampa Bay and a clutch late drive to seal the victory against Seattle) and struggled with backbreaking mistakes (three of his four interceptions have been returned for touchdowns).

That isn't to say Davis doesn't have some upside. He brings a fiery and enthusiastic approach that his teammates appreciate, and he has an honest way about him that allows him to openly acknowledge his faults and then set about correcting them the following week.

If nothing else, Davis has proved in his handful of starts that he's deserving of at least a No. 2 job in the NFL. Beyond that, there is still plenty for Davis to prove. The opportunity to make the starting job his on a permanent basis lies in front of him. Becoming the next Hoyer is certainly possible, and you could argue he's already outplaying Hoyer. But setting the bar at Warner and Brady is simply asking too much.

The Film Don't Lie: Rams

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
A weekly look at what the St. Louis Rams must fix:

As the Kansas City Chiefs prepare for this week's game against the Rams, you'll have to excuse them if they salivate watching the Rams try to defend running plays outside the tackles. The Rams currently sit 28th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game but a closer look reveals they actually haven't been all that bad when it comes to slowing down the run, so long as it's coming up the middle.

The Chiefs' tape review will reveal a Rams defense capable of slowing top running backs around the league but getting gashed by secondary ball carriers who can do their damage on the perimeter.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is the latest to exploit the Rams on the outside. For the year, the Rams have allowed 48 carries for 391 yards outside the tackles, an average of 8.15 yards per attempt, which ranks last in the league. The Rams have been solid inside, holding opponents to 485 yards on 127 carries, an average of 3.82 yards per attempt, which ranks 10th in the NFL.

Kansas City will put those numbers to the test this week, as the Chiefs rank fourth in the NFL on runs outside the tackles with an average of 5.96 yards per attempt.

One possible solution could be the pending return of cornerback Trumaine Johnson from a knee injury. Johnson is the Rams' biggest and most physical corner and his presence would help set the edge better. Beyond that, the Rams must get more production from linebacker Alec Ogletree, who has disappointed so far in 2014.

Rams keep it clean on way to win

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- For all that goes into every game in the NFL on a weekly basis, there are always a few small things that can be done to greatly influence the outcome.

Those small things -- penalties and turnovers -- become amplified if a team doesn't perform up to par in those areas. The St. Louis Rams know all about the effect of failing in the small details, losing four of their first five games in part because of their continued failings there.

So it was no coincidence Sunday when the Rams pulled out a 28-26 victory against the Seattle Seahawks that they finally found a way not to make the continued critical errors that have cost them games in the first part of the season.

“Well, yeah, as long as we're not hurting ourselves and creating negative field position and things like that, we’re OK," coach Jeff Fisher said.

What the Rams offered Sunday was a surprising victory on many levels, including a closer examination of the details.

The Rams entered Sunday's game 20th in the league in penalties (43) and 28th in penalty yards (425). That trend has plagued them since Fisher's arrival in St. Louis in 2012, as they were the most penalized team in the league over the past two years.

After receiver Brian Quick appeared to throw a punch at Seahawks cornerback Tharold Simon early in Sunday's game to draw a 15-yard penalty deep in Seattle territory, it appeared the Rams were on their way to another sloppy, penalty-plagued performance.

But the Rams found a way to course correct, drawing just one more penalty the rest of the day, and even that was a delay of game penalty the team took on purpose. Seattle, meanwhile, drew costly penalty after costly penalty on its way to 10 flags for 89 yards. The plus-69-yard penalty margin was the Rams' first positive margin of the season and their best margin of the Fisher era in St. Louis.

Beyond that, the Rams did not turn the ball over for the first time in a game this season and did not allow a sack for just the second time in 2014. They even added three sacks of their own on defense and consistently generated pressure on Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

There's nothing fancy about any of those numbers, but they're certainly part of a recipe for success -- a recipe the Rams know they must duplicate if they're going to build on Sunday's win.

“I think that’s how you win games in the NFL," quarterback Austin Davis said. "I think it’s something that we need to watch and figure out how to repeat week to week. The turnovers and the penalties and some of those things have been what’s holding us back. We feel like we’re a good team and keep progressing, but those things have really plagued us. We found a way to play a clean game tonight, and it gave us a chance to win and we ultimately pulled it out.”

ST. LOUIS -- After reviewing the film from last week's loss to the San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams quarterback Austin Davis acknowledged he didn't do a good enough job of taking what the defense gives him.

Heading into Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks, Davis vowed to force the ball down the field less and take advantage of whatever the Seahawks were willing to cede. Late in the Rams' surprising 28-26 victory, Davis had done just that, almost to a fault.

[+] EnlargeAustin Davis
Michael B. Thomas/Getty ImagesQB Austin Davis had a career day on Sunday, leading the 2-4 Rams to a key division win against Seattle.
In the first three quarters, Davis completed 13-of-14 for 77 yards, an average of just 5.9 yards per completion. But as Seattle mounted a late comeback and put itself in position to win the game, Davis suddenly needed to come up big. He hadn't been able to in the past three weeks after leading a late victory in his first start against Tampa Bay. But he found a way to lead an impressive 80-yard drive to give the Rams the winning points.

On that drive, Davis completed 4-of-5 passes for 66 yards and a touchdown to tight end Lance Kendricks. None of those throws were bigger than a 30-yarder to receiver Chris Givens on third-and-6 at Seattle's 44.

"We thought we'd get man-to-man coverage," Davis said. "When they need a play, they trust their guys to cover man-to-man. Chris, with his speed, just ran across the field. I trusted it and obviously, we worked the play all week, and when we needed it, he made a big play. That's how you win games. You've got to make big plays when the game is on the line. You're going to have a chance to go down and win the game at the end or not. Today, we did it.”

Minutes later, Davis offered another big play when he evaded Seattle's pass rush on second-and-12 and somehow shoveled a pass to tight end Jared Cook for a 9-yard gain to put the Rams in position for the fake punt that helped seal the victory.

For the day, Davis was 18-of-21 for 152 yards and two touchdowns for a rating of 128.6. That completion percentage plus punter Johnny Hekker's completion on one attempt left the Rams converting 86.3 percent of their pass attempts, the highest allowed by the Seahawks in franchise history. The quarterback rating is the highest of Davis' young career.

The key to that success? Effectively using the middle of the field. Davis majored in risk management Sunday, throwing his 21 passes an average of just 5.5 yards down the field with 18 of those attempts coming in the middle of the field. That was a logical move considering Seattle is 20th in the league in completion percentage allowed over the middle the past two seasons and star cornerback Richard Sherman usually lurks on the outside.

It also allowed Davis to come up with big plays such as the ones to Givens. He attempted just four passes more than 10 yards down the field Sunday but he completed all of them.

Most important, Davis had no turnovers, eliminating the costly plays that have helped beat the Rams in recent weeks.

"You can't ask for more out of a guy who went from third string to now starting quarterback and playing great ball," defensive end Robert Quinn said. "We've got to be consistent week in and week out and prepare for teams and finish games."
ST. LOUIS -- Backed up to their own 18 with two minutes, 55 seconds to go, the St. Louis Rams were on the verge of watching another big lead and whatever was left of their hopes for the 2014 season slip through their fingers.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had just marched his team 80 yards in 2:18 to trim what was once an 18-point Rams lead to two. The Rams had fourth-and-3 and were in desperate need of a first down. So Rams coach Jeff Fisher did what he had done throughout the day, turning to a creative and effective special-teams unit to win the game by calling a fake punt deep in St. Louis territory.

Punter Johnny Hekker hit running back Benny Cunningham for an 18-yard gain, and the Rams moved the chains and hung on for a wild 28-26 win partially because of Fisher's gutsy play call but more so because of his special-teams unit's repeated ability to execute against Seattle.

"You guys saw the flow of the game. We were having a hard time stopping Russell," Fisher said. "There was too much time left on the clock right there, and I didn’t want to give the ball back to him, and I thought that was our best chance to get a first down."

As it turned out, the Rams' leap to a 2-4 record hinged on the ability of the special teams to do more than get a final first down to ice the victory. There was Cunningham's 75-yard kickoff return to set up the team's first touchdown. There was the creative 90-yard punt return from Stedman Bailey for a touchdown and a 21-3 lead. And, of course, there was the fake punt that required more chutzpah than anything else.

"The last thing you are expecting in a tight situation like that is what we called," linebacker James Laurinaitis said.

Before the Rams even began their final drive, Fisher had his mind made up that if the marker turned to fourth down, he wanted to go for a fake. In the week leading up to the game, special-teams coach John Fassel noticed an opening in Seattle's punt return team where it would leave a single blocker on the outside against the gunner.

In this case, the Rams were looking for Bailey, the gunner, to get a one-on-one opportunity. If he saw what is called a "vice" look (two blockers on one gunner), the Rams were to change the call to send Cunningham the other direction. Sure enough, Bailey was matched up one-on-one. At the snap, Bailey sold the play by taking off downfield as Cunningham came across the formation where Hekker hit him for an 18-yard gain.

Hekker, who grew up playing quarterback in the Seattle area, previously threw a touchdown pass against the Seahawks on a fake field goal in 2012. Cunningham, who had never been in such a situation, had rarely found himself so wide open.

"Make the catch or I’m probably going to be done; this might be my last play in the NFL if I don’t make this catch," Cunningham said. "Either they’re going to cut me or my teammates are going to kill me."

The successful conversion moved the Rams’ win probability from 64 percent to 86 percent. Per ESPN Stats & Information, had the Rams failed to convert, their win probability would have dropped to 35 percent.

That they had such favorable odds in the first place came as a result of the imaginative punt return from Bailey. On a play that the Rams call "Mountaineer" because it prominently involved two former West Virginia players (Bailey and punt returner Tavon Austin), the Rams jumped out to another huge home lead on a play that fooled everyone in the building.

Taking a page from a play Chicago ran successfully against Green Bay on Sept. 25, 2011, only to have it called back for holding, Fassel and the Rams picked up on another cue during the week. In watching film of Seahawks punter Jon Ryan, Fassel noticed that when the Seahawks kick "sky" punts from near midfield with the intent to down the kick near the end zone, the kick usually drifts to the left. In fact, on 14 such chances, Ryan's punts had all landed in approximately the same spot, according to Bailey.

As the ball took off, Bailey ran in the direction of that spot looking for the ball while Austin pretended the ball was headed his way on the opposite side of the field. A handful of Rams blockers went toward Austin to sell it further, taking many Seahawks with them.

Bailey hauled it in over his shoulder, turned up the field and found nothing but open space on his way to a touchdown on the first punt return of his career.

"From watching the tape, I would know exactly where the ball would land," Bailey said. "For me to catch it, it was just my receiver skills and catching the ball over my head. I turned around, secured it and just started running."

In the process, Bailey and the Rams special teams delivered an unexpected win in a most unexpected way.
ST. LOUIS -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the St. Louis Rams' 28-26 victory against the Seattle Seahawks:

Harkey's recovery: There was plenty of confusion about who, exactly, recovered running back Tre Mason's fumble in the final minute of the game. The officials ruled the Rams recovered it, but there wasn't much video evidence to support it. Even coach Jeff Fisher said he was already speaking to defensive coordinator Gregg Williams about what to call on the ensuing defensive series when the officials offered the pleasant surprise declaring it the Rams' ball. But tight end Cory Harkey said he was the one who managed to come out of the dog pile with the ball to preserve the victory. Harkey and offensive lineman Mike Person, who was on the field in the jumbo package, were actually fighting over the ball before realizing they were on the same side.

"We were both fighting for the ball, and I ended up with it," Harkey said. "As long as one of us ended up with it, that's all that mattered."

Saffold's health: Right guard Rodger Saffold suffered a knee injury late in the game and did not return, leaving many to wonder if the oft-injured Saffold would miss extended time again. But Fisher said Saffold could have came back into the game on the final drive, and Saffold told reporters that he'll be ready to go next week against the Kansas City Chiefs.

A clean game: Fisher and the Rams were pleased with what was their cleanest game of the season in terms of some of the self-inflicted mistakes that are common for them. They had just two penalties -- one was a delay of game they took on purpose -- allowed no sacks and had no turnovers.

Rapid Reaction: St. Louis Rams

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19

ST. LOUIS -- A few thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' 28-26 win against the Seattle Seahawks at the Edward Jones Dome:

What it means: The Rams reached deep in their bag of tricks to find a way to finally pull off a game in which they jumped to an early lead. Whether via trickery on special teams, a clutch drive from quarterback Austin Davis or winning a mad scramble for a fumble in the closing moments, the Rams found a way to beat the defending champions and move to 2-4. There's a lot of season left, but this is the kind of win that could at least make things interesting for the Rams moving forward. If they can find a way to build on it.

Stock watch: The Rams' special teams. Entering Sunday's game, the Rams ranked 17th in the league in kick return average (23.42 yards per attempt) and 29th in punt return average (3.91 yards per attempt). In search of a spark, Rams special-teams coach John Fassel pulled out all the stops to get his return units rolling. The Rams took a page from the Chicago Bears circa 2011 and misdirected Seattle and an entire stadium into thinking a first-half punt traveled down the right sideline. Instead, the punt was retrieved by Stedman Bailey on the opposite side of the field where he was essentially all alone as he returned it 90 yards for a stunning touchdown and a 21-3 second-quarter lead. Even with Chris Givens available on the game-day roster, running back Benny Cunningham continued to handle kick return duties and chipped in a 75-yard return to set up the Rams' first touchdown. The Rams finished with 201 return yards. And of course, Fassel and Fisher pressed the button on the fake punt in their own territory to help ice the game.

Mason's time: Asked about the deployment of the Rams' many running backs earlier this week, Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said they would continue to split carries and then go with the hot hand late in the game. Apparently, Schottenheimer & Co. didn't want to wait. After a solid outing last week, rookie Tre Mason continues to emerge as the Rams' best option in the backfield. He handled the bulk of the work, finishing with 85 yards on 18 carries to go with his first career touchdown. The Rams turned over the run game to Zac Stacy in Game 5 last year. One year and one game later, it appears another changing of the guard is in the offing.

Game ball: Defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The Rams' defensive line has earned plenty of criticism for its lack of production in the first five games, but Donald had quietly been one of the few performing consistently. On Sunday, he turned in a dominant performance against the banged-up interior of Seattle's offensive line. He finished with five tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack and two quarterback hits.

What's next: The Rams now begin a difficult three-game road swing in which they head across Missouri to face the Kansas City Chiefs next week.

W2W4: St. Louis Rams

October, 18, 2014
Oct 18
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks kick off Week 6 on Sunday afternoon at the Edward Jones Dome. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET on regional Fox coverage.

Here are three things to watch from the Rams' perspective:

1. Defending the aerial attack: Heading into last week, the Rams were No. 1 in the league in passing defense. Sort of. They were ranked first in the league in passing yards allowed per game. But that number was deceiving because teams simply weren't throwing the ball much in large part because the Rams weren't stopping the run. When opponents did throw the ball, they had plenty of success in terms of completion percentage, passer rating and QBR. The Niners exposed that further on Monday night when Colin Kaepernick threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns. The Rams are now ninth in the league in passing yards per game allowed (222.4) but sit 30th in net yards allowed per passing attempt at 7.89 and last in QBR allowed at 89.1. It's also been well noted that the Rams haven't had success rushing the passer with just one sack in five games, the worst start to a season in NFL history. Seattle, meanwhile, is 31st in the league in passing yards per game at 186. That lack of output enraged wideout Doug Baldwin after last week's loss to Dallas and has the Seahawks searching for answers. The Rams will again be pressed to stop the run against Seattle but they can't continue to give up the big plays in the passing game when Russell Wilson & Co. do take to the air.

2. Sorting out the run game: The Rams were supposed to be a power running team in their own right, an offense built much like Seattle's. But while the Seahawks are second in the league in rushing yards per game, the Rams have foundered at No. 19 in the NFL. There have been some signs of life from the Rams' run game in recent weeks but they have yet to find the consistency they'd hoped. Part of the reason for that is the revolving door in the backfield that has seen Zac Stacy, Benny Cunningham, Trey Watts, Tavon Austin and Tre Mason getting carries. Mason looked sharp in his first outing last week and Stacy has been dealing with some nagging injuries, which could offer Mason more opportunities. Dallas was able to knock Seattle's then top-ranked rush defense down a peg with 162 yards on the ground last week and the Rams ran well against the Seahawks in St. Louis last year. They'll need to allow a back to get into a rhythm and then keep feeding him to offer similar production in this one.

3. Getting to 21: The Seahawks have had the Rams' number for the better part of the past decade. Seattle has won 16 of the past 18 meetings with the Rams, mostly because of a stout defense (and an oft-anemic Rams offense). In the past 14 meetings, the Rams have scored no more than 20 points in any individual game. According to Elias, over the past 30 seasons, only the Dallas Cowboys have kept another team (the New York Giants) to less than 21 points in at least 15 consecutive meetings. That stretch lasted 17 games from 1992-2000. Put simply, that's not the type of company the Rams want to keep. One way or another, they need to find a way to put more points on the board to have a chance to give Seattle its second consecutive loss.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- St. Louis Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins' latest coverage miscue resulting in another long touchdown pass hasn't changed how he's viewed by coach Jeff Fisher.

Two days after Jenkins was beat for a pair of touchdowns in the Rams' 31-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Fisher offered a vote of confidence for his third-year cornerback.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Lloyd
AP Photo/Scott KaneBrandon Lloyd was able to beat Janoris Jenkins for a long touchdown on Monday.
Asked whether Jenkins' boom or bust tendency -- the bust showing up most recently on Brandon Lloyd's 80-yard touchdown past Jenkins just before Monday night's halftime -- makes him a high risk/high reward option, Fisher made it clear he doesn't see it that way.

"I disagree," Fisher said. "He's playing corner, it's the hardest position to play in this league. The great part about him is that he's got a short memory. He doesn't let those things bother him. He doesn't make mistakes on purpose, understands our defense. Like I said he will take responsibility for the play. I think it was more of something that we should have kept him out of. I have no concern with his production and his play at this point."

More than a quarter of the way through his third season, Jenkins has been a starter for the Rams since his arrival in St. Louis. In 36 games, he's offered his share of game-changing plays (his five defensive touchdowns are the most in the NFL in that time) while also surrendering plenty of big plays. Lloyd's 80-yard touchdown catch was the second consecutive "Monday Night Football" game where Jenkins has allowed a touchdown covering that distance after then Seattle wideout Golden Tate beat him for one last year.

At other times in his career, Jenkins has been victimized by Atlanta's Julio Jones, San Francisco's Anquan Boldin, Dallas' Dez Bryant and others for big plays. Taking his cues from Fisher, Jenkins points to the ups and downs as part of playing one of the league's most difficult positions.

"They make plays and we make plays," Jenkins said. "You've just got to put it behind you because everybody is going to make a play. It's just when the play is going to be made and how it's going to be made."

The play against the Niners came at the worst possible time. Just before the end of the first half, Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams called for a basic three-deep zone in which it was Jenkins' responsibility to show that he was in a Cover 2 zone before the snap but then back off (known as bail technique) at the snap to stay deep keeping the receiver in front of him.

Instead, Jenkins got caught starting into the backfield and Lloyd beat him with a double move. That's been a common issue for Jenkins since he arrived in the league with that tendency leading to big plays for him but even more against him.

"It was all on me," Jenkins said. "I take full responsibility as a man. I just know on that particular play, I was doing the wrong thing, I was doing my own thing and it won't happen again."

While Jenkins and Fisher are right that the cornerback position is going to come with its ups and downs, it's not the big touchdowns so much as how they're happening that should be concerning. Jenkins' mistakes have come as a result of the same thing happening over and over. That's not a function of simply getting beat so much as a stubborn refusal to make the changes to minimize risk consistently.

With fellow cornerback Trumaine Johnson set to return from a knee injury soon, the Rams will have to do some reshuffling at cornerback. Based on Fisher's comments, it seems unlikely Jenkins' role will be a part of any adjustments.

"It makes me feel like I have always been feeling, normal, comfortable, just eliminate what I can eliminate and just continue to play," Jenkins said.

Rams vs. Seahawks preview

October, 16, 2014
Oct 16

The St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks are both coming off bitter defeats against top contenders in the NFC in the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys, respectively.

Of course, the Rams are coming off three consecutive defeats and are reeling at 1-4 while the Seahawks sit at 3-2 and facing questions about their ability to defend their championship.

Both teams are in need of a victory and the Rams have been a handful for Seattle in St. Louis recently, splitting their last four meetings at the Edward Jones Dome.

Rams reporter Nick Wagoner and Seahawks reporter Terry Blount discuss this week’s matchup:

Wagoner: Terry, it's not often anybody asks about how the Seahawks are going to rebound after a loss, but that's the situation they're in. Of course, that makes for a tough challenge for the Rams. After that dominant season-opening win against Green Bay, the Seahawks seem like they've been a little up and down. What's the reason for the inconsistency?

Blount: Too many reasons to list here, but it boils down to this: They don’t have the depth they had a year ago. The Seahawks lost 11 players that had a total of 58 years of NFL experience. Entering this season, no one really thought it was a big deal because most of the starters were back and the Seahawks had younger players ready to step in who were seen as having more talent than many of the players who left. It hasn’t turned out that way, at least not yet. They don’t have the pass rush they had a year ago and they don’t have the depth in the secondary to make up for the injuries they’ve suffered.

Nick, you’re probably getting this question every week, but people here in Seattle are wondering what in the world has happened to the Rams’ pass rush? They had 53 sacks a year and only one so far this season. What gives? And how is it Robert Quinn doesn’t have a sack?

Wagoner: I think the Rams are wondering what in the world has happened to their pass rush. There are a number of reasons for it, including the loss of defensive end Chris Long to an ankle injury but that’s far from the only issue. Part of it has been a failure to get home on blitzes. Gregg Williams has long been a fan of dialing up the blitz but many of those attempts this year have been poorly conceived, poorly timed, poorly executed or a combination therein. They’ve also struggled to stop the run, which hasn’t given them many opportunities to rush the passer. In fact, they’ve been thrown against the fewest times of any team in the league.

But the bottom line is, whether the Rams are blitzing or not, they simply aren’t getting the job done. Teams are throwing everything at slowing Quinn and that’s worked and the others haven’t been able to generate push on a consistent basis. They’ve been close at times but this isn’t a game of horseshoes. No points for being close.

It's obviously not to the level of the Rams but the Seahawks' pass rush hasn't produced as expected yet either. Why the drop-off and what can they do to improve in that regard?

Blount: The Seahawks lost three players from last year who accounted for 11.5 sacks and 90 tackles in defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald. No one has stepped up to replace them. Seattle drafted Cassius Marsh of UCLA as a pass-rushing specialist, but he has no sacks and no quarterback hits. Defensive end Cliff Avril hasn’t adapted well to playing more snaps. He had eight sacks and five forced fumbles in 2013. He has one sack and no forced fumbles in the first five games. Defensive end Michael Bennett, with three sacks, is the only player with more than one sack. Other than blitzing more with their outside linebackers, the Seahawks need Marsh to grow up fast and Avril to start playing at last year’s level.

Nick, the nation got a chance to watch quarterback Austin Davis play Monday night, with mixed results, but he’s still pretty much an unknown around here. What kind of a guy is he and how do you think he has played overall under such difficult circumstances?

Wagoner: The Monday night game was Davis' first chance to play a top-tier defense. I had a feeling that would lead to a regression to the mean -- not that I was going out on a limb there -- and that certainly seemed to be the case despite a hot start. The Rams haven’t helped him with their persistent protection issues, either.

All things considered, though, Davis is a tough, smart young quarterback with some athleticism and a fiery approach that his teammates appreciate. His physical skill set will always be a bit limited compared to other quarterbacks and it’s probably wishful thinking for anyone to hope that he can develop into more than a solid long-term backup. But even if he just becomes that, it’s a nice find given he came in as an undrafted rookie.

Much was made of receiver Doug Baldwin's comments after the loss to Dallas. But I assume he wouldn't have made those comments if there weren’t some truth to them. The run game is still rolling but I think many of us expected more steps forward in the passing game. Why hasn't that part of the game taken off and have you seen the progress from Russell Wilson that you expected?

Blount: There’s a lot of truth to Baldwin’s comments about not playing up to their potential, but Baldwin is a factor in that, as well. He hasn’t played as well as everyone hoped he would in moving outside to replace Golden Tate at split end. Things started off great with Percy Harvin healthy and playing full time, but opposing teams have caught on to what the Seahawks are doing with Harvin on hitch passes, bubble screens and the jet sweep. For example, the Cowboys loaded up on the perimeter at the line of scrimmage and shut down Harvin. They practically dared the Seahawks to throw downfield and it worked except for one long pass to Jermaine Kearse in the first quarter. But the last person to blame is Wilson. He single-handedly won the Monday night game against the Redskins and he engineered the 80-yard drive in overtime that beat the Broncos.

Nick, people here on the West Coast have a lot of interest in whether the Rams will leave St. Louis and move back to Los Angeles. The Seahawks would be all for it because it would give them another game in the Pacific Time Zone and an easier trip. What’s happening on all that? Is it just rumors or is there some truth to it?

Wagoner: Deciphering what’s real and what isn’t at this point is an exercise in futility. Rams owner Stan Kroenke isn’t talking about the subject publicly and it’s hard to believe anyone who says he's doing so privately either. I'm of the belief that everything is still on the table. Is Los Angeles a possibility? Until the Rams have something set in stone in St. Louis, I believe the answer is yes. But it’s not like L.A. has its stuff together for a new stadium yet either. There are so many moving parts to the whole thing it’s hard to imagine that a decision has been made. And even if it has, it would require approval from the other owners to get done. We're not there yet. But I do think it’s safe to assume that the speculation and rumors are just getting warmed up as the Rams head toward the expiration of their lease at the Edward Jones Dome following the season.

The Film Don't Lie: Rams

October, 15, 2014
Oct 15
A weekly look at what the Rams must fix:

The Seattle Seahawks haven't had as much success rushing the passer as they expected to open the season. But then, neither had the San Francisco 49ers. If the St. Louis Rams don't get their pass-protection issues solved in this short week, they could be the cure to what ails Seattle's pass rush when they visit St. Louis, just as they were for the Niners.

Entering the Monday night game, the Niners had five sacks and a pressure percentage of 16.5 (last in the NFL) in the first five weeks. Against the Rams, the Niners were able to generate plenty of pressure by doing a little more blitzing than normal and using a plethora of stunts and twists to get after young quarterback Austin Davis.

San Francisco sacked Davis five times and put him under duress 15 more times in the game. When Davis was under pressure, he was 6-of-15 with no touchdowns and an interception with an average of 4.7 yards per attempt. When he had a clean pocket, Davis was 15-of-25 with a touchdown and no interceptions and an average of 6.6 yards per attempt (excluding two spikes to stop the clock).

The Rams' struggles in pass protection aren't solely on the offensive line, though they've had struggles there, too, especially with left tackle Jake Long and center Scott Wells. One way to fix the problem would be to get their 19th-ranked running game some level of consistency to keep defenses off balance. Perhaps more of rookie Tre Mason, who flashed potential against the Niners, would be helpful.
Brandon LloydMichael Thomas/Getty ImagesBrandon Lloyd burned Janoris Jenkins for an 80-yard touchdown right before the end of the first half, the latest in an alarming trend of big plays given up by the Rams' defense.

ST. LOUIS -- As the clock wound down to end the first half Monday night, the St. Louis Rams had plenty to feel good about. All signs pointed to a 14-3 halftime lead, and they appeared to be just 30 minutes away from an upset of the San Francisco 49ers.

But nothing is ever as it seems when it comes to the Rams, at least nothing that looks like it's going to end in a surprisingly positive result. Moments later, San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick hit receiver Brandon Lloyd for an 80-yard touchdown that set the 49ers on a 21-point scoring spree that would lead to a 31-17 San Francisco victory.

It was another backbreaking big play by an opponent in a game in which the Rams started fast and finished painstakingly slow. If it felt like the Week 3 game against Dallas on replay, that's because it pretty much was.

"We have got to play the defenses that are called. I sound like a broken record," linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "We have got to play what we call. We've got to execute the defense. It's definitely not scheme. We have just got to execute. That's all I can really say. The guys know it, but for some reason we are not putting together full games. And until we do it, we are going to get these same results."

With the ball at their 20 and 27 seconds to go in the first half, the 49ers seemed content to go into the locker room trailing by 11 points and start fresh in the third quarter. They hadn't called any timeouts and were in no hurry to stop the clock.

On the Rams' sideline, coach Jeff Fisher pondered calling a timeout in hopes his team could get the ball back and squeeze out more points before the half. A stop on third-and-6 might have given the Rams enough time to steal a field goal.

Fisher opted not to call the timeout, though, and the 49ers opted not to run out the clock. Instead, they called for Lloyd to run a double move down the left sideline in hopes the Rams would yield a big play. The Rams called for a basic zone coverage with the simple idea of keeping the ball in front of the defense.

Well, it was simple in theory but not so much in execution.

"We were just in zone coverage," Laurinaitis said. "I'm not going to throw anybody under the bus, but we had this coverage in specifically for this team, and we have just got to execute it. Know the situation, two-minute [offense]. Heck, they are letting the clock run out. That's the thing that kind of gets under me the most is they were letting the clock run out, not even trying to call timeout or anything. We have just got to execute. Know the situation, back up. If they catch it, make them earn it. We have got to stop with the explosive plays."

Laurinaitis doesn't have to throw anyone under the bus, because anyone watching could tell it was Janoris Jenkins who bit on Lloyd's double move.

Jenkins' propensity for giving up big plays is nothing new. It's not even the first one he's allowed on "Monday Night Football." Seattle's Golden Tate beat him for an 80-yard touchdown pass in 2013 that led to a 14-9 Rams loss.

Now in his third season in the league, one would think Jenkins has matured beyond such mistakes, but the evidence on and off the field would suggest otherwise. Jenkins elected not to speak to the media after the game.

Of course, Jenkins wasn't solely to blame for the play. Seeing as how he has given up his share of big plays, the Rams' coaching staff also should know better than to put him in that situation with no safety help on the back end in the first place.

"It was a double move," Fisher said. "He should stay on top. In retrospect, we should probably not put him in that position. We have to be better than that as coaches and as players."

By this point in the Rams' latest rebuilding process, that's a refrain that has grown all too familiar.

ST. LOUIS -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the St. Louis Rams' 31-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers:

Jenkins keeps it moving: Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was on the wrong end of an 80-yard touchdown pass to 49ers receiver Brandon Lloyd with 14 seconds left in the first half, a play that changed the outlook of the game. But Jenkins declined to explain what happened on the play, departing the locker room before speaking to the media. A Rams media relations staffer attempted to get Jenkins to speak, but those pleas fell on deaf ears.

Davis blames himself: On the complete opposite side of the accountability spectrum, Rams quarterback Austin Davis spoke to the media at length and pinned the blame on himself for the team's loss. The clearly disappointed Davis finished 21-of-42 for 236 yards with a touchdown and an interception in his toughest test as a starter. He wasn't the only player at fault in a game where there was plenty of blame to cast.

Chatting with Long: Rams coach Jeff Fisher spent a couple of minutes speaking to Hall of Fame defensive lineman Howie Long before entering his news conference. Long, of course, is the father of injured Rams defensive end Chris Long.

Rapid Reaction: St. Louis Rams

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13

ST. LOUIS -- A few thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' 31-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at the Edward Jones Dome.

What it means: The broken record that is Rams football over the past decade remains in heavy rotation. Like the Week 3 loss to Dallas, the Rams once again jumped out quickly -- to a 14-0 lead -- only to see the Niners snatch it away with 24 unanswered points. And, once again, the play that changed the game came on a coverage breakdown resulting in an easy touchdown pass. This time it happened to be receiver Brandon Lloyd grabbing an 80-yard touchdown past cornerback Janoris Jenkins just before halftime. It was an inexcusable play both for Jenkins and the coverage scheme. It really sums up the Rams' season to this point. The Rams are who they are, a team that gives up a lot of big plays and doesn't make nearly enough of its own to nullify those mistakes. St. Louis is 1-4 and just getting started on the toughest part of the schedule.

Stock watch: Down -- Cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins is in his third season. He has been a starter in each of those seasons. He has showed signs of growth along the way. But he still continues the awful habit of getting caught staring into the backfield. He has been on the wrong end of plenty of big plays in his three seasons but none worse than Lloyd's touchdown at the end of the first half. Should he have had safety help over the top? Yes. But he should also be far enough along in his career to know that he can do just about anything except let a receiver behind him.

#LackCity: After drafting rookie defensive tackle Aaron Donald in May, some overzealous types projected the Rams to have the "new Fearsome Foursome" playing on the defensive line and the Rams' marketing team went to work on a Twitter campaign referring to St. Louis as #SackCity. Well, the Rams are now five games into the season and have a grand total of one sack. That's not a typo. One sack in the first five games is the worst start to a season in NFL history.

Game ball: The many members of the Greatest Show on Turf who were honored at halftime. Let's just operate under the assumption that many of the players who won a championship 15 years ago would still have performed better than what the Rams offered after the first quarter and a half.

What's next: The Rams now have the pleasure of staying home for a short week of preparation before hosting the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon. After Seattle's loss to Dallas on Sunday, that sounds like a barrel of laughs.

Rams-Niners inactives

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
ST. LOUIS -- As expected, the St. Louis Rams will have the services of running back Zac Stacy and receiver Kenny Britt against the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night.

Stacy (calf) and Britt (knee) each missed a practice during the week but participated in two and were listed as probable for Monday night. They are indeed active and set to play against the Niners.

For San Francisco, tight end Vernon Davis is active.

Here's the complete inactive list for both sides Monday night:

49ers: WR Quinton Patton, CB Tramaine Brock, S L.J. McCray, C Marcus Martin, RT Anthony Davis, DT Quinton Dial, DT Tank Carradine

Rams: WR Chris Givens, QB Case Keenum, CB Trumaine Johnson, CB Brandon McGee, RB Chase Reynolds, OL Barrett Jones, DT Alex Carrington.