Rams look to improve on slow starts

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Leads have been few and far between this year for the St. Louis Rams.

The reasons for that are plenty but perhaps none are more glaring than the team’s ability to consistently get off to starts that would make a sloth jealous.

Through the first five weeks, the Rams have been one of the slowest starting teams in the league. First quarters have been a veritable house of horrors on both sides of the ball and it’s forced the Rams to play catch up more often than not.

“It’s something we’ve got to get better at,” left tackle Jake Long said. “Starting slow and having three and outs and having bad field position and getting down is something we can’t do. We are just shooting ourselves in the foot and digging ourselves in a hole that we have got to come out of. We have just got to start fast right out of the gate and we’ve been working on that. We’ll get better at it.”

Long is probably right, the Rams will get better at it. Considering some of the numbers, they’d almost have to.

In the first quarter this year, the Rams have scored 10 points, tied for 29th in the league with Carolina and Baltimore and better than only Arizona. The offense has posted 260 yards in the opening quarter, a whopping 52 yards per game. That total is 30th in the league.

For perspective, Philadelphia leads the league in first quarter yards with 660. That’s 400 more than the Rams. That’s essentially a good game’s worth of offensive production.

On defense, things aren’t starting much better. The Rams have given up 34 points, 27th in the league, and allowed 545 yards, 30th in the league, in the first quarter.

The scoring margin of -24 places the Rams second from last in the NFL in that category in the opening frame.

It’s a problem that seems to have no rhyme or reason amongst the players and coaches. Nobody seems to know why they start slow but at least they have some ideas on how to fix it.

That’ll be easier said than done this week against Houston’s defense, of course.

“Just what we’ve been doing,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “We’ve got to run the football to score points, but we’re also very much aware that we’re playing the No. 1 rated defense in the National Football League against the passing game. I don’t think they’ve allowed anybody to throw for 200 yards this year, so we’ve got to be smart and stay balanced and win the one-on-one matchups.”

The good news for the Rams is Houston hasn’t exactly come out on fire in its first five games either.

The Texans have scored 17 points and allowed 31 in first quarters this year, a -14 margin that ranks only above Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, the Rams and Washington.

Houston’s struggles have come as a product of three first-quarter turnovers without a takeaway. It’s a stat that is a source of frustration for the Texans as well.

“The biggest thing is it’s been the total opposite of what we were last year,” Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. “Last year, we played good defense, we protected the ball extremely well throughout the course of the season. Didn’t put ourselves in the situation that we’ve been putting ourselves in; so that’s the biggest concern because that’s not the way we want to play. Well hell, nobody wants to play that way, so just trying to correct it and get some consistency in what we’re doing.”

The team that finds a way to start fast this week will likely be the one that finishes with a win.