By Cedric Williams
Three game losing streaks are never any fun in any sport, but it’s probably never any worse than in the world of pro football.
Teams put so much planning and energy and effort into getting ready for just one game, that walking off the field a loser three times in a row is enough to make any coach, player, or front office member question if they’re even doing the right thing.
That’s where the St. Louis Rams were before walking off the field a 34-20 winner Sunday afternoon against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Already the mood of just about every person wearing blue and gold at Rams Park on Monday was better, especially head coach Jeff Fisher, who spoke for about 20 minutes at his usual Monday press conference.
“Looking at tape, I thought there were some good things,” Fisher told a throng of media members seated in the big auditorium at the Rams training facility in Earth City. “Saw more good things on the tape than really saw in person. I saw room for improvement, as is the case in every game. Offensively, no turnovers, no penalties and ran the football for over 140 yards. That’s kind of the winning equation. So, keep that up and then get your turnovers and things defensively, get a chance at least to play and win most games.”
Week 6 for the Rams will mean a trip to Houston for a game against the Texans — a club that lost its third in a row on Sunday, and now finds itself in the same boat St. Louis was in when it woke up Sunday morning.
In fact, Houston is in almost the exact same boat, having lost on Sunday in embarrassing fashion (34-3) to the San Francisco 49ers — the same club that beat up on the Rams two Thursdays ago by the score of 35-11.
The Texans came into the season one of the favored clubs to win the AFC and make the Super Bowl, but these last three weeks have each ended with a worse loss than the one before it, and now some are questioning if Houston is a real playoff contender or just another pretender destined to watch the postseason from home.
Houston on Offense
The Texans have some of the best talent in the league on offense, with quarterback Matt Schaub, tailback Arian Foster, and wide receiver Andre Johnson leading the way.
Even Houston’s secondary players like tight end Owen Daniels and No. 2 receiver DeAndre Hopkins are top flight talents.
But things just haven’t come together for the Texans at all.
And in fact, things have begun to fall apart, especially for Schaub, who set an unenviable record on Sunday by throwing an interception returned for a touchdown for the fourth straight game. That had never happened before in NFL history.
“It’s a broken record right now. It looked the same,” Houston head coach Gary Kubiak said following the 49ers loss. “Hopefully, that’s rock bottom tonight.”
Schaub threw three picks on Sunday and was pulled from the game early in the fourth quarter, in favor of backup QB T.J. Yates, who didn’t fair much better against a Niner defense that forced four turnovers in all.
Foster remains one of the best backs in the league, and would seem a strong candidate for a heavy workload against a Rams defense that was gashed by Dallas’ DeMarco Murray (175 yards) and San Francisco’s Frank Gore (153 yards) in two games before Sunday’s win over the Jaguars.
On Sunday, against perhaps the league’s best run defense, Foster had 98 yards on 21 carries (a 4.7 yards/carry average).
Houston on Defense
The Texans had perhaps the best defense in the league in 2012, led by NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt.
But this season, even though few blame the defense for Sunday’s debacle, Houston’s “D” still gave up 177 rushing yards to the Niners, including 81 for Gore, and a 4.9 yards/carry average as a team.
And in a truly astonishing stat provided by ESPN Stats & Information, San Francisco gained 118 of its rushing yards before any Houston defender had even made contact with any 49er rusher.
Those numbers notwithstanding, other key members on the Houston defense include safety Ed Reed, linebacker Brian Cushing, and cornerback Danieal Manning.
The Rams and Texans have only met two times before, with both clubs winning on the others home field.
St. Louis won a 33-27 overtime thriller in 2005 at Reliant Stadium, and Houston countered with a 16-13 slugfest at the Edward Jones Dome in 2009.
Just as Rams fans felt their team better be able to handle a bad team like Jacksonville at home this past week, Texans fans are saying the same things about St. Louis coming to town this week.
The Texans are reeling, with three straight losses, a coach who seems terribly indecisive at times, and a quarterback that’s thrown pick 6’s in a record four-straight games.
But if this club truly is the AFC contender the experts thought they were before the season, it had better be able to dominate a Rams team that lost three straight of its own, then fell behind in the early going to a Jacksonville team that some are starting to think might not win a game this year.
For the Rams, a win on Sunday would mean they truly have righted their own ship and might be just the kick start St. Louis needs for the playoff run some predicted for them before the season.
For more Rams news and updates, visit Rams Central.
Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a freelance reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the Rams and small-school college sports for Examiner.com and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at email@example.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.