By Cedric Williams
Every spring when the NFL releases every team’s schedule, almost every team finds a reason to complain about when their bye week is scheduled. Some teams will say it’s too early, other teams will complain that their break comes too late. And still others will complain that their break comes right in the middle of the season, when it’s possible that a week off could interrupt a possible hot streak.
For the St. Louis Rams, there’s little doubt that a Week 6 bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. Not only did the time off last week give the Rams players a chance to recover from a few nagging early-season injuries, it also gave the club a chance to take a clean break after a brutal first five weeks of the season that saw St. Louis face four teams that made the playoffs in 2014.
The Rams are also the only team in the NFC West that has already been through its bye week, which could prove beneficial for the club as it heads down the home stretch of its 2015 season, especially since division leaders and favorites Arizona and Seattle both lost last weekend, allowing St. Louis to not lose any ground despite being the only team in the division to not play a game last week.
“We’ve played five games. They’ve played six,” Fisher told a throng of media members on Tuesday. “So, there’s a lot of games left. A lot of games left.
“Again, it’s early. I mean, (making the playoffs) that’s everybody’s goal, but we just have to have a good week and get ready, do the best we can and see if we can find a way to win this game.”
No looking back, Rams focus is strictly on Cleveland
When the Rams do finally get back to game day, this Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome, they’ll find themselves with an interesting opponent — the 2-4 Cleveland Browns.
The third place team in the AFC North, Cleveland has lost three of its last four games — each by a touchdown or less — while also ranking as one of the best offenses in the league. The Browns are 10th overall in total points scored (141 or 23.5 per game); tied for eighth overall in total yards (2,185 or 364.1 per game); and are eighth in total passing yards (1,634 or 272.3 per game).
“Well it’s one week at a time,” Fisher said. “That’s how we do things. So, our focus in clearly on the Browns right now, who are playing very well. The last three games have been decided or four games have been decided by a touchdown or less. So, they’re playing well.”
Defensively though, the Browns have been dreadful. They rank 30th in total defense (407.3 yards allowed), and while having a respectable pass defense (257.5 pass yards allowed per game), Cleveland will come to town with the worst run defense in the league (149.8 rush yards allowed per game).
Fisher though, said he believes the statistics against Cleveland’s defense have been a bit misleading.
“They’ll be good 19 times out of 20,” Fisher said. “Then, the last, the twentieth attempt will go for 40 (yards). So, that’s how it’s gone against them. So, I mean, I think that’s deceiving.”
This season, opposing backs have done very well against the Browns. New York’s Chris Ivory had 91 yards in the season opener. Tennessee’s Dexter McCluster had 98 yards in Week 2. Oakland’s Latavius Murray had a season-high 139 yards in Week 3, and then Baltimore’s Justin Forsett (121) and Denver’s Ronnie Hillman (111) had back-to-back 100-yard games the last two weeks against Cleveland.
In fact, the only game where an opposing back didn’t have a big day against the Browns was in Week 4, when San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers — the league’s leading passer — threw for 358 yards and three touchdowns in a Chargers win where they only ran the ball 20 times because they were so effective passing the ball.
That little nugget about opposing running backs having big games against the Browns should be especially intriguing to the Rams, with rookie tailback Todd Gurley finally healthy and averaging 155.0 yards per game in his last two games.
“Defensively, they’re ranked 30th as I said, but it’s misleading,” Fisher reiterated. “They’re a very well-coached defense.”
Kickoff at the Dome on Sunday is at noon.
Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a full-time reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the NFL, as well as college and high school sports for the St. Louis American, Patch.com, and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work can be found on Examiner.com.