ST. LOUIS -- For most of Jeff Fisher's 18-plus seasons as an NFL head coach, his teams have been able to run the football and defend the run. Those characteristic were staples of Fisher's Tennessee Titans teams over the years, which makes the Rams' disastrous two-game stretch against Dallas and San Francisco all the more frustrating.
"Frustrating -- it is," Fisher said Friday. "You know, it is. We've got work to do."
Fisher pointed out that over a five-day period against the Cowboys and the 49ers, the St. Louis defense defended 75 running plays.
"And that (takes) quite an effort, quite a toll," he said. "That's because we either didn't do well enough against the run, or we're not keeping the ball offensively because we're not running it."
Actually, it's 74 rushes by Dallas and San Francisco. And in those 74 rushes, the Cowboys and 49ers gained 412 yards, or 5.6 yards a carry.
As for the Rams' offense, it has gained 53 yards on 31 carries in those two games, for an average of 1.7 yards a carry.
Look no further than those numbers in dissecting the Rams' shocking two-game collapse.
OK, you can add third-down conversion rates, too. Four for 30 for the Rams' offense -- for 13.3 percent. Eleven for 26 -- or 42.3 percent -- for the opposing team's offense.
Those rushing numbers and third-down numbers aren't just a recipe for losing football. They're a guarantee.
"So we've got a lot of work to do as a staff," Fisher said. "We're gonna, fortunately, have some extra time, some extra days to get focused in that area. And that's going to be our focus. In order to win football games and control the clock, convert third downs, we've got to get better running and defending the run.
"So we're gonna fix it as I said (Thursday) night. And we're gonna have to ... adjust our offensive philosophy to I think what's probably better suited for us right now -- and that's to hand it off. And then everything else spins off of that."
You heard it right, despite spending tons of money and draft picks on receiving options such as Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens, Brian Quick, and Jared Cook over the past two offseasons, Fisher wants to go back to his comfort zone. Namely, running the football.
Which is a 180-degree turn from media and fan cries a couple of weeks ago to go more up-tempo and more no-huddle on offense.
In this day and age, if you have a cutting-edge and highly skilled passing game, you don't necessarily have to run the football. The Rams, for example, won Super Bowl XXXIV over Fisher's Tennessee Titans with 29 yards rushing. They got 414 yards passing, however, from Kurt Warner.
But the current state of the Rams' passing game looks anything but cutting-edge or highly skilled. So that's the logic, perhaps, of trying to improve the running game.
Trouble is, the Rams' running game has been even worse than the passing game. It's clear to see that Fisher and the Rams are still looking for answers in the backfield, not only in terms of how they can run more effectively, but also in who's doing the running.
The latest example came Thursday, when former second-round draft pick Isaiah Pead was a surprise pregame inactive against San Francisco. After getting 13 touches Sunday in Dallas, Pead didn't even dress Thursday against the 49ers. How does that happen?
"No particular reason," Fisher said. "We had counted on using Tavon (Austin) out of the backfield much more than we did actually in the game. And that's pretty much where Isaiah -- that was the role that he had last week."
In other words, the Rams wanted to give some of those reps Pead got in Dallas to Austin against San Francisco.
"And then we wanted to see how Daryl (Richardson) was," Fisher continued.
After being limited against Atlanta and Dallas because of a foot injury, Richardson was in better shape health-wise for San Francisco, and so Fisher wanted to give him more of the workload.
"So we'll evaluate the running back situation based on the types of things we come up with from a run-game need," Fisher said. "We're gonna look at it this week, and we'll definitely have a plan in place when we come back."
(The players are off for the next three days, and the team doesn't practice again until Tuesday.)
As for Austin, as things turned out, he didn't get a single carry Thursday. So why was the plan to use him more often in the backfield junked?
"We got behind," Fisher said.
As for Pead, Fisher was asked if he was benched strictly for football issues. Pead has had some off-field issues, and not just the one-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
"Well, he's had a couple moments, yeah, over the last couple of weeks," Fisher said, in a possible reference to showing up late for a team meeting or missing a curfew. "But, I didn't put him down because of that."
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