After raising expectations with a pair of dominant wins over Cleveland and San Francisco that lifted its record to over the .500 mark in November for the first time in several seasons, the St. Louis Rams followed up with a pair of abysmal offensive performances that led to losses to Minnesota and Chicago.
The loss to Chicago was especially disheartening, as it occurred at home and saw St. Louis put up just 285 yards of total offense – most of which came after the Bears had already taken control of the game. The Rams also picked up just 12 first downs, had possession of the ball for only 25 of the game’s 60 minutes, and managed just two field goals in the final 57 minutes after scoring a touchdown on their first possession of the game.
It was without question, St. Louis’ worst offensive performance of the season. It was so bad in fact, that it forced head coach Jeff Fisher to speak about the subject following the game.
“Yeah, I don’t like it,” Fisher said following the game. “I don’t like it. With four minutes to go in the game we had eight first downs. You can’t win games like that.”
And because Fisher didn’t like what he saw last Sunday, when he began his regular Monday press conference at Rams Park, he opened with the announcement that the Rams would be benching starting quarterback Nick Foles in favor of backup Case Keenum. Foles was the club’s big offseason acquisition this past spring, but Fisher felt like a change needed to be made.
“We’ve been over the last, probably say four to five weeks, been looking at the offense and the big picture of our offense and just the production of our offense (and) I’ve decided to go ahead and make a quarterback change,” Fisher said. “I’m going to go ahead and go with Case.
“This is my decision. Nobody came down the hall and said, ‘This is what we need to do.’ This is my decision. As I told the quarterbacks, the lack of production is not Nick’s fault. The lack of production is a collective offensive effort and coaching. But, I need more production and it starts with that position. As I told Case, he doesn’t have a short leash. We’re going to let him play. We’re going to use his legs and let him make some plays. Nick also understands that he eventually will be under center for us again. But, this is my decision based on what I think is best for this team offensively is to go this direction.”
Keenum is a fourth-year pro out of the University of Houston, who in his previous three seasons has started 10 games – all for the Houston Texans, who signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2012. The Rams acquired Keenum in a trade with the Texans this past March.
ST. LOUIS RAMS 2015 FOOTBALL — GAMEDAY PREVIEW
ST. LOUIS RAMS (4-5) at BALTIMORE RAVENS (2-7)
M&T BANK STADIUM — NOVEMBER 22, 2015 – 12 p.m.
Sunday’s contest will be the sixth meeting between the Rams and Ravens, with Baltimore holding a 3-2 all-time edge. The Ravens won the first meeting between the clubs in 1996, then lost the next two, which were both in St. Louis, but have since won the last two, including the last meeting – a 37-7 victory at the Edward Jones Dome in 2011.
ST. LOUIS RAMS
Offense ……………………… Defense
QB – 17 Case Keenum …….. DE – 95 William Hayes
RB – 30 Todd Gurley ……… DT – 99 Aaron Donald
FB – 46 Corey Harkey …… DT – 90 Michael Brockers
LT – 73 Greg Robinson …… DE – 97 Eugene Sims
LG – 71 Garrett Reynolds …. LB – 56 Akeem Ayers
C – 61 Tim Barnes ………… LB – 55 James Laurinaitis
RG – 69 Cody Wichmann… LB – 26 Mark Barron
RT – 64 Andrew Donnal …. CB – 21 Janoris Jenkins
TE – 89 Jared Cook ………. SS – 25 T.J. McDonald
WR – 11 Tavon Austin ……. FS – 23 Rodney McLeod
WR – 18 Kenny Britt …….. CB – 22 Trumaine Johnson
Offense …………………… Defense
QB – 5 Joe Flacco ………… DE – 97 Timmy Jernigan
RB – 29 Justin Forsett ……… NT – 98 Brandon Williams
FB – 44 Kyle Juszczyk ..…. DE – 99 Chris Canty
LT – 60 Eugene Monroe …. LB – 90 Za’Darius Smith
LG – 72 Kelechi Osmele … LB – 57 C.J. Mosley
C – 53 Jeremy Zuttah ……. LB – 51 Daryl Smith
RG – 73 Marshal Yanda …. LB – 91 Courtney Upshaw
RT – 71 Rick Wagner ……. CB – 21 Ladarius Webb
TE – 80 Crockett Gilmore .. SS – 33 Will Hill
WR – 13 Chris Givens …… FS – 23 Kendrick Lewis
WR – 11 Kamar Aiken …… CB – 22 Jimmy Smith
Key Players to Watch
With St. Louis turning to its backup QB this week, that almost certainly means the Rams will also rely heavily on rookie running back Todd Gurley to carry the offense. The Rams seemed to find their traction when they turned over the offense to Gurley several weeks ago, but for some reason, St. Louis has gone away from giving the ball to the rookie the last few weeks.
Expect the Rams to hand it, toss it, and pitch it to Gurley – the league’s fourth-leading rusher – as often as they can even though Baltimore’s defense is ranked 10th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (98.7). Baltimore’s pass defense is ranked 26th overall, but the St. Louis pass offense is the worst in the league (a key reason why Foles is being benched), so it’s unlikely that the Rams will have much success throwing the ball against the Ravens on Sunday.
Ravens outside linebacker and pass rush specialist Elvis Dumervil might have a field day against the Rams patchwork offensive line on Sunday. St. Louis will be without at least two, and possibly as many as four, of its regular starters Sunday, with both its right guard and right tackle both out with leg injuries.
Dumervil leads Baltimore with 4.5 sacks this season, and is coming off a dominant performance last week against Jacksonville, where the 10-year vet out of Louisville had two sacks and six QB hits and hurries against the Jaguars.