Improving Third Down Efficiency Vital Both Offensively and Defensively for Struggling St. Louis Rams

By Anthony Blake
Jeff Fisher St. Louis Rams
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The fact that the St. Louis Rams are the youngest team in the league has been harped on time after time, and while that is beneficial for the future it can also be challenging in the face of adversity. And that is where these young Rams find themselves currently as they are preparing for their biggest rivals on a short week after getting lambasted on back-to-back occasions on the road. So how will the NFL’s youngest group of players respond after such humiliating circumstances under the bright lights of Thursday night?

It remains to be seen just what the Rams can produce under these conditions, but what isn’t so secret is that this will be a defining moment in their 2013 season. In the cutthroat NFC West, this game against the San Francisco 49ers will likely propel the winner to a new lease on life while the loser’s playoff hopes will be left to die. You can tell the team is aware of these ramifications as head coach Jeff Fisher has been anything but cordial to the media leading up to the contest. In response to an inquiry about how the club can bounce back from the beatdown against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3 on a short week, Fisher said:

“You know, we have a philosophy here in the building and we’re gonna follow that philosophy as far as how we go about correcting things on short weeks, on long weeks, on bye weeks, and things like that. And that’s our business, okay? I’ve been doing this a long time and we’re gonna get it done and we’re gonna have their focus on the 49ers.”

Getting the team’s focus in the right place is one thing, but getting their play on the field to produce a different result is another thing entirely. The Rams had a sorry first half of offense in both their Week 2 matchup at the Atlanta Falcons and the aforementioned Week 3 debacle in Dallas. Starting better and actually building some positive momentum will be vital to St. Louis turning around this recent trend and getting off on the right foot against San Francisco.

Quarterback Sam Bradford has been as much to blame for these recent offensive struggles as anyone with the Rams going 0-for-10 on third downs before a pass interference call bought them their first triumph in those circumstances. Converting in those down and distances will be key to giving a defense that has been equally miserable at getting off of the field on third downs a break. Coach Fisher addressed this issue as well saying:

“Really, the key is third down. When you’re playing a good offensive team like we faced (Sunday), and where our offense is struggling, the defense is going to have to get turnovers or get the ball back and we didn’t do that. That really to me is the difference in the game. So that’ll be our focus this week as we get ready for the 49ers.”

Obviously finding more success on third down on both sides of the ball will play a big factor in the game Thursday, but so will confidence. The team’s quarterback gave a very candid reaction to their lackluster showing on Sunday in Dallas as he said:

“You’d like to think that this shouldn’t happen. It wouldn’t happen. You know, maybe this is a good reality check for us. We don’t have to think about this one for too long.”

Whether a quick turnaround will be a beneficial thing or not really is irrelevant at this point. These are the cards the Rams have been dealt, and they will have to find a way to make a decent hand out of what they’ve got. It may seem a bit premature to call this an all-in game for one of the dark horse picks to land an NFC wild card spot, but given that the game is at home, St. Louis must do everything within its power to come away with a win on Thursday night.

Anthony Blake is a Senior Writer/Copy Editor for Rant Sports. You Can Follow Him on Twitter, on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.

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