NFL

Rams punter coming off big day against Bears

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ST. LOUIS (AP)

Donnie Jones will have a tough time topping his last game, even if it was in another losing cause.

The St. Louis Rams' punter pinned the Chicago Bears at their own 7, 2, 2 and 3 in Sunday's 17-9 setback. A case can be made that he was the team's most valuable player that day, with left-footed kicks that helped the defense stuff the Bears after a slow start and give a feeble offense plenty of chances, even if it couldn't capitalize.

``He put the ball in some great spots,'' said Jordan Kent, who downed both punts that had the Bears backed up at the 2. ``He made me look good.''

Jones is sixth in the NFL with a 46.4-yard average, but his net average of 41.4 yards is third-best. He's had a career-best 24 punts downed inside the 20 already, with four games to go.

The Bears attempted to return only three of Jones' seven punts, and ended up with minus-3 yards.

``I think the main thing is it really helps the team and gets the defense fired up,'' Jones said. ``I know when I came off the field a few times they were like 'Keep it up, man, keep it up.'''

Coach Steve Spagnuolo confessed he usually doesn't pay a lot of attention to the punter. But he said Jones' efforts can't be ignored.

``Every day I grow more and more in appreciation for having that particular kind of punter,'' Spagnuolo said. ``It helps you defensively, it helps the whole team.

``I think he's done a terrific job the whole year.''

Jones' big day would have been much bigger had the Rams had more success on offense. St. Louis began seven of its 13 possessions at its own 41 or better but managed only three field goals by Josh Brown.

The Rams are on pace to score only 185 points, the worst for the franchise since 1942 in an 11-game season.

Last year, Jones became the second punter in NFL history to average 50 yards, hitting that number exactly. His career gross average of 45.4 yards is tied for second in NFL history behind Shane Lechler (47.3).

Though he was a second-team All-Pro in 2008, this year may be even better. He's had four more efforts downed inside the 20 and his net average is three-tenths of a yard higher.

There's only a 5-yard difference between his gross and net average, well down from 8.9 yards last year. And only seven punts have landed in the end zone.

``I hate getting touchbacks,'' Jones said. ``That was my thing this year, no touchbacks, being a complete punter.''

Jones' efforts have yet to land him in the Pro Bowl. He confessed to disappointment last year when he wasn't selected.

``You feel you should go and you're not rewarded, it's definitely disheartening,'' Jones said. ``I totally thought last year that I should go.''

The Rams' 1-11 record isn't likely to help his chances this year, either.

``If I'm ever selected, nobody can take away what I've done,'' Jones said. ``All I can do is go out and punt.''

Tagged: Donnie Jones, Rams

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