(Eds: With AP Photos.)By R.B. FALLSTROMAP Sports Writer
The core of the St. Louis defense that stood out in a surprising rout over the Colts last week was in place when Jeff Fisher and Les Snead arrived two years ago.
Though the previous regime was a huge failure from a win-loss standpoint, it drafted pass rush stalwarts Robert Quinn and Chris Long, plus perennial leading tackler James Laurinaitis. Some top backups, too.
”Fish, he and Les have done a great job of tailoring the personnel to what they like, and getting people that were the perfect fit,” Quinn said Wednesday after the first of two bye-week practices.
”We’ve had our ups and downs, but every week we’re pretty much in the game, and it starts upstairs.”
Quinn leads the NFC with a career-best 12 sacks, 1 1/2 behind Colts linebacker Robert Mathis for the NFL lead. Last year, he reached double digits for the first time.
”If Rob doesn’t go to the Pro Bowl, they should cancel the Pro Bowl,” Long said. ”If Rob doesn’t go to the Pro Bowl I don’t know what I’m going to do.
”I might boycott the state of Hawaii or something.”
Quinn had two sacks at Indianapolis, stripping Andrew Luck to set up Long’s fumble return for the game’s first touchdown. Long said it was his first touchdown at any level.
”For us to get a bounce like that, it’s really helpful – especially on the road,” said Long, who has 6 1/2 sacks. ”We have the ingredients in this locker room, and if we just put it together like we did, we can be pretty darned good.”
Laurinaitis was typically steady at middle linebacker, with an interception.
The Rams (4-6) totaled four interceptions with three against Luck, matching his total season’s first eight games. The Colts never threatened another comeback effort they’ve been known for, and were held to just 18 yards rushing and 2 for 12 on third down.
The Rams also dominated in a Monday night loss to the Seahawks, allowing only 135 total yards – although 80 of those yards came on the key touchdown.
So, there’s plenty of talent. But heading into the bye week, there have been wild swings.
”Our whole thing has been finishing games,” cornerback Trumaine Johnson said.
In an early three-week stretch, Atlanta, Dallas and San Francisco all put up 30 or more points. The Rams had five sacks in a 25-point rout at Houston in Week 6, and couldn’t hold Carolina down the next week.
A week ago at home, Chris Johnson ran for 150 yards and two touchdowns, including the tie-breaking 19-yard run late in the Titans’ 28-21 win. Tennessee had 198 yards rushing.
”We’ll think we have the perfect game plan and we’ll get out-schemed,” Quinn said. ”It’s nothing to do with the personnel.
”Definitely, we can’t let that happen again.”
Coach Jeff Fisher noted on his radio show that different running styles can complicate the job, but that the Rams need to focus on consistency.
”Yeah, every week’s a challenge,” Fisher said. ”I don’t want 200 yards this week and 1 yard next week and averaging 100 yards a game.”