Jim Caldwell and Jeff Fisher sound like defeated men, and who can blame them?
Caldwell brings his Detroit Lions into St. Louis on Sunday to face Fisher's Rams with both clubs sitting at 4-8 and staring down an offseason during which their jobs could be in jeopardy.
Detroit had a glimmer of hope with a three-game winning streak that followed the firings of team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew and appointment of new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.
But Caldwell couldn't even bring himself to talk about how that run ended. Aaron Rodgers heaved a 61-yard Hail Mary pass that was caught in the end zone to give Green Bay a 27-23 win last Thursday at Ford Field, erasing the Lions' 20-0 second-half lead.
''Some of you will ask me questions about last Thursday,'' Caldwell said Monday. ''I'm not going back there. The fact is that you have to get focused in on St. Louis in a hurry.”
Fisher turned the page that day, too. Sunday's 27-3 loss to Arizona was the Rams' fifth straight after a promising start that had them thinking about their first playoff appearance in four seasons under Fisher.
St. Louis has been outscored 58-10 the last two weeks and ranks last in the NFL with 178.0 passing yards per game and a 24.5 percent conversion rate on third downs. All of that led to Fisher firing offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti and replacing him with Rob Boras, who was a finalist for the job in the offseason.
''All the blame's not to fall on his shoulders, but that's the way this business works,'' Fisher said. “We have to move in a different direction.
''I've looked hard at it over the last couple weeks. We're getting what we want out of them on the practice field and it's not carrying over to the game.''
Nick Foles was benched during a loss to Chicago on Nov. 15 and replaced with Case Keenum the following week against Baltimore, but Keenum suffered a concussion. Foles has played the last two weeks, throwing four interceptions and zero touchdowns for a 47.0 rating.
Foles has thrown for seven touchdowns and 10 picks in 11 starts after being acquired for Sam Bradford in the offseason. Keenum, who went 12 of 26 for 136 yards and a touchdown in his only start, will be back under center this week.
“We've got good players,” Fisher said. “We've got to use them. We need direction moving forward offensively. And we've got to get better quarterback play. We've got to get better play out of all of the position groups.”
Fisher said the commitment remains to the running game, but that hasn't produced much either. St. Louis has gained fewer than 100 yards in each of the last four and rookie Todd Gurley is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry over his last five.
Gurley averaged 6.4 yards per rush and had at least 128 yards in each of his previous four. The Lions are holding opponents to 2.7 yards per carry over their last four, but Detroit knows that Gurley is capable of busting out of his slump at any moment.
“He's such a hard runner,” safety James Ihedigbo said. “And it's not like he runs straight up like (Adrian Peterson) does. He gets his level down and his legs are always turning. (More like) Eric Dickerson, maybe?”
The Rams certainly could use a Dickerson-like performance to help salvage what is left of the season. It's already guaranteed they won't finish above .500 for the 12th straight year and more than likely won't end a playoff drought that began in 2005.
''It doesn't matter if I've been here eight years, it hurts the same for everybody,'' defensive end Chris Long said. ''That's losing in embarrassing fashion five games in a row. The guys in here are not happy, I can guarantee that.''
Detroit at least can say it had been playing well for 3 1/2 games before the collapse against the Packers. Matthew Stafford has completed 68.5 percent of his passes while throwing seven touchdowns and no picks over the last two.
''We can't feel sorry for ourselves,'' wide receiver Golden Tate said. ''What's done is done. Just move forward and continue to grow. That's all we can do.''
- Case Keenum
- Chris Long
- Detroit Lions
- Golden Tate
- James Ihedigbo
- Los Angeles Rams
- Matthew Stafford
- Nick Foles
- Todd Gurley II