Rams punter coming off big day against Bears

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.”