ST. LOUIS — Missing starting quarterback Sam Bradford, the St. Louis Rams’ offense has suffered.
Kellen Clemens’ best quality might be durability.
“Mondays are a little tougher than they were the first seven weeks of the season, but that’s part of the job,” Clemens said Wednesday.
Clemens is set to make his seventh start as Bradford’s stand-in Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, his most action by far since making eight starts for the Jets in 2007.
Clemens has been banged around plenty and is 6-12 for his career as a starter. But he hasn’t missed a snap. The Rams haven’t needed new backup Austin Davis, who was beaten out by Clemens in training camp.
“We got him hit way too many times last week, but every time he got right back up,” offensive tackle Jake Long said. “We apologized to him and he’s like, “It’s fine, let’s go.'”
The Rams were 3-4 with Bradford, recuperating from left knee surgery. They’re 2-4 without the first overall pick of the 2010 draft and have totaled 23 points the last two weeks against a pair of the NFL’s top defenses.
They’re about to see another one with the Saints’ defense ranked sixth overall and tied for second in sacks. New Orleans sacked Cam Newton five times last week.
“They keep getting better,” Clemens said. “They’re good everywhere, and obviously well-coached.”
Clemens was sacked four times last week at Arizona, most notably a blindside hit from Karlos Dansby in the fourth quarter that left him woozy.
After the Rams punted following Dansby’s sack, Clemens passed muster with medical personnel on the sideline.
“Well, if it wouldn’t have been third down it could have maybe been a different deal,” Clemens said. “Opportunities to play don’t come along very often, so I’m going to be out there every chance I can.”
Clemens was sacked three times the previous week at San Francisco.
“He can take a hit,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “Unfortunately, he took too many last week, and we’re going to try to minimize it as best we can.”
Clemens and rookie Tavon Austin both had career days in a surprising 38-8 rout at Indianapolis in Week 10 before the Rams’ bye. Clemens had 247 yards passing on just nine completions with two touchdowns and no interceptions, and directed a mistake-free offense in a 42-21 victory over the Bears the next game.
But the last two games, he has been intercepted three times with one touchdown pass. Arizona has the fifth-best defense and the 49ers are ranked 10th.
The Rams figure to need more offense against the Saints (10-3), who have scored 30 or more points five times including a 31-13 victory at home over Carolina last week and can clinch a playoff spot with a victory. Plus, Austin is a bit of a question mark after missing practice Wednesday with a left ankle injury.
St. Louis was eliminated from playoff contention last week and is assured of a 10th straight season without a winning record, but Clemens promises his all on Sunday.
“They pay us to practice, we play for free,” he said. “We’re playing a kids’ game and we love to do it.”