ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Rams are in a familiar spot, playing out the string in December and assured of the franchise’s 10th consecutive season without a winning record.
With some of their goals missed, the players will just have to keep pushing.
“We have to finish strong,” defensive end Robert Quinn said after the 30-10 loss at Arizona on Sunday. “You don’t want to look at the next season, you want to finish strong and take it one game at a time.”
Draft-day speculation is heating up about what should be done with the two first-round picks, one of them representing the final payoff from the Robert Griffin III deal with the Redskins.
Maybe 2014 will be the Rams’ breakthrough.
The Rams (5-8) got wins before and after their bye week last month to give them momentum. The past two weeks, they’ve struggled on the road against the Cardinals and 49ers.
Lately, they’ve really seemed to miss Sam Bradford, totaling 23 points with Kellen Clemens running the offense.
The Rams were 7-8-1 last season, almost over the hump under the new regime of coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead.
The loss to Arizona eliminated them from playoff contention. They’ll have to win out to make it to .500 for the first time since 2006, plus they will be underdogs this week against the Saints and in the finale at Seattle.
“We are going to get better,” Fisher said. “Our focus is going on the Saints. That is what we are going to do.”
Penalties were again an issue with 11 for 90 yards last week. They’ve been whistled for 100 penalties overall, third-most in the NFL behind Tampa Bay (106) and Seattle (104).
At San Francisco, they had 11 penalties for 105 yards.
“They’re high, they’ve been up the last two weeks, they’re an issue,” Fisher said. “There’s a number of them that we’ve looked at and discussed it, that shouldn’t have been called, but nonetheless they’re up.”
Fisher’s biggest issue was when officials whistled the play dead on Jim Dray’s lost fumble just shy of the end zone in the second quarter.
Janoris Jenkins scooped up the fumble and was close to midfield before players on both teams began to slow down, and Fisher said Jenkins would have scored a touchdown to put the Rams up 10-7.
Instead, they trailed 13-3 at the half and had to play catch-up. They did a poor job of it, mustering just 88 yards the rest of the way — 56 of them on rookie Tavon Austin’s run to the 4.
“It seemed like we were backed up every time we got the ball,” wide receiver Austin Pettis said.
Nine of the 12 possessions began at the 20 or worse.
The Rams were 3 for 11 on third down and Zac Stacy got stuffed for the first time with 25 yards on 14 carries. Fisher said Monday it wasn’t a case of teams figuring out how to stop the rookie, but rather the Cardinals dominating against the Rams’ line.
Center Tim Barnes made his first career start and guard Harvey Dahl was rusty returning from a four-game absence due to a knee injury.
“We got some yards, but they were tough yards,” Fisher said. “They’re sturdy and it was just hard to get creases.”
Fisher was particularly disappointed in a defense that allowed the Cardinals to go 8 for 14 on third down.
“We’re just not making plays, whether it’s a penalty or it’s a complete pass or it’s a missed tackle,” Fisher said. “Good defense, their third-down efficiency’s usually in the low 30s, and that’s got to be a goal for us.”
Fisher had no update on Austin’s apparent ankle injury at the end of his long run, saying “we did our test and he’ll be day to day this week.”