They have been quick to describe this journey abroad as a business trip, nothing more than another game on the schedule.
The Rams play the New York Giants on Sunday in a NFL International Series matchup that takes them nearly to the season’s midpoint.
On another level, the week spent cloistered in a resort about an hour outside the city is an opportunity for Rams players and coaches to figure out who they are.
Or, more important, who they might become.
A 3-3 team destined for another 7-9 season? Or a team that can figure out a way to win games outside the NFC West and contend for a playoff spot?
Sunday’s defeat by the Detroit Lions, the Rams’ second loss in a row, offered a few encouraging signs, especially on offense. But it also again exposed the Rams as a team unable to put together a complete or near-complete game.
“We just couldn’t make the plays we needed to make on defense,” Coach Jeff Fisher said Monday during a conference call with reporters.
For most of the season, defense carried a team with the NFL’s worst-ranked offense. Fisher did not enjoy being continually reminded of that.
Now he won’t have to.
The Rams generated 387 yards against the Lions and improved from 32nd in the league to 31st with a 301.3 yards-per-game average. They rank 28th in passing at 220.5 yards a game, and 28th in rushing at 80.8.
Not a huge move upward, but progress nonetheless.
“The offense did their job,” Fisher said. “That’s where the focus has been over the last month.”
The defense, with a line depleted or slowed by injuries, struggled the last two games.
Tackle Michael Brockers, sidelined against Buffalo because of a hip injury, left Sunday’s game with what Fisher said was a different issue.
“I don’t think it’s related to the previous one,” he said.
The defense also misses Robert Quinn.
The two-time Pro Bowl end was a one-man wrecking crew in victories over Seattle, Tampa Bay and Arizona before suffering a shoulder injury that sidelined him the last two games. His status for Sunday remains uncertain.
“We aren’t getting to the quarterback,” tackle Aaron Donald said after the Rams sacked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford only once. “It’s a long season. We’ve got room for improvement. We’ll start with us up front on the line.”
The secondary also must find a way to cope without injured cornerback Trumaine Johnson.
The Rams beat Seattle, Tampa Bay and Arizona by creating turnovers, including interceptions. Pressure on the passer from the front seven helped create them but defensive backs need to do their part.
They Rams have no interceptions in the last two games.
Fisher said he apologized to Lions Coach Jim Caldwell after the game in the wake of an aggressive push by the Rams defensive line when Stafford took a knee on the final two plays.
“It was not something that we practiced or that we preached,” Fisher said.
The players, he said, acted on their own because of unspecified “things” that Donald endured during the game.
“If the game’s over, the game’s over, pay respect to your opponent,” Fisher said, adding that there is “all the stuff that goes on inside, up front between the offensive linemen and the defensive linemen. We’ll address it and it’s unlikely that it’ll happen again.”
Rookie receiver Pharoh Cooper was inactive against the Lions because of roster needs caused by injuries in other position groups,” Fisher said. “It’s hard at times when you have injuries to afford yourself to keep up six receivers. I felt like we needed to keep nine defensive linemen up. Therein lies the issue with respect to Coop. It’s not something that he’s done or he hasn’t done…. He had a great week of practice, he’s doing well.” … The Rams have taken Thursdays off this season, but they will be off Tuesday and then practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.