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Rams players look to finish what they started when facing Jets

Rams players look to finish what they started when facing Jets
Rams quarterback Case Keenum (17) talks with Coach Jeff Fisher during their game against the Buffalo Bills. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

As the Rams began preparations for the second half of the season, Coach Jeff Fisher delivered a simple message. It was a call to action for a team that has lost four games in a row and is spiraling downward.

It's time, Fisher told players, to "flip the switch."

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The phrase came up repeatedly this week as the Rams readied for Sunday's game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.

The meaning for players varied.

"Gear it up and have a sense of urgency," safety T.J. McDonald said.

"Find a way," middle linebacker Alec Ogletree said, "to finish games."

"Do your job, hold yourself accountable and make some plays," receiver Tavon Austin said.

Sunday's game is a pivotal matchup for a Rams team that is 3-5, in danger of matching last season's five-game losing streak and falling out of playoff contention.

The Rams went 3-1 in the first quarter of the season. They are 0-4 since.

The Rams were in position to rally in the fourth quarter of losses against the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, New York Giants and Carolina Panthers. Each time they fell short.

Receiver Kenny Britt said the Rams are not far from producing victories. But the change, he said, requires more than merely flipping a switch.

"Keep it on," he said. "Tape it up there."

Despite their struggles, the Rams are benefiting from playing in an NFC West division that features no team running away from the pack.

The Seattle Seahawks are 5-2-1, the Arizona Cardinals 3-4-1. The Rams have defeated both.

"No one's out of it," center Tim Barnes said.

The Rams, however, do not have a history of finishing fast.

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In the last 10 seasons, they have finished above .500 in the second half only once and have been 4-4 twice.

To remain in playoff contention the defense must continue to shine.

Save for a subpar performance in the opener on the road against San Francisco and in Week 6 at Detroit, it has made key plays at the end of games or been stout throughout.

Opponents scored only one offensive touchdown in each of the Rams' last two losses.

The Rams are ranked eighth in total defense, ninth against the pass and 11th against the run. Last week against Carolina, they recorded a season-best five sacks.

"They've been doing a great job getting after people," Jets Coach Todd Bowles said.

The Rams' offense, however, remains ineffective and problematic.

Fisher is sticking with quarterback Case Keenum despite fans chanting for rookie quarterback Jared Goff.

Keenum has passed for nine touchdowns, with 11 interceptions. Dropped passes and others that bounced off receivers' hands have ended potential touchdown drives but Keenum also has repeatedly had passes intercepted.

The key to finishing drives?

"Decision-making on my part, where to go with the football – getting the ball in the right place, so I can make better throws when it gets down there – the combination of all of that," Keenum said.

The Rams also remain in search of a running game.

After last week's 13-10 loss to the Panthers, offensive lineman Rodger Saffold said "enough is enough."

Now the Rams and running back Todd Gurley face a Jets defense that ranks fourth in the NFL against the run.

"It's easier said than done," Fisher said of establishing the run. "But we have got to find a way."

The Rams do have one thing going for them: No starters are sidelined because of injuries.

Defensive lineman Michael Brockers and cornerback Trumaine Johnson are among those who returned last week.

"Teams are losing starters all over the league and we're not," Fisher said. "We can get things going, again, starting with this one.

"With a healthy football team, you get a chance to make a move."

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