Rams will try to bounce back against Lions despite struggling offense and depleted defense
They will soon be off to England, a faraway destination that might serve as the locale for a turning point in the Rams’ season.
Next week’s NFL International Series game against the New York Giants outside London ends a 10-day trip that includes a one-week stay abroad.
The hop across the Atlantic will be far more tolerable for the Rams if they can successfully navigate the first leg of their journey by defeating the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Ford Field.
Coach Jeff Fisher and his players said they were not looking ahead.
“Our focus is entirely on the Lions,” Fisher said. “We’re playing a good opponent. In some ways, they kind of resemble us.”
The Rams are 3-2 after last week’s 30-19 defeat by the Buffalo Bills, a loss that ended a three-game winning streak.
The Lions are 2-3 after ending a three-game skid with last week’s 24-23 victory over the previously unbeaten Philadelphia Eagles and rookie quarterback Carson Wentz.
The Rams will try to bounce back, but it could be a challenge: Their offense ranks last in the NFL and the defense is depleted by injuries.
Last week, the defensive line was missing three starters — ends Robert Quinn and William Hayes and tackle Michael Brockers — and the Buffalo Bills took full advantage.
Quinn, Hayes and Brockers are listed as questionable for Sunday, with Brockers perhaps closest to possibly playing.
Cornerback Trumaine Johnson also is sidelined indefinitely because of an ankle sprain suffered during last week’s loss.
That does not bode well for a defense that must contain quarterback Matthew Stafford and receiver Marvin Jones among others.
Last season, they played Detroit less than a week after Fisher fired offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti and made tight ends coach Rob Boras the interim coordinator and play-caller.
With Case Keenum at quarterback, the Rams won, 21-14, ending a five-game losing streak.
“It was a blur, but it was a great win for the organization,” said Boras, who was made permanent coordinator during the off-season. “It was nerve-racking for all of us, but the players found a way and responded and played really well in that game.”
No one played better than running back Todd Gurley.
He rushed for 140 yards — including a 49-yard run — and two touchdowns.
“He got in his groove,” offensive lineman Rodger Saffold said this week. “He knew exactly where he wanted to hit it, and we were able to hold off everybody just enough so he could squeak through.
Saffold added that with receivers blocking downfield, “all Todd needed to do was make one person miss and I mean he was out.”
Gurley has not run for 100 or more yards since.
His longest run this season covered 16 yards and he is averaging only 2.7 yards per carry.
Keenum ranks near the bottom of the NFL in completion percentage and passer rating. He has played mistake-free at times, but Bills cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman intercepted two passes last week, returning one for a touchdown.
With No. 1 draft pick Jared Goff waiting for a chance, and a bye week looming after the Giants game, Keenum needs good performances to hold off an increased call by fans for Fisher to make a move at quarterback before a Nov. 6 game against the Carolina Panthers.
Sunday’s game does not qualify as an early road test for the Rams. They are 2-1 away from the Coliseum, having played horribly in a season-opening shutout loss against the San Francisco 49ers and pulling it together in victories at Tampa Bay and Arizona.
But it is an early test in another sense.
Kickoff is at 1 p.m. EDT, a 10 a.m. game for Rams players’ body clocks.
Keenum does not anticipate problems.
“When the whistle blows, I don’t think anybody will be thinking about how early it is,” he said. “It’ll be football. It’ll be 100 yards and green grass — or I guess turf.”
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