Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fisher Dissects the Miami Loss

by Jim Thomas

Even after watching game film Monday, the Rams' 17-14 defeat in Miami had to be one of those deals in which the head coach scratches his head and wonders out loud: How did we lose this one?
And that kind of loss is tough to take.
"Yeah, it is," Jeff Fisher said. "The numbers — the statistics — reflect a well-played game on both sides of the ball. But you have to be very careful to walk down the hall thinking that things are OK because the statistics were so skewed in our favor."
Boy, were they skewed. The Rams' 462 yards of offense marked their highest single-game output since a 37-31 overtime victory over Washington on Christmas Eve 2006. The Rams piled up 579 yards in that contest.
The Rams' 294 yards in the first half against the Dolphins was the ninth-highest first-half total in the franchise's 75-year history.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Rams allowed only 19 yards rushing to the Dolphins, the lowest total since the move to St. Louis in 1995. Additionally, the 192 total yards allowed tied for eighth-lowest in the franchise's 18 seasons here.
On Monday, Fisher had a distinct idea of how and where things went awry in south Florida.
"When you lose a close game — by a field goal — there's little things that contribute," Fisher said. "And there were some little things. But to me there was also a big thing that contributed to this loss — and that was the second quarter.
"In the second quarter, we had seven penalties, missed two field goals and turned the ball (over) inside our opponent's territory on the 25-yard line."
Plus there was a busted coverage by rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins that resulted in Miami's first touchdown.
"At the end of the day we let things slip in the second quarter, and then we just couldn't make the plays in the second half to regain it," Fisher said. "When you're playing a close game, you don't guess on a route, and that's what happened with 'Jenks.' Sometimes he guesses right, but he thought he saw something, and the guy ran right by him."
The result was a 29-yard touchdown catch by Marlon Moore, giving Miami a 7-6 lead — a lead the Dolphins never relinquished.
"When you put together a great defensive effort you say: How could we have done better?" Fisher said. "Well, that's certainly how you do better. You don't give up a long ball like that. I'm not singling him out per se, but in close games you can't allow those things to happen."
Fisher provided another example on offense — wide receiver Brandon Gibson played one of his best games as a Ram.
"It's hard to find a better catch than that catch in that last drive, and a couple of the other catches that he made," Fisher said. "But he double-catches one and he should get his feet (in bounds), in (Miami) territory. So he's had a great game, but what if we would've made that catch? Would things be different down there?"
Gibson's bobble came inside the Miami 20 and would've given the Rams a first down on their first drive of the game. Instead, they settled for a Greg Zuerlein field goal.
"So there's your definition of how you lose close games," Fisher said. "You have a lot of little things add up."
Even with the Rams' dominance on offense and defense, the loss to Miami also illustrates the importance of special teams play.
That unit had been very consistent in the first five games but was a big liability against Miami. Besides the three missed field goals by Zuerlein, the Rams committed the day's only turnover — on a fumbled kickoff return by Brit Miller.
"You get up in the traffic, put both hands on it and go down," Fisher said. "You see it (happen) that way too often, guys that aren't used to handling balls need to get down."
Jenkins, taking over on punt returns for the injured Danny Amendola, fumbled his first return out of bounds, costing the Rams field position by pinning them back at their 8.
"We got outplayed on special teams," long snapper Jake McQuaide said. "I think that's gonna be pretty evident."
To start the second half, Marcus Thigpen got loose for a 44-yard kickoff return, giving Miami good field position on its second TD drive.
"We had a guy in the wrong position," Fisher said.
And there was one more glaring special teams problem late in the game. On a fourth-and-1 play from the Miami 40 with 3½ minutes to play, the Dolphins lined up in punt formation. But up-back Chris Clemons took the snap and ran 3 yards for a first down.
The Rams eventually got the ball back, but the successful fake allowed the Dolphins to chew up 1½ minutes of time and forced the Rams to burn their second timeout.
"That's on me," Fisher said. "I didn't think that they would do that, or I would've left the defense out there."
Instead of keeping the starting defense on the field, the Rams had their punt return unit on the field for what turned out to be the fake on a successful gamble by Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin.

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