1 of 3 | The St. Louis Rams take to the field on December 13, 2015. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
As the St. Louis Rams look to finish the 2015 season on a high note and possibly have their first 8-8 season since 2006, the debate is over what it would mean to win the final four games of the season.
Sunday's victory in Seattle was the franchise's first since 2004, and middle linebacker James Laurinaitis thinks that can be a confidence-builder.
He said, "I feel like when the Cardinals won up here a couple years ago, I think that really gave them a belief that they could go anywhere and get a W."
Of course, it becomes meaningless if the Rams lose to 4-11 San Francisco. But head coach Jeff Fisher remains focused on finishing 8-8, given where the team was after losing five straight games.
"I'm not, certainly, by no means satisfied with it," Fisher said. "But, 8-8 is better than 7-9. We're certainly not satisfied with being 8-8, but we don't have any options right now. Probably more importantly, to be able to win four straight, finish the year with four straight wins, would give us momentum into the offseason."
That comment affirmed Fisher's belief that good feelings can carry over to the next season, even when the next game won't be played for eight months.
"Yeah, I think there's something to be said about that. Yeah, we can. It (Seattle) is not an easy place to play. I'll credit our offensive line and the offensive coaches and the game plan and the mechanics and (quarterback) Case (Keenum). We didn't have a false start. We didn't have a sack in one of, if not the toughest places to play. So, I don't think there's many teams that can say they came in and out of here without either one of those two things. We got a sense for what it takes up here."
Asked whether the win over Seattle was the biggest since he's been with the Rams, Fisher said, "No, I mean, it was a top three. I think winning the opener against Seattle starting off this year was a huge win for us and we've had some great wins at home. But, I would say this is probably our best win on the road."
St. Louis Rams head Coach Jeff Fisher watches the Seattle Seahawks
offense. The Rams beat the Seahawks 23-17. Photo by Jim Bryant/UPI
The incremental improvement on the offensive line is one thing that excites Fisher. There was upheaval during the five-game losing streak when the Rams used four different left guards, three right tackles and two right guards.
Since the return of right tackle Rob Havenstein, the line has been stable. While certainly not yet an elite group with several inexperienced players, getting comfortable with each other has yielded positive results.
Said Fisher, "I think it illustrates what happens when you have change up front. When you've got continuity and they're playing well together, you've got a chance to make plays, especially against really good defenses. And we've faced some outstanding defenses. But, when there's change, there's potential for a setback. Then you've got to gain experience together. This group has been playing together now for two or three weeks since Rob came back. (Right guard) Cody (Wichmann) is playing solid football. (Center) Timmy (Barnes), obviously, his two effort plays were outstanding. (Left guard) Garrett (Reynolds) is doing a really good job over there next to (left tackle) Greg (Robinson), and keeping Greg settled down. Yeah, it's a good group. We're not knocking people off the ball like we would like to, like we eventually will be able to. But, we are protecting the passer. We aren't attempting a lot of passes, but when we do we're protecting the passer. We're getting rid of the ball. These guys are doing a good job downfield. They're athletic. They're making the blocks. Our screen game is working. They understand the scheme. They have a good sense for misdirection and the Tavon (Austin) reverses. We just have to keep going and expand on it."
The move to Keenum has produced consistency at quarterback to go with the change at offensive coordinator from Frank Cignetti to Rob Boras.
"It appears after three weeks that those were good decisions," Fisher said. "Guys are really excited right now. I don't remember seeing that kind of energy in the locker room that we saw after a win."
The question will be whether it will be the same Sunday against a team the Rams are expected to beat.
As Laurinaitis said, "Right now, the goal is 8-8, to be honest with you. To get to a point where I've never been - and that's just heck, 8-8, .500. For this organization, this is a big step."
SERIES HISTORY: 132nd regular-season meeting. Series tied, 64-64-3. The Rams tied the series with a victory earlier this season and are seeking their first season sweep of the 49ers since 2004. The Rams have won two consecutive games in the series, and prior to that the 49ers won three straight. The Rams won in San Francisco in 2014, 13-10, and their last win there before last season was in 2007, 13-9.