ST. LOUIS (AP) — Coming off their bye week, the St. Louis Rams are feeling rejuvenated. Besides the rest, it was a chance to reset goals and home in on areas for improvement.
“Definitely,” wide receiver Kenny Britt said. “Everybody’s focusing and getting back to what we have to do, and to our details so we can go out there and start fast.”
There’s good reason for optimism, too. Though they’re 2-3, the Rams are very much alive in the muddled NFC West, with Arizona the lone team above .500, and both the Cardinals and Seattle coming off losses.
The latter made it an enjoyable weekend for coach Jeff Fisher, plus Seattle and San Francisco played on Thursday night.
“We got some help,” Fisher said.
The schedule seems to provide a breather, too. After going 1-2 in three consecutive games against teams with winning records, the Rams have just three opponents currently with winning records the rest of the way.
They know they’ve got to make some of their own breaks, too, starting this week with Cleveland (2-4).
St. Louis has had a pair of impressive outings, beating the Seahawks in overtime in the opener and handing Arizona its first loss, doing it on the road. Following form in Fisher’s four seasons, the momentum didn’t last and St. Louis lost the following week both times.
In their fourth season under Fisher, the Rams have one three-game winning streak — back in 2012.
“Our challenge is how do we take this thing one week at a time, how do we ignore all the outside stuff about schedules?” middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “As a team we can’t think, ‘Thank goodness we’re past the tough part of it.'”
The Browns have some catching up to do after facing just two teams with winning records in the first six. However, they had the unbeaten Broncos on the ropes last week before losing in overtime.
“We’re 2-4 and we own that,” coach Mike Pettine said. “There is some confidence because we know that we’re close. That’s what makes it all the more frustrating.”
Things to watch for in Browns-Rams:
DEAD LAST: The Browns spent the offseason addressing the league’s worst rushing defense. It hasn’t improved. In fact, it’s gotten worse. They remain No. 32 against the run, giving up 149.8 yards per game — up from 141.6 last season.
The defense has been plagued by schematic breakdowns and poor tackling, allowing opponents to break off long runs and chunk yardage. Rookie Danny Shelton was brought in to help fix the problem, but the No. 12 overall pick hasn’t performed up to expectations. He said adjusting to the pro game has been a major challenge.
“These guys are just more experienced, these guys are quicker, so you’ve got to be able to play up to their level,” he said. “It’s not like in college, where you’re setting the level, it’s an easy job. Every day you’re going up against a guy who’s fighting for a paycheck just like you are.”
ON THE RUN: Rookie Todd Gurley has 305 yards rushing with a 6.2-yard average over the last two games and the Rams figure to keep feeding him in his first home start. “He is as advertised,” Pettine said.
Gurley had 159 yards on 30 carries at Green Bay and likes the work. Good thing, because the Rams could be short-handed at running back, with backup Tre Mason nursing an ankle injury.
“The majority of the time in my past history, once I get the ball more in the fourth quarter I usually get better,” Gurley said. “I’ve just got to keep having good practice habits and finishing my runs.”
BOWE’S DOUGH: Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe has not caught a pass this season, hardly the return Cleveland was looking for when it signed him to a two-year, $12.5 million contact in March. The 31-year-old Bowe has been inactive four times and Pettine indicated the veteran is at the bottom of the depth chart.
“The top four guys are entrenched,” Pettine said, making the $9 million guaranteed Bowe was given by the Browns look like money thrown out owner Jimmy Haslam’s suite window.
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers contributed to this report.
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