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Rams notebook: Stacy earns second start

2013-10-08T01:05:00Z 2013-10-08T06:34:18Z Rams notebook: Stacy earns second startBy Joe Lyons jlyons@post-dispatch.com 636-493-9675 stltoday.com
October 08, 2013 1:05 am  • 

With a solid performance in his first NFL start, Rams rookie Zac Stacy will get his second Sunday when the Rams take on the Texans in Houston.

“I think we’ll probably start this game off the same way we did yesterday,’’ coach Jeff Fisher said Monday.

A fifth-round draft choice in April, Stacy entered Sunday’s 34-20 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars with just one carry this season, a 4-yard gain in the comeback win over Arizona in the season opener.

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On Sunday, the 5-foot-8, 214-pounder rushed 14 times for 78 yards, averaging 5.6 yards a carry.

The 78 rushing yards are the third-highest total by a Rams rookie since the team drafted Steven Jackson back in 2004. Brian Leonard ran for 102 yards against the Arizona Cardinals in 2007 and last year, Daryl Richardson had an 83-yard game against the Washington Redskins.

“Would’ve liked to see him get more carries, but that was the way the game went,” Fisher said. “He was hitting the holes and he had yards after contact — violent yards, as we refer to them at the running back position. He got where he needed to in the passing game and I thought on protection, he was excellent.’’

Defensive numbers

Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis paced the Rams’ defense Sunday with 10 tackles and an interception in the end zone. Rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree had seven while safety Darian Stewart, making his first start of the season, added six.

Ogletree and Stewart combined on a key defensive play that helped the Rams go up for good early in the second quarter. On a short pass from Jacksonville’s Blaine Gabbert to tight end Clay Harbor (Missouri State), Ogletree battled past a pair of blockers to make the tackle as Stewart managed to strip the ball. Following Stewart’s 19-yard return to the Jaguars’ 16, Sam Bradford threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Lance Kendricks for a 17-10 lead.

Chris Long and Michael Brockers had sacks Sunday. Long added three quarterback hits and one pressure. Robert Quinn, who leads the team with five sacks, was held without one but did have three hurries and five hits. On Matt Giordano’s interception, it was pressure from Quinn that forced Gabbert to step up and then air mail the ball over the head of intended receiver Justin Blackmon.

blackmon td catch

The Jaguars took the early lead Sunday when Gabbert took advantage of a coverage breakdown to hit his slot receiver, Blackmon, with a short pass that the second-year receiver turned into a 67-yard touchdown.

It was the first catch of the season for Blackmon, who missed the opening four games while serving a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse program. Blackmon finished the game with five catches for 136 yards.

Fisher credited the Jaguars for putting the ball into play quickly.

“The ball was snapped really quick — the chain crew wasn’t even set up — officials are trying to get in position and they snapped the ball,’’ Fisher said. “In a close game, it could be a difference-maker. We felt like we would be able to overcome it, but we definitely have to learn from it.’’

Following the game, Fisher said the Rams’ coaches were also to blame.

“We tried to get the call in and didn’t get it communicated,’’ he said. “I’d like to see things communicated (better, but Jacksonville’s) a very, very fast-tempo offense. ... The perception is that Philly’s got the fast tempo, but (Jacksonville was) faster than Philly in their preseason game.

“We worked at it all week, and we got caught off guard once.’’

Ram-blings

Fisher credited the improved running game with helping the Rams boost their third-down efficiency. The Rams converted eight of 19 (42 percent) Sunday after struggling on third down in blowout losses at Dallas (one of 13, 8 percent) and to San Francisco (three of 17, 18 percent).

“Disappointed that we got stopped on a third-and-one, but we had third-and-twos and third-and-threes and they’re much easier to convert.’’ the coach said.

• The Rams did a little bit of shuffling at left guard during the game, with starter Chris Williams taking 47 snaps and Shelley Smith getting 26.

“Just trying to get (Smith) some work, that’s all,” Fisher said. “Chris didn’t have any problems.”

• Fisher said the Rams came out of the game relatively healthy and hope to have everyone, with the exception of tackle Rodger Saffold and safety T.J. McDonald, available in Houston.

Joe is a St. Louis Post-Dispatch sportswriter.

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