ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Rams find themselves with an opportunity to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2003 and an outside shot of making the playoffs.
If they accomplish either, Sam Bradford and the offense won't be the main reason for the success. The Rams offense is 29th in scoring and the third-year quarterback is ranked 22nd.
There's plenty of blame to go around, from lack of execution to failures on third downs.
"There's a lot of things," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "A couple of weeks ago, we had a bunch of drops. He'd obviously like to have a few throws back during the course of last game. Last game was probably a game where he got a minus grade for some of his throws last week that normally doesn't happen. You can't really put your finger on just one thing."
The inefficiencies have forced the defense and special teams to carry the load for the Rams, especially in the three-game winning streak they take into their game against Minnesota on Sunday. St. Louis has scored just four offensive touchdowns during the stretch and only scored more than 20 points four times this season. That includes a 31-17 victory at Arizona in which the defense scored two touchdowns.
Coach Jeff Fisher said getting more out of his offense is important, but it becomes even more so when facing Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
With an NFL-leading 1,600 yards, Peterson needs to average 134 yards over the last three games to become the seventh player to reach 2,000 yards in one season. The Rams could use some long drives to keep Peterson off the field.
"Obviously we're doing everything we possibly can to try to get the ball into the end zone," Fisher said. "We've played some very good defenses as of late, it's just one of those things. You hope you follow the course of our turnovers to where we went six weeks without a turnover then, all of a sudden, they came in bunches. We're hoping that perhaps touchdowns will come in bunches here soon."
Bradford zeroed in on the Rams' inability to extend drives. St. Louis is fourth-worst in the NFL in converting on third downs. In a 15-12 victory at Buffalo in their last game, the Rams went three-and-out on four of their first five possessions. They had four plays in the other drive.
Only once in the second half did they fail to get a first down on a possession, aside from kneeling on the final play of the game.
"It's something that we seem to look at every week," Bradford said. "I think to convert on third down it takes 11 guys doing their job. There's just a lot of times that we don't have all 11 guys on the same page, and that's what we're working to get."
Buffalo slowed the Rams' running attack in the first half and that changing the approach he wanted to take. But, both players and coaches repeatedly said that the Rams are doing a fine job hurting themselves on offense.
"Again, it comes down to execution. We're not going to change our approach," he said. "We need to tighten some things up. That's kind of been the message this week is to tighten things up from a fundamental standpoint, a technique standpoint."