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Rams' offense takes 'a step,' still has work to do

Todd Gurley ranks 39th out of 45 running backs in yards per carry, and has topped 100 yards rushing just once in his past 11 games. AP Photo/Jason Behnken

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Rams' offense is in no way great, but it is improving. The unit has gone from 185 yards from scrimmage in Week 1 to 283 yards in Week 2 to 320 yards in Week 3. On Sunday, in a 37-32 win against Tampa Bay that made them 2-1 for the first time in 10 years, the Rams not only became the last team to score a touchdown; they scored four on offense.

"It’s a step," Rams quarterback Case Keenum said. "I think each week is. We’re trying to get better. I think for us, it’s not something that we dwell on, not scoring touchdowns. Maybe you guys [the media] probably did a little more than we did; just a little bit. That’s something we came here to do, and we’re all used to doing. Everybody in that meeting room, we’re used to scoring touchdowns. It felt normal, felt right, felt good."

The Rams face a big test at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday, against an Arizona team that has beaten them four of the past five times and will be eager to avenge a lopsided defeat against hapless Buffalo in Week 3. Even in the midst of a surprising 1-2 start, the Cardinals rank within the top 10 in points per game. And the Rams' offense will have to be at its best to keep up.

It'll be up to Keenum, who has played better of late -- 32-of-56 for 429 yards, two touchdowns and an interception -- but still has the worst Total QBR among the 31 qualified quarterbacks. And it will be up to the offensive line, which must do a better job opening up holes for Todd Gurley, who ranks 39th out of 45 running backs in yards per carry.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher has continually said Gurley is "very close" to breaking off big runs.

"The cliché that it’s a game of inches has been around for a long time for a reason," Rams offensive coordinator Rob Boras said. "There’s a lot of those where you can see -- whether it’s a couple inches or a foot, whatever it is -- where it’s potential to being an explosive run. We’re just going to be patient with it, and they’re going to come."

The Cardinals are the team Gurley broke out against last season. It was Week 4, which marked his first NFL start, when Gurley rushed for 146 yards on 19 carries, on his way to an unprecedented four-game stretch to begin his carreer. But those same Cardinals held Gurley to 41 yards on nine carries when they met again in Week 13. And if you go back to his past 11 games, Gurley has gained triple-digit yardage on the ground only once.

The Rams attained more points and more rushing yards in Week 3 than they did in their first two weeks combined, but they have still managed an NFL-worst three trips to the red zone, after getting into the red zone an NFL-worst 36 times last season.

Boras simply called Sunday's win "another step" for his offense.

"I think it was a step in the right direction. There’s a lot of positives that we’re going to try to build on. And just like any time you play a game, there’s a lot of things there that were mistakes or things that we left out there that we know we can do better. It was, again, a step -- probably a bigger step than it was the week before -- and we’re going to continue to get better."

Some additional notes coming out of Wednesday's practice ...

  • The Rams acquired defensive back Marqui Christian off waivers from the Cardinals. To make room on the roster, defensive back Isaiah Johnson was waived. Christian is from Midwestern State and was drafted in the fifth round this year.

  • Receiver Tavon Austin was limited in practice with what the team called a shoulder injury. Cornerback E.J. Gaines was a full participant, as were receivers Pharoh Cooper and Nelson Spruce, a strong indication that all three will debut in Week 3. Defensive end Will Hayes (ankle), cornerback Lamarcus Joyner (toe), and defensive tackle Dominique Easley (illness) were held out.

  • Defensive tackle Aaron Donald on Houston Texans star J.J. Watt, who might not play again this season after re-injuring his back: "It's tough for him. You never want to hear about a guy being injured, missing a season. Definitely not a guy who plays at such a high level as that guy. ... He's a playmaker. Any time a guy is flying around, making plays like that, he's going to be a fun player to watch. Definitely somebody you respect and you tune in to watch."

  • Cardinals coach Bruce Arians called the Rams' defensive line "one of the best" and identified Donald and defensive end Robert Quinn as "two complete game-wreckers." Arians called Alec Ogletree "a perfect "Mike" linebacker for that system, because of his speed. He can hang on the pass, and then still make up for it on the run."