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Rams sticking with Austin Davis at quarterback

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Despite a disastrous fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, Austin Davis will remain as the St. Louis Rams starting quarterback. At least for now.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher addressed Davis' Sunday afternoon struggles with the media early Monday evening and made it clear the Rams don't have immediate plans to go back to veteran Shaun Hill as the starter.

"He didn't have his best half," Fisher said. "He missed some opportunities, he made some bad decisions, had difficulty seeing at times. And over the last couple of weeks he's thrown four interceptions but we're going to hang in there. He's working real hard. So we'll see where it goes."

If that doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement it's because it probably isn't. When Fisher named Davis the starter earlier in the season, he said Davis would get some leeway and not be pulled at the first sign of trouble. But there's little doubt that Davis has tested that patience over the past couple of weeks.

Against the Cardinals, Davis finished 17-of-30 for 216 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for a 62.6 passer rating. One of those interceptions was returned for a touchdown and Davis also coughed up a fumble that was taken back for a score. On the season, Davis has six turnovers that have led directly to points for the opponent, including four pick-sixes.

It's no coincidence that Davis' struggles have been more obvious in recent weeks as the Rams have played better defenses. Seattle, San Francisco and Kansas City all rank in the top seven in the league in yards allowed per game and Arizona is tied for second in takeaways. Those teams also haven't hesitated to dial up the blitz against Davis, bringing an extra pass-rusher a combined 25.9 percent of the time. In those same weeks, Davis has been under pressure on 38.3 percent of his drop backs.

Arizona sacked Davis six times on Sunday with many of those coming in the closing moments after the Cardinals had jumped to a big lead. On the outside, it can often be hard to tell if pressure and sacks are the fault of the quarterback, the offensive line, the receivers or someone else.

While the Rams' issues have been an amalgamation of all those things, Fisher didn't hesitate to acknowledge Davis' need to get the ball out quicker.

"At times, give the defense credit, there is going to be an unblocked rusher," Fisher said. "You have to get rid of the football. The quarterback has got to get rid of the football. He's got to see that. Austin can't take a sack in field goal range. It's a combination. It's the quarterback. We had a couple pass-rush games where we got soft but the ball has to come out."

It's also imperative for the receivers to create separation consistently, which hasn't exactly been a hallmark of the Rams in this or any other recent year. Again, Fisher said there were some chances that didn't materialize because the ball didn't come out on time.

"We had a number of opportunities for significant catch and runs yesterday," Fisher said.

The ability to stare down the pass rush and deliver accurate passes under pressure is, perhaps, the most important trait of an NFL quarterback. It's something Arizona's Carson Palmer did again and again before his knee injury Sunday.

When the Rams released Davis before the 2013 season, it was a move made in part because of his struggles keeping his eyes downfield, going through progressions and getting rid of the ball.

As the quality of opponent has increased, that weakness has bubbled to the surface again.

"I think the thing you have to do is just kind of let it all play itself out," Davis said. "They are putting guys everywhere and moving them from everywhere. The ability to learn from this and get your eyes downfield and not on the rush is something that I’ve got to do."

It's a lesson Davis readily acknowledges but one that's easier to discuss than it is to fix. For at least another week, he'll get his chance.