Failure to finish still plagues Rams

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher prefers to believe his team has the ability to close out games. It somehow found a way to do it just a week ago against the San Francisco 49ers.

"I believe in these guys and I’m not buying into that business about us not being able to complete a game," Fisher said after Sunday's 31-14 loss. "The record reflects it and statistics reflect it but we’re going to keep doing the things we’re doing because I believe in them."

As the coach of the Rams, that's an understandable approach for Fisher to take but as ESPN colleagues Michael Smith and Jemele Hill would tell you, the numbers never lie. Even if Fisher chooses not to acknowledge them, the Rams' second half and fourth quarter failures are impossible to deny.

Never was that more clear than in Sunday's loss to the Arizona Cardinals. As late as midway through the fourth quarter, the Rams held a 14-10 lead and looked to be on the verge of one of the season's biggest upsets. They'd dominated defensively and made the types of big plays that have often gone against them.

Then Arizona quarterback Drew Stanton hit John Brown for a 48-yard touchdown to give Arizona its first lead. A flurry of three Rams turnovers followed, including two returned for a touchdown. A four-point lead turned into a 17-point final margin going the other way as the Rams fell to 3-6.

The theme of not closing out games has become all too common for the Rams.

"It’s frustrating," linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar said. "It’s something that we haven’t done all season long, something we didn’t for the last two years. Again, it’s frustrating. It needs to change. We need change from everyone, myself included. We have got to step up and play better and make sure we keep everybody together so we can focus on Denver and come out with a win."

While there are three other quarters to get things done, closing out games is clearly something good teams do and bad teams don't. Arizona offers the best example of all.

After Sunday's game, the Cardinals now rank first in the NFL in fourth-quarter scoring margin at plus-57. They also lead the NFL in turnover margin in the fourth quarter, now up to a whopping plus-11.

The Rams, meanwhile, have mostly offered floundering finishes, even in the games they've won. For the season, they are minus-40 in fourth quarter scoring differential and they are minus-five in turnover margin which includes seven giveaways and two takeaways. Of those seven giveaways, five have gone for defensive touchdowns.

St. Louis has outscored an opponent in the fourth quarter in only three games this season. Aside from the Philadelphia game in which the Rams outscored the Eagles by 14 in the fourth quarter, the other two fourth quarter advantages have been plus-3, with those advantages coming in wins against Tampa Bay and San Francisco.

"I think we learned today that this game is four quarters long," Fisher said. "Three doesn’t get it done for you."

Through nine games, the Rams have proved capable of going toe to toe with anyone in the league for 30 or even 45 minutes. But until they can add the other 15, the Rams will continue to get the same results.