Rams going back to Shaun Hill a logical move

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher's endorsement of Austin Davis as his starting quarterback earlier this week could be classified as lukewarm at best.

"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."

Fisher went on to tick off a handful of opportunities Davis missed and mentioned his propensity for holding on to the ball too long. When I wrote about it Monday night, I wrote the following:

"If that doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement it's because it probably isn't."

Of course, nobody could know just how tepid that endorsement was. At least not until Wednesday morning when Fisher informed his team at a meeting that Shaun Hill would be reclaiming the starting job this week against the Denver Broncos.

In the big picture, it probably doesn't matter much who starts at quarterback for the Rams because it's probably too late for them to make a postseason run at 3-6 with Denver and a trip to San Diego up next.

But going back to Hill now makes sense for one primary reason: The Rams' defense is starting to live up to expectations and they can't afford to have a quarterback who gives points away, especially in the fourth quarter.

That's been one of Davis' biggest issues since he became the starter in Week 2. Davis has thrown nine interceptions this season with four of those returned for touchdowns (all in the fourth quarter). He also has coughed up a pair of fumbles that have gone for scores.

Those instant points have prevented the Rams from winning games that were there for the taking with no better example than the most recent against Arizona last week. He threw two interceptions and fumbled once in the fourth quarter of a game the Rams led with less than 10 minutes to go. One interception and the fumble turned a 3-point deficit into a 17-point losing margin.

Since the Rams beat Seattle on Oct. 19, Davis is 45-of-79 for 481 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions for a passer rating of 61.2 and a QBR of 7.3. That isn't to excuse the struggles of the offensive line and others but clearly those numbers aren't good enough to win consistently.

After the loss to Arizona, the always honest and professional Davis pointed to his inability to keep his eyes downfield and go through his progressions as the reason for his recent struggles. It's something he's battled with since entering the league in 2012 and was a primary reason the team released him in 2013.

"I think the thing you have to do is just kind of let it all play itself out," Davis said Sunday. "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."

In turning to Hill, the Rams are going with the veteran hand that was supposed to guide them after losing Sam Bradford in the third preseason game. Were it not for a thigh injury in the season opener and Davis' big performances against some weaker defenses early in the year, Hill probably would have reclaimed the job when he got back from the injury.

"We are moving forward now with a quarterback that for all intents and purposes lost his job because of injury," Fisher said. "You all understand why we went that way because of the production we got earlier out of Austin. The last few weeks were difficult for him. The defenses that he’s faced have been especially good. I don’t want to present anything that appears to be cloudy but this is what’s best for this football team right now."

The hope now is that Hill can be the steady leader for an offense in dire need of a boost. And, if nothing else, manage the games effectively so that the recent yeoman's work of the defense isn't for naught.

Over the past two weeks, the defense has allowed an average of 299 yards per game, including just 54 per game on the ground. And the pass rush has revved up to the levels expected at the beginning of the season with 11 sacks in those two games.

In other words, the defense is playing well enough for the Rams to win. With Hill back in the mix, the Rams are betting he can help the offense play well enough not to lose.