LA Rams stagger toward finish with 7 losses in 8 games

LOS ANGELES (AP) Jeff Fisher and the Rams are back in a familiar place for the final month of the season, and it isn't Los Angeles.

With seven losses in their last eight games, the Rams (4-8) have clinched their 13th consecutive non-winning regular season. Their 11-year playoff drought seems almost certain to be extended as well, since Los Angeles is tied for 13th in a 16-team conference after its 26-10 loss to New England.

The Rams haven't reached .500 in Fisher's five years in charge, and they finally might have run out of gas in the final weeks of their draining relocation season. After a 3-1 start in LA, they're back at the same record they sported through 12 games in their last season in St. Louis.

The opposition remains tough when NFC South co-leader Atlanta (7-5) arrives at the Coliseum this weekend, but at least the Rams are finally home to begin the friendly portion of a schedule that has kept them away from LA for eight of their first 12 games.

''I fully expect us to finish strong,'' Fisher said Monday night. ''This team is very, very close. It's very close.''

And after a miserable week featuring two hapless losses and including a public spat with Eric Dickerson, Fisher was just grateful to be home.

''We've got some work to do,'' Fisher said. ''We're happy to be back. Three of our next four games are at home and we don't have to leave Pacific Standard Time anymore this year. Our guys are committed. They're going to play hard.''

Fisher realizes the Rams haven't had a positive performance on either side of the ball for three weeks. After blowing a late lead at home against Miami, Los Angeles was routed on the road by the Saints and the Patriots, with its defense carved up by two of the NFL's best quarterbacks.

With their playoff hopes growing dim, Fisher has kept his focus on the Rams' future. The veteran coach finally acknowledged receiving a two-year contract extension Sunday, but Fisher still could be coaching for his job in December, depending on the length and ugliness of the Rams' losing streak.

''We're building this team for the future,'' Fisher said. ''We've made a commitment to our young quarterback, and he's playing now. In my opinion, I think there's a lot of things to be excited about.''

The players welcomed the news of their coach's extension, and Fisher got a congratulatory text from Dick Vermeil, who led the St. Louis Rams past Fisher's Tennessee Titans in the Super Bowl following the 1999 season. But the loss to New England was the 164th of Fisher's long head coaching career, and with one more defeat, he would tie Dan Reeves for the NFL record for coaching losses.

''I actually don't look at that,'' Fisher said. ''I've had a few wins in my career as well. I've also been able to be very, very fortunate and have a long career. You can look at it as, `Is the glass half-full or half-empty?' I look at it as half-full. I'm just honored that I still have an opportunity to coach in this league.''

NOTES: The Rams hope DE Robert Quinn, OG Rodger Saffold, WR Tavon Austin and CB E.J. Gaines can all return from injury against the Falcons. Quinn, Saffold and Austin missed Sunday's game in New England, while Gaines was injured during the game. ''All four of them look good by the end of the week,'' Fisher said. ... Fisher again lamented the Rams' lack of a running game. Todd Gurley failed to rush for 100 yards for the 19th time in his last 20 games, and Los Angeles remains mired at 30th in total rushing offense. Gurley's struggles hamper Goff's development and the defense's toughness, Fisher said. ''We've got to find a way to get Todd going, and then find a way to be more productive on third down,'' Fisher said. ''Our defense has been on the field way, way too long here in the last few weeks.''

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