Zuerlein's kicking key to victory over Broncos
ST. LOUIS (AP) When the St. Louis Rams needed it most, kicker Greg Zuerlein regained his rookie-season form.
Zuerlein was a career-best 5 for 5 with two field goals of longer than 50 yards last week, providing most of the points in a 22-7 upset over the Denver Broncos and earning NFC special teams player of the week honors.
''You go out to do what you can to help your team, and that's what I'm happiest about,'' Zuerlein said. ''I did my job.''
Zuerlein and Jeff Wilkins (2000) are the only Rams kickers to go 5 for 5 in a game.
Chip shot or long distance, Zuerlein's approach is the same.
''A 55-yarder for him is just a normal kick,'' special teams coach John Fassel said. ''He doesn't have to add anything to it.''
When he connects, the mechanics are so sound the kick is likely to clear the goalposts with yardage to spare. Wherever the offense stalled against the Broncos, the Rams were confident of getting points.
''In pregame warmups he was crushing it,'' Fassel said. ''So you just had to make sure he kind of stayed in that groove.
''He had a kick a quarter, so it kind of kept him going.''
Zuerlein hasn't missed many throughout his career, but the effort that matched his college best at Division II Missouri Western in 2012 came as a bit of a rebound.
In his rookie season, he set a franchise record with seven field goals of at least 50 yards.
This season, he has one missed field goal inside the 40 and has mishit a handful of kickoffs, too, one of which resulted in a kickoff return for touchdown in a loss at Arizona two weeks ago.
''You're going to miss some,'' Zuerlein said. ''Nobody's perfect. But when you do. you have to let it go and try to make sure you're ready for the next kick.''
One got too much big toe, too little instep. Another was a shank.
''All the other ones have been really good hits,'' Fassel said. ''All his warmups have been good, all his practices have been great.
''That's why I'm really happy for him that he had a big day, because it was coming at some point.''
Coach Jeff Fisher said there was no hesitation calling for the field goal unit against Denver, though a lengthy off-target kick would have put Peyton Manning and the Broncos' high-powered offense in good field position. The rationale made sense.
''Say you punt and you get a touchdown and the ball's on the 20,'' Fisher said. ''He's going to be on the 40 in just a few plays, so why not take a shot at the points?''
Fassel thought Zuerlein's 55-yarder would have been good from 66 or 67 yards. The Rams plan accordingly, and let the kicker know when it's fourth down.
''Greg just knows if we get basically across the 50 to be ready,'' Fassel said. ''He's always ready.''
Zuerlein's three field goals accounted for all of the second-half scoring and gave the Rams something to show for Shaun Hill's turnover-free game and 100-yard efforts from Kenny Britt and Tre Mason. It was the breathing room they needed to give them victories over both Super Bowl participants from last season.
Notes: Fisher said there was a chance DE Chris Long (ankle surgery) could play be activated from the injured reserve-designated for return list Sunday at San Diego. Long is in his second week of practice and must return by next week. ''He's getting better each day,'' Fisher said. ... James Laurinaitis (foot) was a full participant and TE Jared Cook (back) was limited, after both were held out Wednesday. ... G Davin Joseph returned to practice after sitting out Wednesday, essentially a day off for healing. Joseph has sheared off his long flowing dreadlocks, mindful of his approaching 31st birthday.
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