Rams Mason looks to rebound after losing first fumble
ST. LOUIS (AP) Tre Mason averaged just 2.5 yards per carry last week. A critical lost fumble hurt the most for the St. Louis Rams' rookie running back, and he is looking for a bounce-back game against the New York Giants.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher is confident his young back can return to the form that earned him the starting job.
''He's been productive but as coaches, we tend to remember the things, the problems, you know the fumble thing,'' Fisher said Friday after practice. ''But I mean he's explosive. He's shown he's got that speed to go the distance. He's a highly emotional, energetic back who's been fun to watch.''
Mason, a third-round pick from Auburn, was inactive the first four games of the season. He has started the last six games and leads the Rams with 155 carries and 661 yards.
However, in the 12-6 loss to Arizona, Mason managed just 33 yards on 13 carries. His 2.5 yards per attempt is the fewest Mason has averaged in any game so far this season.
He also lost the first fumble of his professional career, late in the first quarter. Larry Foote recovered it at the St. Louis 27, leading to the first of four field goals for Arizona's Chandler Catanzaro.
''If he was hanging onto it, it wouldn't have come out,'' Fisher said. ''If he held the ball tightly it wouldn't have come out. He didn't see the defender. He was caught off guard.''
Mason did not duck responsibility for putting the ball on the turf.
''I always say there's no excuse, no matter how it happens, how it happens, for a running back to put the ball on the ground,'' Mason said. ''There's no excuse. Like any running back would do, you try to situate the ball. You've got to situate the ball. I saw the hole open and I made a cut without the ball pretty much.
''I'll never give an excuse for a fumble no matter how it happened. That's my job as a running back to hold on to the ball.''
Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer believes Mason is more focused on ball security.
''I think he's a real prideful guy. I think he was disappointed as anybody that it came out,'' Schottenheimer said. ''He's been really, really good. I think he's just excited to go out and bounce back like we all are. We expect him to perform well.''
Mason may have that opportunity against New York. The Giants give up 135 yards rushing a game.
Playing at home, Mason has been at his best. In the Week 13 win over Oakland, Mason scored three touchdowns, including an 89-yard run that is the second-longest in team history. It was also his second 100-yard game when he finished with 117 yards. He also caught the ball for another 47 yards in the game.
Mason gained 113 yards on 29 carries in the Rams' win over Denver in Week 11. Making that performance more impressive is the fact Denver entered the game with the NFL's top-ranked run defense.
Fisher pointed out the Giants run defense statistics are misleading.
''You have to look at average per carry. They've been run on quite a bit,'' Fisher said. ''But keep in mind they play teams in that division that can run the football, namely Dallas. So, those numbers are affected. You have to be careful looking at numbers. It's not going to be easy to run against them.''
Mason is not deterred by Fisher's assessment. But he also knows he has much to learn. To help himself get better, Mason said he is in contact with Rams Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk often.
''I talk to Marshall Faulk a lot, picking his brain,'' Mason said. ''He's one of the greatest so I pick his brain a lot.''
To become a better back, Mason wants to be a combination of Faulk, Bo Jackson, Jamall Lewis and Chris Johnson. He has his sights set on becoming one of the best.
''I want to be the best player ever to touch the football,'' Mason said. ''Not just running backs. I want to be the best player ever.''
NOTES: DE Chris Long (ankle) did not participate Friday but is listed as probable for Sunday's game.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL