December 15, 2015

The St. Louis Rams are only concerned with winning their final home game of the season. Whether it's their last one ever in the "Gateway to the West" remains to be seen.

With the lingering cloud of relocation growing darker, the Rams look to finish with a winning record at home and further damage the playoff hopes of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night.

While owner Stan Kroenke still hopes to move the franchise to Los Angeles after this season, coach Jeff Fisher continues to publicly downplay the situation.

"It has not crossed my mind," Fisher said. "As I've said to you often times throughout this process, my focus is on this football team and the next game. I'm sure all those things will be addressed once the season's over ... that's not an issue with me.

"Our goal is to get back-to-back home wins in our final game here this year."

The Rams (5-8) are second-to-last in the NFL with an average attendance of 52,560 for a venue that seats 66,000. A total of 51,202 tickets were distributed Sunday, but far fewer people were on hand to witness them snap a five-game skid with the 21-14 victory over Detroit.

The franchise, which moved from L.A. to St. Louis for the 1995 season, could learn its fate as early as next month when league owners meet in Houston on Jan. 12-13.

For the time being, the aim is to build on last week's triumph and finish 5-3 at the dome.

''Players are working hard, they're doing everything we ask of them," Fisher said. ''The wins didn't come but it finally did, so it was rewarding.''

The NFL's 31st-ranked offense averaged 10.8 points and 275.0 yards during the five-game slide, but with Rob Boras replacing the fired Frank Cignetti as offensive coordinator, the Rams totaled 317 yards and rushed for a season-high 203.

''We had prepared all week and (Boras) was on top of it," Fisher said. ''I thought he was in really good rhythm and he was good with situational-type stuff. He's just going to get better at it.''

Especially if rookie Todd Gurley can perform like Sunday when he rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 16 attempts. Gurley, 25 yards shy of joining Eric Dickerson (1983) and Jerome Bettis (1993) as the only 1,000-yard rookie rushers in franchise history, averaged 3.1 per carry while gaining 171 in the previous four weeks. He "banged up" his knee Sunday but is expected to be fine.

Case Keenum was mostly serviceable going 14 of 22 with 124 yards with an interception after missing the last two weeks with a concussion.

The Rams held the Lions to 331 yards after giving up 524 to Arizona the week before and yielding an average of 27.8 points in the previous four games.

St. Louis has allowed an average of 14.3 points and 310.3 yards while beating Tampa Bay (6-7) each of the last three seasons.

In position to move above .500 for the first time since November 2012, the Bucs fell 24-17 at home to New Orleans on Sunday for its second loss in three weeks. Tampa Bay, which last made the playoffs in 2007, is two games behind wild-card holders Seattle and Minnesota in the NFC. A loss Thursday and wins by the Seahawks and Vikings this weekend would eliminate the Bucs from playoff contention.

''I think it's a part of our growth as a football team," coach Lovie Smith said. "The same goals we had are still there. Nothing has been decided, so we're still talking about the same things."

Smith and his team are glad they have a quick turnaround to focus on the task ahead and not wallow in the recent past.

''That's exactly how you want to do it," Smith said. "When you're disappointed you want to make it right, get a chance to come back.

''We've had some disappointments this year. What I've seen from our football team is we have bounced back. So to be able to play that game a little bit earlier, that's a good thing.''

What needs to be better is an offense that recorded 291 yards against a New Orleans defense that yielded a league-worst 425.2 per contest coming into the weekend.

Jameis Winston became the 13th rookie to pass for 3,000 yards and didn't throw an interception but went 18 of 32 and failed to complete 57 percent of his passes for the fifth time in seven games. Second in the NFL with 1,214 rushing yards, Doug Martin averaged 7.4 per carry while gaining 81 but matched a season low with 11 carries.

The Bucs gave up 388 yards to the Saints, allowed them to go 12 of 17 on third down and hold the ball for the final 4:13. They've also forced one turnover in the last three games after failing to do so Sunday.

Tampa Bay increased its NFL-leading penalty total to 125 with eight against the Saints.

''I think we're learning that it takes every little thing to beat teams in the NFL," center Joe Hawley said. "Nobody is easy. They're all getting paid a lot of money, they're all really good players. So you have to bring your best every week.''

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