ST. LOUIS It has become the beast in the basement. It's too large to ignore, too heavy to show the door.
Got a convention hall? The St. Louis Rams could use a place to put their elephant in the room.
There's no other way to say it: The Rams struggle to find the end zone. Touchdowns have been as easy as root canals for this group of late, and the competition won't get lighter.
"We're just focusing on finishing," wide receiver Chris Givens said. "We're not finishing our drives, and that's the biggest thing. We're focusing on that and every aspect of our game. It definitely is frustrating, because we know we're a lot better team than what we've shown."
What they showed in October wasn't much. Since sticking 31 points on the Washington Redskins in Week 2, they have broken the plane almost as often as California votes Republican.
Against the Arizona Cardinals? Two touchdowns.
Against the Miami Dolphins? One.
Against the Green Bay Packers? Two.
Against the New England Patriots? One.
Up next on the docket: The San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at Candlestick Park. Yes, the same 49ers that treat offenses like voodoo dolls. Yes, the same 49ers that rank first in scoring defense (12.9 points per game), second in total defense (271.4 yards per game), second in passing defense (184 ypg) and fifth in rushing defense (87.4 ypg).
"Really when you look at it, we've actually moved the ball to about the 30 (yard line), the 35," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "We've gotten into what we call the 'fringe area,' and then it's just been some poor execution. Certainly, it's been some calls I'd like to have back. Penalties have played a part in it. Mental errors have played a part in it, but the goal in this league is you've got to score points. That's how you're going to win and we're certainly capable of doing that. But again, it takes the unit performing one play at a time and doing their job, all 11 guys."
Similar phrases pop up when Rams players talk about their end-zone amnesia. They say things like they must avoid "self-inflicting wounds" (from running back Steven Jackson) and that they must stop "shooting ourselves in the foot" (from wide receiver Brandon Gibson).
Numbers show the lacerations go deep. Consider: St. Louis averages 1.5 touchdowns per game, tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for second-to-last in the league. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars (1.4) the Jaguars! rank worse.
This slasher film doesn't end there though. Stats are also sobering when you consider red-zone efficiency. The Rams score touchdowns at a 38.89-percent clip when inside the 20-yard line. Only three teams the Chiefs, Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles sputter in the area more often.
"I think all the different positions have taken blame," Jackson said. "All of us have made a mistake here and there. So, we have to (show) that everyone's on the same page. It's not one particular group or one particular thing. I think over the bye week we really focused on it and tried to correct it and hopefully it pays off Sunday."
Thing is, the Rams only need to be average to give themselves a puncher's chance. It's obvious that Fisher could make this into a defense-first outfit for years to come.
Think about the Baltimore Ravens in the early 2000s. Or the New York Jets early under Rex Ryan. You can excel with a defensive focus as long as the offense carries a few buckets of water along the way.
"We've addressed it," Fisher said after practice Thursday, referencing the scoring problems. "Typically speaking, when you emphasize something, you typically get results. We're going to continue to emphasize it until we do. That's what we're doing out here. You can see we spent a lot of time down there."
"Down there" meant the red zone. "Down there" meant trying to find ways to flip 3s to 7s.
A problem that's too large to ignore, too heavy to forget.
You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at email@example.com.