Fisher has been the big difference

  • Updated: December 13, 2012 - 10:48 PM

Rams coach Jeff Fisher

Photo: Uncredited, Associated Press

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Dan Wiederer got inside information on the Vikings' Sunday matchup against the Rams from Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Here are three things you need to know:

1 Under the direction of new coach Jeff Fisher, the Rams sure seem pointed in the right direction.

The Rams are on their first three-game winning streak since 2006; in fact, from 2007 to 2011, the Rams averaged three victories per season.

"It's been hard to remember what it's like in St. Louis," Nelson said. "It's like trying on a pair of old jeans to see if they fit. After six years. Sometimes they don't. But this team has been energized."

Nelson said Fisher's presence has made a big difference, with Rams players responding to his no-nonsense-but-still-approachable manner.

"His biggest impact, I think, has been his ability to gather a coaching staff that has been there, done that and knows how to coach up players," Nelson said. "That was a huge void last year. This was a team looking for leadership and looking for direction. And I don't think the previous coaching staff did a very good job with that. This staff does."

2 Quarterback Sam Bradford has shown encouraging progress to indicate he could be the leader of the St. Louis huddle for a long time.

Bradford's solid rookie season in 2010 was followed by a bit of a stumble last season, when an ankle issue caused him to miss six games and his overall numbers were below average. Plus, the Rams offensive line and receivers just weren't very good. And Bradford never quite got comfortable working under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel.

"It was a bit of a rudderless ship," Nelson said. "I don't think Sam got all the help he could have used and the help that I'm sure he wanted at times."

Bradford has settled in under the tutelage of new coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti.

"Last winter whenever Jeff Fisher was asked why he took this job, answer No. 1 or 2 for him was always, 'I believe strongly in Sam Bradford,' " Nelson said. "That belief is there. And they wouldn't have traded away the No. 2 pick and the chance to draft RG3 if they didn't have that kind of faith in Sam."

3 Even with all the encouraging signs, the Rams still have a way to go.

The past two weeks, the defense has come up with huge final-drive stops to seal victories over the 49ers and Bills, something they were unable to get done at key points earlier in the season.

The Rams secondary is much improved over last year, with veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan -- signed to a five-year, $50 million deal in March -- serving as the leader. But as good as rookie corner Janoris Jenkins has been at times, he can also be mistake-prone. The Rams safeties are just OK in pass coverage.

St. Louis drafted receivers Brian Quick and Chris Givens last April. They also are getting production from Brandon Gibson, now in his third year. But injuries have kept Danny Amendola out of 20 games the past two years.

"So," Nelson said, "how much do you want to bank on him? Overall, they still need that big-time receiver."

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