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Notebook 11/21: Rams Prepared for Turnover-Happy Bears Defense

Posted Nov 21, 2013

When scrolling through the league’s defensive rankings in a typical year, it’s not often that you’ll find the Chicago Bears ranked in the bottom half in yardage allowed. Yet that’s where they currently sit, ranked 24th in yards allowed per game.

While the figures may indicate a sea change in defensive production from recent years in Chicago, Rams players and coaches suggest this may be an instance in which the numbers may be fibbing.

“I think that their defense, its ranking right now, it’s not realistic,” Head Coach Jeff Fisher said. “They’re playing much better than what they’re ranked. I think they’re the third-most rushed against defense in the National Football League, so when you go and total up total rushing yards, it doesn’t make sense. They’re missing (LB) Lance (Briggs) but it’s a good defense. They’re solid, they can rush. No one strips the football more than they do.”

True to Fisher’s latter assessment, the area of the Bears’ defense that has not missed a beat has been its ability to create turnovers, as the group enters Sunday ranked fourth in the NFL with 22 takeaways.

Conversely, one of the hallmarks of the Rams’ offense in recent weeks has been its ability to protect the football. The Rams enter this week plus-five in turnover differential, tied for the eighth-best figure in the league. Since taking over under center in Week 7 at Carolina, QB Kellen Clemens has thrown just two interceptions, including none in each of the last two weeks. Clemens’ ability to maintain that trend could prove pivotal on Sunday, a notion that is certainly not lost on the veteran signal-caller.

“The one thing that hasn’t gone away from that Chicago defense is the turnovers that they’re able to generate,” Clemens said. “I think they’re third in the league or something right now with 22 takeaways. That’s still going to give their offense opportunities and it’s something that we can’t give them.”

News and Notes:

-G/T Rodger Saffold continues to increase his familiarity at guard, after starting at the position for the first time in his NFL career against Indianapolis.

“I thought he did a great job, obviously, in the game against Indianapolis,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “I think the bye week certainly helped to get him more comfortable with it, but doing a good job. You talk about a guy with great hip flexibility, the ability to bend and strike people. He’s doing really, really well, so very pleased with where he’s at. Again, the bye week and this week’s been good for him just getting more and more comfortable.”

-After missing Week 10 with a hand injury, TE Lance Kendricks has returned to practice and expects to play this week.

“It’s not an issue blocking,” Fisher said after Wednesday’s practice. “He’s made some catches, so yeah I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

-QB Sam Bradford underwent surgery to repair his torn ACL on Monday. The surgery was performed by Dr. James Andrews at his Pensacola, FL clinic.

Injury Report:

Rams:

G Harvey Dahl (knee), QB Brady Quinn (hip), CB Cortland Finnegan (eye) and RB Chase Reynolds (knee) did not practice Thursday. S Darian Stewart (foot) and S Matt Giordano (thigh) were limited.

Bears:

QB Jay Cutler (ankle), LB Lance Briggs (shoulder) and DT Stephen Paea (toe) did not practice Thursday. CB Isaiah Frey (hand), S Craig Steltz (concussion) and DT Jeremiah Ratliff (groin) were limited. T Jordan Mills (quadriceps), LS Patrick Mannelly (calf) and DE Shea McClellin (hamstring) participated fully on Thursday.