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Rams not focusing on Texas' QB's latest errors

12:39 PM, Oct 10, 2013   |    comments
Oct 6, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub (8) stands on the sideline during action against the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth quarter at Candlestick Park. The 49ers defeated the Texans 34-3. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
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By Howard Balzer for KSDK Sports

(KSDK Sports) -- There is a vocal school of thought in Houston that quarterback Matt Schaub, victim of four interception returns for touchdowns in as many games, should be sat down for a week or two, maybe longer.

Of course, there is another school of thought that Sunday's game against the Rams might be the elixir Schaub and the Texans need to regain their confidence on offense.

After all, the Rams might be playing without cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who missed Sunday's game against Jacksonville because of a hamstring injury and did not practice Wednesday. Prior to suffering the injury against Dallas, Finnegan wasn't playing particularly well.

In addition, rookie starting safety T.J. McDonald is out with a broken leg. He was replaced by Darian Stewart, who had been ticketed for a starting job until missing a significant amount of time in training camp because of a hamstring injury.

Trumaine Johnson replaced Finnegan, who would usually move to the slot in the nickel defense. With Finnegan out, starting safety Rodney McLeod moved into the slot, and Matt Giordano came in as a nickel safety. Because of a calf injury, Giordano also missed a lot of time in training camp.

Both Giordano and Stewart made big plays against Jacksonville, but there were also big plays against the pass defense by receivers Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts.

Coach Jeff Fisher said there was no hesitation about using McLeod in the slot because of the practice time he got there as a rookie last season.

Said Fisher, "He's our backup. He was our backup last year at that position. He got a lot of snaps in training camp at it. I mean, we're not drawing straws now. He works at it. He knows our defense. He plays three positions in our defense. He's smart and he was fine. He did a nice job."

McLeod told the Post-Dispatch, "We have a lot of different things going on in the secondary right now. But we knew that coming into the week it was next man up. That's all that we stress. Whoever was playing, if a guy couldn't play, the next man was ready. So this past week at practice we just prepared well, for whatever the situation was gonna be.

"It was a lot but the coaches do a good job in preparing me. Just making sure I know where to be on the run fits - that's the biggest thing, honestly, being down there (in the slot). So I learned a lot just being out there for this past game."

McLeod played all 60 snaps on defense, but he almost didn't. Shaken up early in the fourth quarter, McLeod came out of the game and rookie Brandon McGee took his place. However, after the Rams saw how the Jaguars lined up for a third-and-3 play, they called time out, which allowed McLeod to return to the field.

Giordano jump-started the Rams with an 82-yard interception return that tied the game 7-7 in the first quarter. Stewart, with help from linebacker Alec Ogletree, forced a second-quarter fumble by tight end Clay Harbor that he picked up and ran 19 yards to the Jacksonville 16-yard line.

On the next play, quarterback Sam Bradford hit tight end Lance Kendricks for a touchdown and the Rams' first lead of the game at 17-10. The Jaguars didn't get closer than seven points for the rest of the game.

To a man, the Rams aren't focusing on the mistakes Schaub has made, noting that he's completed 63.7 percent for his passes for 1,366 yards.

"We know what he's capable of doing," Fisher said. "And there's nobody better than Gary (coach Gary Kubiak) to bring him back."

Said linebacker James Laurinaitis, "They have a lot of weapons, so we will have our hands full."

*The Rams have converted 60 percent of their red-zone cjhances this season for touchdowns (9-for-15). That ranks ninth in the NFL. Houston ranks 30th defensively, allowing opponents to score touchdowns on 10-of-14 red-zone trips.

*The Rams are plus-2 in turnover ratio and have just six turnovers in five games. The Texans are minus-8 and have just three takeaways.

*On pass defense, the Texans are ranked first in the NFL, allowing 134.2 yards per game with a 53.7-percent completion percentage.

*The Rams will tying to stop an offense that averages 133.6 rushing yards per game and 4.6 per attempt as well as 257.2 passing yards per game.

*On third down, the Rams were better last week, but they are still 30th in the NFL, converting 29.9 percent. Houston is 14th on defense, allowing 36.6 percent. The Rams are tied for 28th on third-down defense at 43.1 percent, but the Texans are 20th on offense with a 36.0 percent success rate.

Running back Zac Stacy did not practice Wednesday with what was listed as a chest injury. Stacy left the game against Jacksonville Sunday with what was announced then as an injury to his ribs. Fisher said it was just "a day off" for Stacy, who he said was "a little sore."

Defensive end William Hayes, who has missed two games because of a knee injury, was back practicing on a limited basis, as was defensive tackle Matt Conrath, who suffered a concussion in practice last week and did not play against Jacksonville.

The Texans listed a whopping 19 players on their injury report, with five not practicing, five limited and nine listed as full participation. The most notable in the first two categories were wide receiver Andre Johnson, who did not practice because of a shin injury and tackle Duane Brown (toe) and running back Arian Foster (thumb/chest), who were both limited.

Howard Balzer will be contributing to KSDK Sports throughout the 2013 season. Howard hosts PrimeTime Monday-Friday from 6-8 pm on CBS Sports 920. He is also a host on SiriusXM NFL Radio adn one of 44 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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