The little things. Any of our married readers will recognize that descriptor; a misnomer if there ever was one. In a relationship, you have to take care in how you do the little things. It's the same thing with playing professional football, and St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher reminded the world on Monday that his team did not do the little things in Sunday's three-point loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Of course, the little things on their own rarely get much more than an eye roll. It's the cascade of those little things that drip, drip, drip together to make something bigger.
"... when you lose a close game - by a field goal - there's little things that contribute," the sage Fisher said. "And there were some little things, but to me, there was also a big thing that contributed to this loss and that was the second quarter. We had a six-point lead going into the second quarter.
"In the second quarter, we had seven penalties, missed two field goals, and turned the ball inside our opponent's territory on the 25 yard line. So, we were lucky to get away with 10 points in the second quarter. That's definitely the area we're going to look at and get corrected and get fixed. It certainly wasn't because of a lack of effort. One penalty or two may be questionable, but at the end of the day, we let things slip in the second quarter and then we just couldn't make the plays in the second half to regain it."
It was the Dolphins with those 10 points in the second quarter by the way. It's more than just missed field goals and bad penalties. A sack on third-and-six killed the Rams first drive of the second quarter. A missed field goal killed it especially dead after that.
Looking at the boxscore, the Rams did most of the little things well. The Dolphins had less than 20 points and less than 200 yard of offense. Sam Bradford and the offense scored just 14 points, but they had the team's highest yardage total of the season - the highest since 2006 in fact.
None of those thing matter when the score board says 17-14 at the end of the game.
"We'll just continue to work on the little things," Fisher said. "It's coach speak, but it's true: there are little things that need to be corrected and need to be avoided. When you're playing a close game, you don't guess on a route, and that's kind of what happened with (CB Janoris Jenkins) ‘Jenks.'"
Fisher went on to note the performance of Brandon Gibson. By any accounting, Gibson had a nice day of work, but he failed to stay in bounds on a critical catch that would have kept a drive alive for the Rams. Jenkins and Gibson were hardly the only ones making mistakes with the little things, just two of the more obvious examples.
One good coach cliche deserves another. The Rams sunk on the little things this week, so they'll naturally go back and work on the finer points of football. The boxscore makes it clear that this is a better team than the one fans have been treated to in seasons past ... But it could be an even better one, even the defense.
"I'm pleased with where we are," Fisher said of his defense, "but we have a lot of work to do and we have, clearly over the next two weekends, we have significant challenges."