ST. LOUIS — Officials are so vigilant about protecting the quarterback, Michael Brockers made a textbook hit — and still got flagged.
St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher praised his defensive tackle right after a 42-21 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, and the next day, too. Fisher thought Brockers was penalized because the hit was so good.
Going forward, he wouldn't have the Rams' first-round pick in 2012 change a thing. Brockers has been a force in the middle with 3 ½ sacks for the Rams (5-6), who play at San Francisco (7-4) this week.
"Hopefully it doesn't get called the next time," Brockers said Wednesday. "I'm a big human being, so hits are going to look like that. Just playing ball, you know."
Brockers was called for roughing the passer after bulling up the middle and leveling Josh McCown in the second half. Referee Jerome Boger said it was the correct call because the defender led with his helmet into the quarterback's body.
Brockers stayed low and sent McCown flying without making anything close to helmet-to-helmet contact.
"I think that's an example of how to hit the quarterback with the ball in his hand, in my opinion," Fisher said. "It should not have been called. It was a great effort and it was unfortunate it took a sack away from 'Brock.'
"Head was off to the side, just probably looked like it was too hard of a hit."
Instead of a 9-yard sack and forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown by middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, the Bears had first-and-goal at the 1. Two plays later, Michael Bush punched it in to cut the Rams' lead to 27-21 with 7:20 to go.
"They crushed my dreams," Laurinaitis joked. "About the 35 yard-line I heard the whistle. I don't want to look at the play again."
Fisher's was livid on the sideline, yelling at the officials, and waved both arms down dismissively. Teammates were angry.
"I thought that was a perfect form tackle," end Chris Long said. "I'm not really sure what they want us to do. We all know what that call looked like."
It could have been a game changer, except the offense responded with a seven-play, 80-yard drive capped by rookie Benny Cunningham's 9-yard run plus a 2-point conversion pass from Kellen Clemens to Isaiah Pead that made it a 14-point gap with just over three minutes to go.
Defensive end Robert Quinn added another late score when he sacked and striped McCown, then scooped up the ball on a fumble return. The 21-point margin made it easier to be philosophical.
"You've got great athletes playing this game and you expect the referees to catch everything," Brockers said. "Stuff happens so fast. You can't really blame them."
Brockers was the 14th pick in 2012 after two seasons at LSU. Defensive tackles typically don't accumulate a lot of impact statistics, clogging up the middle while others make the stop, but that's not the case with the 6-foot-5, 322-pounder.
"He's playing the run good, he's getting good pressure on the quarterback, he's healthy and finishing plays," Fisher said. "Obviously, if you don't have the inside push, you're not going to get the effectiveness on the edge."
Brockers missed most of the first month of his rookie season with a high right ankle sprain, but then got immediately plugged into the lineup and finished with four sacks and led St. Louis linemen with 63 total tackles. He has 43 total tackles this year, with two forced fumbles.
None of the three players sidelined with concussion-like symptoms against the Bears practiced Wednesday. Fisher was noncommittal about running back Zac Stacy, guard Chris Williams and cornerback Trumaine Johnson's availability this week.
"All three of them are doing well," Fisher said. "They're all going through the process right now and they're all doing well."
Safety T.J. McDonald also was held out after returning last week from a broken leg with what the Rams called a shin issue.
Laurinaitis needed 11 stitches to close a cut on his right ear first injured on a helmet-to-helmet hit with Colts quarterback Andrew Luck before the bye week. The ear was reinjured on a hit with Bush.
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org