I'm not going to moan about the loss to the Green Bay Packers. We played the best team in the NFL, at home in Lambeau Field I might add, and shut down their offense for three quarters. True, we didn't score when we had the chances, but if you look deeper than the final score, there are some positives to expand upon. So if your one of those "the sky is falling, my beer is flat because the dog ate the TV remote, life as a St. Louis Rams fan sucks (er...uh? Ok maybe not this one), then stop reading right about here...
Anyone still reading? Good! Now the two of you pay attention... First, walk off any post game lamentations and that tenth shot of Blanton's, because we have some glass is half full thinkin' to do. In fact, keep the glass half full of Blanton's and this will be waaaay easier.
Second, the Rams team I saw today was a far cry from the team I saw get physically violated by the Baltimore Ravens not long ago. Yes, there are still flaws aplenty, no denying that, but something is different now: The Rams are playing with more than a hint of fire in their eyes... Add to this an improvement in the overall play of quite a few players: Greg Salas, the interior line play of Dahl and Brown, Pettis, Jackson, Caddy... Even Kendricks dropped balls with less intent than in previous games. The defensive secondary would love to delete the second quarter of Sunday's game. If they could, they would be able to say they did a better job against the best WR core in the NFL than any team has to date....
... Still here? Super! So let's talk Steve Spagnuolo: I finally saw the Spags I wanted to see on Sunday. I'm not going to listen to anyone that wants to groan about his blitz call that cost the Rams a touchdown. He gambled guys, and he came up short. The big thing here is that he stepped outside his Whig-ish comfort zone and tried. Rodgers showed why he's the best quarterback in the NFL and read it all the way. This is what playing at this level is all about, not a reason to cry coaching inequity. I'd have been furious if he hadn't called plays like this, and the very act of his calling this type of play wasn't lost on the Packers offensive coordinator either. Spags is highly respected for his defensive knowledge around the NFL. This was the first game he coached like the defensive coordinator of old in his New York Giants days even though his blitz call numbers were low Sunday. At times I saw six and seven guys staying back to protect Rodgers, who I have little doubt noticed during the six or seven seconds he had that his receivers were actually covered a great deal of the time. I have to admit here that I saw one Rams defensive lineman playing as though he wanted a vacation, but I have little doubt his "walking" after Rodgers on a scramble will be dealt with very soon.
Could the Packers have taken this game for granted? Very possible. It would be a reason why they were flat as a team in the second half. Clay Mathews deserves their game ball. He was among the few Packers that seemed to take the Rams seriously. This was arguably one of the best defenses the Rams have faced this season; far better than the teams the Rams offensive line gave up five, and even six sack too. They may have come into the game with visions of double digit sack numbers dancing in their heads. It wasn't to be. They did get some hits on Sam Bradford, who for most of the game appeared almost shocked he had time to throw the ball, but the defensive firepower they genuinely thought they'd display never materialized. Yes, it was an effective defensive performance as evidenced by the final score. But I submit to you that there will be some unkind thoughts and words in the coming week at Green Bay's team-defense meeting.
Now, to those of you still reading who are ready to scream that none of this means anything and want to wail about how bad the Rams are... This is where to reach for the mercifully half full glass of Blanton's, then think of England or fuzzy puppies. Rail and wail all you want, but the Rams improved this week when compared to the other games they have played this year. If anyone thought all the Rams problems could all miraculously be cured over the bye week, you may want consider that it is you, not I, that is overly optimistic. Those that think adding a player now through a trade will somehow stop the bleeding and salvage the season need to stop and think. Brandon Lloyd, Eddie Royal. Reggie Wayne or whoever, will take time to assimilate into the team. They won't play an immediate part in a turn around for the Rams. The small, though noticeable, improvements I saw in the Rams this weekend are the possible starting point or core toward any future success this season.
I'm not without heart felt concerns when it comes to the St. Louis Rams. My thoughts on Sam Bradford's shoulder are well documented, and are added to whenever I see him throw a touch pass. The Red Zone is anathema to any thoughts of winning for this team and is a direct reflection on Josh McDaniels as a coach of playbooks, not players. The problems at offensive tackle are both very real and portend addition draft assets being devoted to the solution. A certain corner back still has no business on the field, and our outside linebackers are costing us in every way possible.
Yet, to me, the Rams glass is half full, and not so nearly empty as many would believe. This is the NFL. Look back in your memory at great teams that started out slowly, if not miserably, and went on to winning games. While I'm not saying the Rams are anywhere near great, I am saying that what I saw Sunday says this team has its day coming. Stars will align, hands will keep the ball, and a quarterback named Sam will see the whole field. Blocks will be made, sacks counted and touchdowns amassed; maybe not in vast numbers, but they will be there.
So for those that live life as Nihilists and have there copy of "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" as bathroom reading, I'm sure this post will having you decrying that Nietzsche hasn't properly stained my soul. You may even think I'm in some sort of Kierkegaard-ian denial? Bah!
I let loose the prospect of a championship worthy Rams team this season, and will start looking at the pieces of this team with an eye to the future. Billy Devaney is not the Anti-Christ and Steve Spagnuolo isn't Tommy Prothro. The games ahead will still hold me captive every Sunday, just as they will any Rams fan.
Now... Where did I put that glass?