I enjoyed both the NFC and AFC Championship games, even though I wanted the Patriots to lose. However, I was haunted by similarities to previous Ram games and playoff appearances. The Ravens reminded me of the Ram frustration over the past 7 seasons.
Baltimore had the Pats beat, the game won, yet they found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. That reminded me of the Linehan, Haslett and Spagnuolo coaching crews. Linehan needed one more win in his 1st year to make the playoffs, but let TWO close games against the Seahawks slip away. Haslett won his first two games as HC, but made the fatal mistake of leaving Stephen Jackson in the game against Dallas way after it was out of reach. Jackson was injured on the next to the last play, was out 4 weeks and the Rams dropped 10 straight games. Then Spagnuolo came along and won a single game in his first year. Meanwhile, clearly winnable games against Wash, Jax and Texas were pissed away. Then in the miracle 7-9 season, we had games in the bag against Tampa and San Francisco and could've easily won the opener against Arizona and the Oakland game too. One win in those 4 games = NFC West Champs.
Even in the sickenly laughable 2011 season, who thinks we shouldn't have beat the Cards twice?? Yep, just like the Ravens did yesterday, the Ram teams of late beat themselves repeatedly. Watching the 49ers play the Giants took me back to the mid 70s when I first started watching the Rams play football. Every year, the L.A. Rams would win the NFC West and move into the playoffs, many times owning homefield advantage. Just like SF, the Rams typically had a powerhouse defense. But somehow, even being the most talented team and often playing at home, there was the ultimate disappointment of an unexpected playoff loss. It was always to either a hot or lucky Dallas or Minnesota team. The strong defense just couldn't save the Rams from mistakes that got them blown out by Dallas in '73, '75 and '78 and Minn in '76.
Yesterday, the 2011 49ers reminded me of the 70's Rams. San Francisco, with a 14-4 record, lost at home to a 12-7 team that just barely sneaked into the playoffs. I sincerely hope the days of the Rams winning 1,2 or 3 games per season are over. I honestly believe we are now on the right track. I think people will be amazed what a difference an experienced, competent HC and veteran staff will make. These guys will actually coach and demand high performance. Players will be developed and those that continue to sit on their dead asses will be jettisoned. The Rams may just have more talent than we think. And we have a prime position to draft more. The NFC West may just be the most powerful division in the NFC this fall and I want the Rams to be part of the reason. That's the only way we'll ever be able to banish the ghosts of the past.