Sitting at 3-5, and having let a few potential wins slip through the cracks, tempers are beginning to flair. As fingers extend in a direction of players assign guilt, assumptions will be drawn, [un]likely trade offers will be discussed. Mock draft aspirations will go from mid round to Top 10, and hopes of a double-digit win total season begin to waiver.
For the majority of the first eight games, with the NE game being the only exception that comes to mind, the defense has been the bright spot for the Rams. The offense is more often than not deemed an area of opportunity. The offensive line is in complete shambles, but Sam Bradford and his corps of wide receivers have been relatively impressive given the circumstances. Interestingly enough, pass drops have not been a focus of the Rams offensive woes this season as they have in other years. A Rams team with a solid - and healthy - secondary and receivers who hold onto the ball. Where am I?
The problem, which earlier in the season was viewed as an advantage, is becoming more of a glaring issue. The 50+ yard catches by rookie wide receiver Chris Givens, flashes of explosiveness from the next-to-last guy selected in the 2012 draft Daryl Richardson, Robert Quinn’s near permanent residency in opposing teams' backfields - and a kicker who’s been good from 60 yards - are all great. None of that, however, translates when it comes at the wrong time, and almost never happens late enough in the game to change the outcome.
Simply put, the Rams are almost always digging themselves out of a hole in the 4th quarter of games. In fact, there are only two games in which the Rams have taken a lead into the final 15 minutes. Both of those games were against division rivals: Week 4 [Seahawks 10, Rams 16], and Week 5 [Cardinals 3, Rams 10]. Even in those circumstances, where the Rams have secured a lead going into the last quarter of the game, the outcome was far from decided.
The Rams have scored a total of 137 points [ranking 25th in the NFL] this season. To many, that’s probably not a surprise. The ranking - numerically - sheds a little bit of light on just how well the defense has done when you consider that this team has kept games ‘alive’ through six of their first eight games. The Packers and Patriots - two of the NFL’s elite teams - were simply too much for the Rams, and the fourth quarter had little-to-no bearing on the final result.
So just what does that mean for the Rams? At this point, is it okay to assume the Rams must have the lead going into the last quarter in order to win the game? Only once [Redskins, Week 2] have they proven they can overcome a deficit to take the lead and win the game. How about home field advantage? London certainly wasn't a home game match-up, but the "Rams don’t lose in the Eward Jones Dome" mindset needs to be thrown into the path of Hurricane Sandy.
The Rams have the talent to win games. The question is whether or not they have the ability to maintain the scoring pace with their opponents for 60 minutes? If not, when do they dig down deep to find the come-from-behind resilience that they found in Week 2? They've only won two games this season when they’ve secured the lead going into the final quarter of the game. Both of those came against NFC West foes.
The game in San Francisco will probably be their toughest divisional match-up test of 2012. I’m betting the Rams defense once again keeps them in it. The 49ers however, have one of the premier defenses [#1 in total defense] in the NFL, and arguably the best the Rams will face all season. Is a healthy offensive line going to be enough for the offense to keep this game competitive? Does the return of Danny Amendola make the Rams that much more explosive? The Rams have surprised us before. Don’t count them out in Week 10. In retrospect, don’t count them out of any game for the remainder of the season. Especially when they can keep it close through three quarters.