It's only been a week, but it feels like forever since the St. Louis Rams last played a game. January has once again brought the draught that is the offseason, leaving fans only April's draft to look for hope.
For now, though, there is still plenty of football to be played. Yesterday, four teams advanced to the divisional round of playoffs, scoring no more than 24 points in the process. For a weekend that featured Ray Lewis' final dance in Baltimore, it was only fitting that defense reigned.
To start off, Houston fended off the resilient Cincinnati Bengals, and the Green Bay Packers finally stopped Adrian Peterson with the help of Minnesota's Joe Webb. As mentioned, Ray Lewis captained his Ravens for the last time at home, putting an end to Andrew Lucks first campaign. The Seattle Seahawks took advanced of a sputtering Redskins offense as Robert Griffin III limped behind center in the wild card finale.
Nonetheless, before we look towards the divisional round, check out some links...
2012 offensive report card - No unit on the offensive side of the ball earned an ‘A' mark, as is to be expected for an offensive that was barely average. That said, each made a noticeable improvement. Sam Bradford outperformed nearly all of his previous bests and Steven Jackson was finally given justice with the help of a capable backup. It was the receivers and line, though, who progressed the most since 2011.
2012 defensive report card - Defense is where the Rams shone the most, finishing among the best in the league in several categories. Every member of the front-4 contributed to posting 52 sack total - the most in the NFL - while Jo-Lonn Dunbar emerged as the team's first effective outside linebacker in years. With better safety help, Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins could form an elite secondary.
Progress and potential - The Rams made many strides this past season, enough to finally remove their downtrodden person, but they need to continue to build. The lack of points on the scoreboard was a frequent problem. Still, playing 8 games against playoff teams is no short order.
Zuerlein learns much in rookie year - Greg "The Leg" Zuerlein was a rookie sensation in 2012 ... sort of. The sixth round pick made early splashes, kicking field goals in excess of 50 yards with ease. Then he appeared to hit the dreaded "rookie wall," if that ailment does in fact exist for kickers. Zuerlein, in addition to the rest of the young special teams unit, likes what he sees in the Rams. He expects to build on his breakout rookie season.
Cardinals to interview Jay Gruden - The latest name to hit the head coach rumor mill is Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who will interview with the Arizona Cardinals. Another name to consider is former Cardinal and current Steeler OC, Todd Haley. As a native and stranded resident of Western Pennsylvania, I can attest that many Pittsburgh fans are "rooting" for Haley.
Chip Kelly to stay at Oregon - The Cleveland Browns' everlasting search for a franchise-saving head coach will continue as Chip Kelly has now bowed out of the race. Sources say the University of Oregon coach was wavering on his stance, thus the Browns tossed the uncertainty aside. This isn't great news for backup quarterback Colt McCoy, whom Kelly reportedly liked.
Richard Sherman in post-game scuffle - Outspoken Seattle Seahawks cornerback Optimus Prime, er, Richard Sherman couldn't help but boast following his team's 24-14 wild card win over the Redskins. Both he and Washington offensive lineman Trent Williams let their emotions get away from them when to two met at mid-field. Sherman attacked with his words as Williams took a more physical approach, all while Roger Goodell undoubtedly watched.
Now, to cap off, how about a look back at each of your favorite highlights from 2012? Pour a cup of coffee, plug in your head phones, ignore your boss and watch 15 minutes of Ram awesomeness. Go Rams!
2012 St. Louis Rams Highlights via yrba1