The St. Louis Rams' Jeff Fisher is looking to even the score with the Bears. In his first year as head coach, the Rams lost to Fisher's "playing days" team. The Bears were also Fisher's first stop along his NFL coaching journey, when Buddy Ryan asked him to become an assistant after the former Bears' defensive back was injured.
The game today features two teams struggling to prevent post season irrelevance. For the 6-4 Chicago Bears, this game represents one of the few challenges remaining on their schedule this season. After the Rams, they play the Vikings, Cowboys, Browns, Eagles and finish off with Green Bay. If you see in this schedule what I see, the Rams game could quite literally be the hinge point for Bears entire season. This is a MUST win game Chicago.
On the flip-side of the coin, the Rams are still alive in the post season hunt. At 4-6, St. Louis' destiny is not their own. But what I find in their remaining schedule is possibly the greatest asset this team has had all year: Zero Pressure. Yes, they are in a position to drastically effect five teams with strong playoff hopes, so the onus to win will be on them. What's more, the four Rams wins thus far could be interesting little things. To my mind - if the Rams can hold to their upward trend in play they've had over the last four games - these four initial wins could set a unique stage for the final game of the season in Seattle. Deja vu, eh?
Yet, like the Bears, this is a MUST win game for the Rams, as are the rest of the game on their schedule for any hope of hitting the post season. But they have a dangerous kind of freedom that their opponents may not see. The youngest team in the NFL, the Rams are in growth mode. Losses that happen from this point forward can be consigned to their learning curve. What makes St. Louis' situation so intriguing to me, is the "IF"... In my experience, an NFL team can blossom in the blink of an eye. Young players - filled with energy and passion - can kick over the conventional wisdom table. But the key to bringing it all together is controlled pressure to succeed, balanced against a "What the hell! Let's have some fun".
The Rams have a single person who holds their 2013 destiny in his hands. No, it isn't a player. It's Brian Schottenheimer, the Rams' offensive coordinator. I've said for weeks he needs to break out of his conservative style of play-calling, and let his young charges show what they can do. Once again, "Schotty" has little pressure on him, so why not play every game with a tinge of reckless abandon? He'll have a willing accomplice in back up quarterback Kellen Clemens, who has really nothing to lose.
Enjoy the game!