One year ago to the day, the St. Louis Rams fought hard but fell short in a tough battle at CenturyLink Field. The Seattle Seahawks had already clinched a playoff berth, but pride was on the line for both teams.
The Rams ended their surprising season on a sour note and lost in the NFC West for the first and only time. Despite one last gut-wrenching defeat, though, fans rested easily knowing that their team was on the rise.
The Rams were not only improving, they were already vastly improved.
Emotions were quite dissimilar as you climbed into bed last night, while the Rams once again returned home amid disappointment and hurt feelings. Just as it was when 2012 came to a close, the 2013 season is now over in St. Louis before the start of January; only this time, optimism is slightly more difficult to muster.
A shameful performance in Seattle - The Rams were dismantled, chastised and embarrassed yesterday. Name a source of the team's struggles -- Marshawn Lynch, Golden Tate, the 12th Man, Jeff Triplette -- but none of them mask the fact that the Rams unraveled themselves.
To no one's surprise, Kellen Clemens and the run-first offense failed to move the ball. Futile hand offs into a wall of defenders left Zac Stacy largely ineffective, while turnovers dug the team into a hole from which the defense could not escape.
As tempers flared, the Rams reached their boiling point, and they paid for it again and again and again. These weren't the Rams of years past, who lowered their heads and tucked their tails between their legs at the first sign of turmoil. No, these are the new Rams. These are the Rams who clench fists, shout obscenities and throw helmets if the ball doesn't roll their way.
Progress doesn't guarantee success - Past accomplishments and success in the NFL mean nothing. For evidence of that, look not further than the Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens. Many would argue that Jeff Fisher and his Rams are on the right course, but few truly believed that they were going to waltz into the post-season.
You've been patient for ten years now. Just stick it out a little longer.
Path to redemption - The season had long been over and decided before the Rams even took the field, so looking toward yesterday's loss with any sense of solemn regret would be a mistake. Finishing last with a 7-9 record in quite possibly -- and likely -- the best division in the NFL is nothing short of impressive. It's just unfortunate to once again be looking up from the bottom.
Alas, there is still reason for optimism. Youth, stability and positive media recognition are three rare variables that the Rams have failed to maintain for much of their stay in the Gateway City, but they will again carry each with them in 2014. St. Louis is prepared for a huge off season that is sure to help build a stronger roster as they will hope to better avoid the injury bug, as well.
Looking ahead - Nate Latsch of Fox Sports takes a much anticipated and eager glance into the future of Rams football. As the team matures and continues to gel, the product on the field should only improve. Young, new building blocks, such as running back Zac Stacy, will have opposing coaches game planning all off season.
Bernie Miklasz: stupid football - Bernie of the Post-Dispatch holds no punches in his latest column, calling out both coach Jeff Fisher and officall Jeff Triplette for the their respective crews' performances. He commends Robert Quinn for his terrific season, but wishes the first-time Pro Bowler had been able to further build on his own legacy.
Infractions - The word "penalty" has been uttered in association with the Rams so often this season that it's no longer worth using. Until drastic corrections are made, this team won't win consistently.
Post-game report card - Everything that had gone so well over the previous two weeks was undone in Seattle. The only two units that Jeff Gordon grades well are the tight ends and defensive line, both of which had obvious and costly hiccups.
Nick Wagoner's last reaction - The Rams' own ESPN NFC West correspondent was particularly troubled by the team's lack of success on the ground.
Redskins earn Rams win second pick - It is officially draft season, Rams fans! The Washington Redskins gave us all a bit of a scare, but with their eighth consecutive loss, they officially locked up the second overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft ... for Jeff Fisher and Co.
Walter Football mock - Unless and until the Rams make another blockbuster trade down, Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews will continue to be slotted into the No. 2 spot. For intrigue's sake, who should they be looking at with their other first round pick?
Clemens savored experience - It may have ended poorly and he may never have another chance, but Kellen Clemens exceeded minimal expectations and enjoyed some success during his brief time behind center. Winning four of the seven last games in a season is an accomplishment on which any backup quarterback could hang his hat.
NFL.com Game Center - I wouldn't recommend it, but here is your destination for all the statistics and lowlights from yesterday's contest.
Until next time, go Rams!!!