I'm writing on the side. Rams piece I thought I'd pass along. Criticism welcome.
The youngest team in the NFL went on the road to face off against an Atlanta Falcons team that has a 33-7 record at home in their last five seasons, a team that was the number 1 seed entering last year’s NFC playoffs, and a team that has gone to the playoffs every year under their franchise quarterback Matt Ryan, nicknamed "Matty Ice" presumably for his 23 game-winning drives rather than his beverage preference.
What could possibly go wrong, right?
Well, the hometown Rams showed us just how little we all know. After playing as if they forgot this was a noon start time and treating the first half as a competition to see which unit could accumulate the most drive-killing penalties and jeopardize the team’s chances the most, it was looking pretty 2011 for awhile. That is a time machine ride no one wants to take. After mishandled throws, a tipped ball interception taken back for a pivotal touchdown, and a completely invisible performance by the secondary, the game was completely in the home team’s control.
Down 24-3 at halftime, the rout was on... until it wasn’t.
If you blinked, you might have missed it. In a matter of minutes in the third quarter Sunday, the Rams grew up a little bit. Now, I’m not saying this team is growing the five o’clock shadow of a grisly NFL contender, but it’s definitely showing some peach fuzz that wasn’t there in years prior.
Early in the second half, the defense turned "Matty Ice" into "Matty Crushed Ice." I’ll see myself out after that badly misplayed pun. Regardless, Ryan was certainly rattled after the vaunted Rams defensive line again and again took their licks on the Falcons gunslinger. The Falcons went on to punt four straight drives during the third quarter, netting negative yardage in three of those drives. If the offense showed any life at all early on in this game, we might be telling a different story here today.
But alas, they did not.
Instead, they waited until late in the second half, just as they did last week, to try to erase what seemed to be an insurmountable lead. Utter desperation and frustration turned into a glimmer of hope.
Leading the comeback bid was Sam Bradford, once again, who was 17/28 for 188 yards and three passing touchdowns on the team’s final three offensive drives. He added 26 yards on the ground on two rushes. It was yet another late game performance adding onto Bradford’s budding reputation as somewhat of a fourth quarter savant. Last year, he had five 4th quarter comebacks, four of which took place in the second half of the season, as well as one last week against the Cardinals. Now, if we could just get that same playcalling and performance in the first three quarters...
After shrinking the deficit to a mere one score, a miracle appeared to be on the horizon, but the stagnant first half appeared to be too much to overcome and the Falcons were able to do just enough to put the Rams out of their misery, downing them 31-24.
Despite the three touchdown halftime deficit and the ensuing comeback bid, there was one thing that was evident in this team that hadn’t been so evident before: a pulse. Staring down the barrel of what could have been one of the most lopsided losses of the week, the Rams showed life when they appeared to be all but a corpse. They went into a hostile environment, playing perhaps the worst half of football of any team this week, and somehow clawed back to make it a game in the fourth quarter. Can we say that about any other Rams team in the last five years? Probably not.
Did we deserve to win? Hell no.
Am I content with the performance? Absolutely not.
Is this season going to bring competitive, entertaining, and passionate football back to the forefront in St. Louis? After two weeks, it sure seems like it.
See, the youngest team in the NFL went to Atlanta to play the Falcons, a team with an impressive home record, a perennial playoff history, and a strong franchise quarterback. And when the going got tough, they showed a heart not many knew they had.