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Diverging Paths

First the good news:
The Rams didn't lose this weekend.

Now, the quasi-bad news:
Their week 10 opponent and one time fellow winless team, New Orleans, beat Jacksonville, one of the better teams in the AFC and usually a top-tier defense. They didn't just squeak it out with a last minute field goal either. A Drew Brees 445 yard, three touch down performance led them to a 41-24 victory against a Jags team that might have been caught sleeping.

Like the Rams and the Dolphins, you'll remember, the Saints started off the season 0-4. They've now rattled off four straight wins to erase the painful memories of the season's first month. And a game that once seemed winnable for the Rams now looms large on the horizon as the players head back to practice hopefully refreshed and recharged from a forgettable first half.

Drew Brees' take on their 0-4 start:

"An 0-4 start is going to do one of two things to you. It's either going to throw you in the tank or it's going to give you an edge. ... It's only made us stronger. It's only made us tougher mentally, and now we're in a position where we're hardened a little bit. We've been tested a little bit and we've fought through it, and now's our time to make that jump."

Unfortunately, it did the other thing to the Rams. The Rams came out and fought hard against the Arizona Cardinals in week 5, behind a solid effort from backup QB Gus Frerotte and a makeshift o-line, only to have their shot at the season's first win thrown away on an interception that Arizona returned for a touch down early in the fourth quarter. You could almost sense the team's collective loss of morale after that game.

It's also about the same time whispers of Linehan losing the locker room surfaced. It's also right around the same time that the silence from the team's veteran leadership grew noticeably louder.

Whatever the Rams' record at the end of the season, we'll remember 2007 as the season that no veterans, no coaches, and no one in the front office, stepped up to demand more from the team. The injuries suffered this year make it next to impossible for them to post a winning record, but the necessarily high level of passion and commitment required of professionals at the highest level of the game disappeared for good sometime during that week five game against the city's former NFL team.