It's over now. And you can finally breathe.
The St. Louis Rams are officially 1-0. The season is underway and the youngest team in football is not entirely incapable of success in a veteran's game. However, all is not well as Rams head back to practice with looming concerns overhead.
These aren't Steve Spagnuolo's Rams anymore - expectations and talent levels are much higher - but you wouldn't know it by much of yesterday's product on the field. Lackluster play calling, infuriating penalties and daunting mistakes on defense are still a motif in Earth City.
These are problems which should have been ironed out over the summer, at least to some degree. The Rams have too much firepower on both sides of the ball to field such a vanilla gameplan. August is over.
As far as the penalties?
"The Rams are the youngest team in the NFL," said any and every apologist. "Those things will happen early." Unfortunately, it was some of the team's most established and highly-regarded veterans making the mistakes. Cortland Finnegan was the main contributor to the yellow flags, continuing his trend of personal fouls, while defensive ends Williams Hayes and Eugene Sims both made egregious infractions. Tackles Jake Long and Rodger Saffold were also the cause of some hiccups, all but destroying the Rams' opening drive.
Nonetheless, this is victory Monday. Revel in it, Rams Nation, for you have not in more than nine months. Today belongs to you, so hold your head up high and let the world know your team began the 2013 season the right way.
On to the links for all the information one could need.
Rams rally to win game one - For the first time since 2006 St. Louis has begun the season with a win. That in itself is reason for celebration. Jeff Fisher's Rams are now 3-0 against the Arizona Cardinals and 5-1-1 in the NFC West.
This may have been Fisher's most difficult outing with the "Red Birds," but it's no less significant. Sam Bradford has shown once again that he is capable of formulating a game-winning drive and the defense - though exploited through the air frequently - featured a don't-break mentality when it mattered most.
Post-game report card - Jeff Gordon was more sympathetic than some in assessing the Rams overall performance. All things considered - particularly a couple improbable turnovers - the offense actually played fairly well. For once, it was the defense which underachieved as the secondary was torched early and often. We expect better from the coaching staff to adapt during halftime.
Nick Wagoner's reaction - Former StLouisRams.com guru Nick Wagoner offers his take from his new gig at ESPN. He too has a few concerns. Like most who have spent any time watching the Rams, Wagoner is growing tired of the off-coverage play in the secondary. Now he's allowed to say so.
Another perspective from ESPN - John Weinfuss, Arizona's head of the NFC West blog, shares his thoughts from the other side of the room.
Quinn has a breakout game - I'm not sure what it is about the Cardinals, but defensive end Robert Quinn always seems to be at his best when they come to town. The third-year pass rusher had a career day, posting three sacks and two forced fumbles. If he keeps posting those numbers he'll be the first to put this up on his mantle.
Cook redeems himself in big way - If Jared Cook's early fumble on a would-be touchdown landed the tight end in your doghouse, he surely dug himself out by the end of the contest. The former Tennessee Titan answered and threw out all question marks surrounding him when the Rams signed him this off-season. Cook is quickly on pace to finish as one of the best receiving tight ends in football and has obviously become Bradford's new go-to target.
Jim Thomas' season prediction - The Post-Dispatch's lead beat writer rolled out his game-by-game predictions for the Rams' season this weekend. He was right about the first game. What do you think about the rest? Overall, Thomas foresees an 8-8 finishing record.
NFL.com Game Center - Relive all the emotions and anguish from yesterday's game with highlights, stats and analysis.
Post-game thread from Revenge of the Birds - It was a tough-fought contest that undoubtedly left fans of both teams on the edge of their seats, with the teeth clenched and beer cans crushed. You may be better off not knowing, but this is how you may have felt had Greg Zuerlein missed his 48-yard winning field goal.
Seahawks v. Panthers roundup - The Carolina Panthers came close - very close - to a major upset of the Seattle Seahawks. As expected Cam Newton was essentially held in check, but Ron Rivera's stout and growing defense did the same to Russell Wilson. Here's more from Field Gulls.
49ers edge off Packers - Because you were busy watching the good guys of the NFC West, you missed the only other afternoon game of week one. San Francisco opened the season by playing host to the Green Bay Packers in another dramatic thriller.