Many Rams fans are worried that the team will have a slow start after having a week off. Some are more worried about the Rams mindset going up against a team with a losing record. Can we draw anything from previous post-bye games and apply them to this week's game vs the Browns? Lets take a look:
2012 Week 10 @ San Francisco: Rams 24, 49ers 24 F/OT
After getting whacked in London by the New England Patriots, the Rams limped into the bye week suffering three straight losses to Miami, Green Bay and New England. No one figured the Rams had any chance going into San Francisco and beating the then 6-2 Niners(who were also coming off a bye).
I bet no one else figured they would tie them either.
But the Rams must have done some gameplanning during that off week because the offense totaled 458 yards, more than 100 yards more than any other team had totaled against SF at that point of the season. Sam Bradford was efficient, and Steven Jackson was a beast. The defense was stout, gathering 5 sacks and holding SF to 2-11 on third downs. Ultimately, penalties(13!!!) and a late turnover cost the Rams a chance to win.
2013 Week 12 vs. Chicago: Rams 42, Bears 21
The Rams are riding high coming off a slaughter in Indy where the won 38-8 and are looking for a win streak. Enter the Bears and all of their traveling fans, fresh of an overtime victory against Baltimore.
At this point in the 2013 season, the Bears' defense had allowed rushing yard totals of 123, 209, 199, 145, and 174 in the previous five games played. The Rams must have been paying attention or just got lucky because they scorched the Bears for 258 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Former whipping boy Brian Schottenheimer even conjured up a nice, creative play which everyone executed perfectly. The Rams started off fast and won in every phase of the game keeping their penalties "down" to just six.
Exactly the kind of performance you would want coming off a bye week.
2014 Week 5 @ Philadelphia: Eagles 34, Rams 28
The Rams absolutely stunk the place up for the first 40 minutes of the game looking like they never left the bye week. Blocked punts for TDs, fumbles returns for TDs, fumbles just for fun, penalties left and right(10 for the game)....it was a train wreck and many fans(including myself) gave Fisher a lot of blame for this one.
Philadelphia came into this game 3-1, coming off a tough loss to SF in which the Eagles had four turnovers and only rushed for 22 yards while giving up 218 yards on the ground to SF. They were vulnerable heading into the Rams game.
The Rams finally showed up with a couple minutes left in the 3rd quarter, scoring touchdowns on three straight drives, but the effort was too little too late.
2015 Week 7 vs. Cleveland: TBD
The main difference in this one compared to the previous three seasons is that the Browns are the first team the Rams will face after the bye that holds a losing record. Records probably have absolutely nothing to do with how the Rams have fared after the bye. Untimely penalties and a late turnover helped hold the Rams tie in SF, which was worse than losing that game(if you ask me). The Rams did just about every thing right against Chicago. Turnovers, penalties, more turnovers, more penalties and just a general lackadaisical approach dug the Rams too big of a hole early on to climb out of in Philly.
Cleveland comes into STL having played two straight overtime games, winning vs Baltimore and losing by three to Denver. Their pass offense has been comprised of a somewhat effective trio of Travis Benjamin, Gary Barnidge, and Duke Johnson with Josh McCown dishing it out. Handling the bulk of rushing duties is Isaiah Crowell. The Cleveland defensive front figures to have its hands full as I highlighted their run defense earlier this week. The Browns also field an athletic secondary led by Joe Haden.
The Rams come out of the bye coming off a tough loss in Green Bay where the defense played well enough win, picking off Aaron Rodgers twice for the first time in ages. In the two games prior to their week off, the Rams finally found a go-to player on offense in Todd Gurley. Gurley had more rushing yards than any other player in the NFL in those two games but has yet to reach the end zone. Nick Foles is determined to bounce back after an awful game.
You could argue that the Rams were prepared for two of the post-bye games under Jeff Fisher. Tough to say how much the coaches really had to do with the loss in Philly. It's ultimately going to be up to the players to come out fast and rid themselves of any over-confidence that might have plagued the Rams in the past. You just don't drive to the stadium, put on some pads and win in the NFL.
Will the Rams be prepared to win on Sunday or will they add another chapter in the book of "Playing down to competition"?