As the countdown to Christmas continues, and in the festive spirit, let’s take a look at some reasons as to why the Rams should be cheerful.
There’s no doubt this season has been a roller-coaster and has not brought the winning record that pre-season expectations had hinted at. However there can also be no denying the team’s reaction to the numerous knock backs they have experienced this season.
After the season opening win over the Cardinals, the Rams slipped to a disappointing 1-3 record after losses to the Falcons (if only we could have played them later in the season), the Cowboys, and our good old friends the 49ers. However, an expected win over the Jaguars, was followed by an impressive blow out of the Texans (they were just clinging on to respectability by this point) to bring the Rams back to .500.
October 20th provided us with perhaps the worst game of the season. Having fought their way (literally) through the game, and looking like a bunch of stroppy teenagers for the most part, Sam Bradford went down with a season ending injury and put an end to any serious post-season ambitions. With no real back-up and the small matter of a Monday Night Football game against the Seahawks to come, the team could have been forgiven for dropping their heads.
And even more so after the two heart-wrenching losses that followed. However, this young Rams team is made of tougher stuff than that; two blow-out victories over strong opponents show that.
And most recently, the Rams lost convincingly to the 49ers and Cardinals but recently stopped the high-flying Saints.
The team have suffered their fair share of knocks this season but have always maintained their fighting spirit and commitment. The return to the hard-nosed style of play following Bradford’s injury may have contributed to this mind set, but it is evident that this young roster will play hard week in week out. If this attitude can be combined with consistent genuine play-off quality then the rest of the league will need to take note.
It would be unfair not to mention the rest of the defensive line which have been the backbone to everything positive about the Rams this season. However there is no denying that Robert Quinn has been the true stand out this year. Although complications may arise in terms of nailing him down to a new contract, which is bound to cost the organisation a lot of money, Robert Quinn can be the man to help elevate the Rams to the next level for many years to come.
The most recent excellent performance against the Saints has helped to truly thrust Quinn into the nationwide conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. He sits second in the list of sacks this year, currently on 15, 1.5 behind Robert Mathis and is closing in on the franchise record for sacks in a single season.
If you are struggling for festive cheer, then switch on a video of some of Quinn’s highlights this year and you’ll soon be feeling merry.
Near .500 without the starting QB
This is not the time or the place to debate the pros and cons of Sam Bradford; however he is the Rams starting Quarterback and any team losing their starting Quarterback will struggle, just look at the Packers and Vikings for proof. Add to this, the fact that the Rams have been without a competitive back-up for a few years now, the ability of the team to keep competing is reason to be cheerful. Kellen Clemens has done an admirable job as back-up but it is the emergence of Zac Stacy and the Rams running game which provides the most optimism. The defense has often kept the Rams in games (improvements in the secondary still necessary) and players such as Tavon Austin have also helped to cover up the loss of Bradford.
The Rams currently sit at 6-8 and in most divisions that record would be competitive. To be in this situation having played the back half of the year without the starting Quarterback can only be a positive sign.
Exciting weapons on offense
Another reason to be cheerful is the number of young exciting players the team has on offense.
The pre-season buzz was all about Tavon Austin and the impact he would make in the NFL. And although he had a slow start to the season (not helped by those nasty yellow flags) the Rams and Brian Schottenheimer seemed to have learnt how to get the most out of him. He should benefit from Bradford returning with his ability to throw the deep ball.
Another reason to be cheerful is Tavon’s partner in crime, Stedman Bailey. Although limited to making effort plays on special teams for the majority of the season, his work ethic has earned him growing respect. This has seen him gain an increase in reps and he has excelled at everything asked of him; many stating he is already the best route-runner on the roster. With more reps and experience next year, we could really see Stedman grow into a star for the Rams.
The emergence of Zac Stacy may well be the main positive taken away from this season. A reported injury suffered in pre-season meant that it was a couple of games before he was given the reigns as the starting Running Back, but he has not looked back since. Needing only another 150 yards in the last two games to reach the milestone of a 1000 yard season, Stacy has impressed each week. And when you think he has impressed you, he comes back the next week and raises the bar even higher.
It is also important to mention the impact of another rookie, Benny Cunningham. He has emerged in recent weeks as the no.2 to Zac Stacy and has dazzled with some impressive play; this ensuring that the Rams have gone from looking for a Running Back, to having seemingly found their partnership for years to come.
Of course some are growing impatient with the Rams, and their inability to mount a serious play-off push. But there are reasons to be cheerful this Christmas, so keep the faith.
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