By Danny Cox
On Oct. 20, the St. Louis Rams had a record of 3-3 and were heading into a game with the Carolina Panthers, the eventual second seed in the playoffs for the NFC. In the fourth quarter of that game, quarterback Sam Bradford went down in the fourth quarter with a season-ending knee injury, and all seemed lost.
That game ended in a loss and there were two more to come right after it, but all was not lost and a lot of hope for the future was shown.
St. Louis started out with a victory over the Arizona Cardinals, who barely missed the playoffs with a 10-6 record. They then lost to the Falcons, Cowboys and 49ers before taking down the Jaguars and Texans in impressive fashion.
From there, the aforementioned three-game losing streak and injury to Bradford happened. Kellen Clemens came in to replace Bradford, even though some other names were mentioned and brought in. Clemens had a really decent season filling in at quarterback as he finished with 142 completions for 1,673 yards and eight touchdowns.
During the three-game losing streak, the Rams barely lost to the Seattle Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans only defeated them by seven.
After that, the Rams destroyed the Indianapolis Colts (a playoff team) 38-8 before demolishing the Chicago Bears 42-21. The Bears being a team that barely missed the playoffs and were in the race until the final week of the season.
San Francisco and Arizona were able to get wins over the Rams, but St. Louis then notched wins over the New Orleans Saints (a playoff team) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
A final record of 7-9 may not look impressive to some, but those that watch the Rams play know that it was a hard-fought 7-9 record and one that was very close to being better.
Clemens won’t end up replacing Bradford, but he did very well for having to come in late and got some of the most extensive playing time of his career. Head coach Jeff Fisher decided to turn to the ground-and-pound offense, and it worked successfully. That’s something that not many thought would happen with the loss of Steven Jackson.
Looking back, Jackson didn’t prove to be the great pick-up that the Atlanta Falcons were hoping he would be, and the Rams found their star in rookie running back Zac Stacy.
Stacy finished the season with 250 rushing attempts for 973 yards and seven touchdowns. Had he even really played in the first two games of the season, Stacy would have easily had his first 1,000-yard season be his rookie season.
Tavon Austin has becoming one of the quickest rising stars for the Rams as he’s developed as a decent wide receiver, but truly proved himself to be a force to be reckoned with in the return game. No-one will soon forget what he did against the Colts as he had a 98-yard punt return for a TD and then two long touchdown catches (57 and 81 yards) for the game of his career.
St. Louis has the talent on defense to stop anyone, and that was shown with victories over the Saints and Colts, both teams that have explosive offenses. They need a little bit of help on offense and it wouldn’t hurt to get one or two big play makers (hint hint, receivers), but the talent pool is growing nicely.
The NFC is obviously proving to be a very strong conference with five out of six playoff teams having double-digit victories, and one more (Cardinals) missing out.
St. Louis has some work left to do, but a good draft and good moves in free agency could see the Rams playing their way right back into the playoffs. Jeff Fisher may not have the “greatest show on turf,” but he’s quickly building a team that has the talent in every aspect of the game.
For more Rams news and updates, visit Rams Central.
Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.