With the knowledge, as Alabama coach Nick Saban says, that every game, every series, even every play has its own life; I spent the weekend comparing the Rams to the other teams in the NFC divisional playoffs.
How can’t we, after the Rams went to San Francisco and tied the 49ers, and beat them at the Edward Jones Dome, and beat Seattle here, and battled the Seahawks down to the wire in Seattle in the season’s final weekend?
Granted, the Rams were trampled by Green Bay at the Ed, but as I’ve noted before, it’s important to note that the first half Rams and the second half Rams were different teams.
On Saturday night, the Packers simply could not stop 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick. San Francisco piled up 45 points and nearly 600 yards against the Packers at home, while compiling 341 yards and 24 points in FIVE quarters on the same field against the Rams. While he’s a different quarterback now than he was on December 2, it’s hard to imagine that Kaepernick improved by 150 yards and four touchdowns. But he accounted for 444 yards and four TD’s against Green Bay, and 292 yards a no touchdowns in his start against the Rams here. Most importantly, he led his team to only thirteen points.
The Rams faced San Francisco twice and went 1-0-1 against them, so it wasn’t a fluke. It’s reasonable to believe that the Rams can play toe to toe with San Francisco, which has to be very encouraging for Jeff Fisher and his staff.
I thought Seattle would have trouble making two cross-country trips in two weeks, as did Brian Billick on FOX. But their 30-28 loss to Atlanta had nothing to do with travel or energy, and everything to do with Matty Ice, Matt Ryan. He led a game winning 3 play, 41 yard, 23 second scoring drive to win the game, but he wasn’t the story.
The story was the remarkable Russell Wilson, who seemed flawless in defeat. It’s hard to imagine that Wilson can play much better than he has in the second half of the season and in the playoffs, but he did have one hiccup.
After leading his team to three straight fifty-plus point outings, and before he engineered comebacks against the Redskins and Falcons, Wilson faced the Rams. Yes, his team won that game. But St. Louis did sack him six times in the first half, and held Wilson to 250 yards passing and 58 rushing. Most importantly again, the Seahawks scored just 20 points, the lowest output Seattle had in the last eleven games they played. Yes, it was the Rams who played Seattle the toughest of anyone in the second half of the season.
Every team is going to have changes, and the Rams obviously will have a new defensive coordinator, perhaps a new offensive coordinator and a host of new players. But the head coach and the nucleus will be the same.
If the trajectory that Fisher led the Rams up in 2012 continues this year, there’s no reason to believe that they won’t be a factor next season at this time. If we’re going to compare the 2012 Rams to the other powers in the NFC, we have to like what we see.