The St. Louis Rams are the also-rans of the NFC West. In a loaded division with the defending Super Bowl champs, one of two Harbaughs in the NFL and the 5-1 Arizona Cardinals, the Rams are an afterthought for most. But the way they've looked over the last two weeks has folks taking notice.
Fisher Has Brass Ones
Let's cut the bullshit. Jeff Fisher might not be the greatest head coach in the world, but he damn sure isn't afraid of taking risks. Almost everything about trying a fake punt from your own 18 when you are up two points with less than three minutes left is fucking wrong. WRONG I SAY! Yeah, there is the off chance that your punter might actually complete a pass under duress, in which case you would convert the fake punt, but it is usually far more likely that somebody will screw something up. At best, you will just not make it to the line to gain. At worst, the opposition might well score off of your blunder.
I have to repeat this fine point again: the Rams were up two points when he called this. Do you know how viciously the media would have ripped Fisher had that fake punt not worked? Hell, for that matter, how would his players have taken it had it failed? Would the defense feel like he didn't trust them? There seriously could have been the kind of blowback that gets a coach fired had that fake punt failed.
But it didn't.
Yeah, the Rams still almost gave the Seahawks another shot with a fumble at the end, but whoop de damn do. At that point it was just icing on the cake after the fake punt worked. Even had the Seahawks recovered that fumble, I highly doubt they would have matched the Rams' defensive intensity in that moment. Their coach had gone all-in for the win with that gamble, and because it worked, his players would have also been ready to go all-in with their effort to hold onto that victory. For a team in such desperate need of a win, pulling that fake punt out of their asses was like exorcising a demon. Now with that monkey off of their back it will be interesting to see which direction this team takes for the rest of the season.
If there is in fact a major turnaround, you will probably be able to point back at that fake punt as the moment it started in earnest.
Youth Is Served In St. Louis
For the first four games of the season, the only rookie draft picks on the Rams roster to notch a substantial amount of playing time were defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback E.J. Gaines (because of an injury to Trumaine Johnson). Donald was a back-up, however, so his productivity wasn't all that high. For whatever reason, in the last two games the Rams have elevated Donald to starter status. They have also brought Greg Robinson in to start at left guard, and they have worked running back Tre Mason into the running back rotation.
The results have been outstanding.
Turf Show Times
Turf Show Times
Donald seems to always find himself in the backfield, racking up tackles for loss and getting pressure on the quarterback. He notched his second sack of the season with a nice inside move, beating both the center and guard before putting Russell Wilson on the ground. Robinson acquitted himself very well in his first start against the San Francisco 49ers and Pro Bowl defensive end/tackle Justin Smith. He was also close to dominant at times on Sunday against a very active Seahawks defensive line. Go back and look at what he did to Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril on the Rams' second touchdown. That kid is a load!
Mason has added some explosion in the backfield, and his play was a key element of the Rams' win over the Seahawks on Sunday as he racked up 85 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Yeah, he had the fumble at the end, but that is a part of the learning process for a rookie.
These guys weren't getting any better on the sideline. At most positions in football, there is only so far the classroom stuff is going to get you. We learn a lot more/better by doing rather than watching. Let those young guys go in and make some mistakes; they will have to make them at some point anyway. At least this way they can get that stuff out of the way now and grow from those experiences.
I don't know why it took so long to get all of these three guys going, but based on what we have seen the last two weeks, we do know that they all should have been getting these reps earlier. Better late than never though, I guess.