The Rams found their identity last week against the Houston Texans — build a physical foundation with the run, take advantage of opportunities on defense, play smart football and let big plays make the difference in the game.
Or so we thought.
It can be argued that the true identity of the Rams showed itself today — a team that seems more interested in winning petty slapfights and name-calling trades than in actually doing things like cover, or tackle, or make plays.
Despite following their new blueprint to a tee in the first half, some bad luck dug an early hole. And what started out as admirable fight to dig their way out of that hole turned into a plain-old fight in the second half. It was a fight that the Rams lost by unanimous decision from the referees and the scoreboard.
And in losing the fight, they may have to prepare themselves for losing Sam Bradford for an extended period of time as well. The Rams quarterback had his knee buckle while being run out of bounds. The hopes for 2013 may have been carted off the field with him.
It's like there are two competing personas in this Rams team, with Sam Bradford's and Brian Schottenheimer's gentlemanly chess player demeanor sharing brain-space with Jeff Fisher's and Chris Long's smashmouth, no-holds-barred tendencies. Today, Fisher, Long and the Rams lost their head, in more ways than one. And in doing so, they learned an essential and painful truth:
So goes Sam Bradford, so goes the Rams.
I would like to point out some positive takeaways from this game, such as Brian Quick's breakout performance (despite his drops), signs of life from Tavon Austin, and another good game from Zac Stacy including his first career touchdown. But those are all moot if we're facing a nine-game fade captained by Kellen Clemens, with Johnny Hekker as his de facto backup.
Bradford was being asked to make up for a lot of his team's deficiencies already: a shaky offensive line, a receiving corps that leads the league in drops, a head coach who has lead feet on the brakes of his offense, and a defensive backfield that seems incapable of covering opponents. No one's shoulders carried more weight of the Rams' three wins so far on the season. No one on the roster has the shoulders to carry that load going forward.
There will be wagon-circling. There will be prayer-bead-rubbing. There will be a reinstillment of the us-vs-them mentality in the locker room, something that Fisher specializes in. There will be veiled critiques about officiating and plenty of bad blood that will carry over until the next time these teams meet.
What there shouldn't be is excuses. The Rams suffered a mighty loss today, the full extent of which has yet to be calculated.