ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Rams may only win four or five games this year, finish near the bottom of the NFC standings and get another top-10 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Sounds like a bad year, right? Not at all.
For a team that won two games last year and just 15 games the previous five seasons, the Rams have shown significant progress under first-year coach Jeff Fisher, whether it shows up in the win-loss columns or not.
They were awful last year. Absolutely awful. The Rams scored the fewest points in the NFL and had the second fewest yards per game on offense while allowing the sixth most points in the league on defense. Rarely were the games even competitive, with the Rams losing by scores including 26-0, 27-0, 37-7, 24-3, 34-7, 30-13 and 31-13.
Following a 7-9 campaign in 2010 that saw the Rams come up one win short of an NFC West Division title, the Rams took huge steps backward last season. Coach Steve Spagnuolo was fired and Fisher was brought in to rebuild the franchise back to the glory days of the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
And they are well on their way to doing just that. A 3-6-1 record may not look great, but it’s obvious to anyone following the Rams this season that they are getting better. Much better.
It’s easy to look at the Rams record this year and say what could have been. And you’d be right. The Rams should have won their season-opening game in Detroit if not for a Lions touchdown with 10 seconds remaining. They could have won a 17-14 loss in Miami in week six. They had division-leading San Francisco beat two weeks ago until they allowed 10 points in the fourth quarter and ended up with an overtime tie.
Without stretching it too much, the Rams could – and arguably should – be 6-4 on the year and right in the mix for a wild-card spot. And even though they aren’t, they have still managed to do something that last year’s team couldn’t do. Stay competitive.
A 45-7 loss to Green Bay was the only game the Rams were totally out of in the second half. In the other nine, they’ve at least still been in the game. Last year’s team couldn’t say that. They couldn’t come close to saying that.
“Every day’s a learning experience,” Fisher said recently. “You can pull something from each day that you highlight. That’s kind of where we are. We’re continuing to emphasize improvement and continue to focus on preparation and the weekly opponents.
“Part of the process is keeping wins and losses in perspective and putting some tough things behind you as quickly as you can.”
The Rams certainly had a tough time putting a tough tie behind them last Sunday, losing 27-13 to the lowly New York Jets. It was a small step back in what’s been a giant leap forward in 2012.
Sure the Rams still have some problems to work out. The offense still has the fourth fewest points in the league and has struggled to capitalize on its red zone opportunities. But the defense has been much better, keeping the Rams in a number of games despite the lack of offensive production.
If Rams fans were told before the season that their team would win four or five games this year, most would have taken it in a heartbeat. But with the way they’ve lost a few close games this year, that win total will now likely seem like a disappointment.
And that’s good. That means the Rams are making progress.