Edgy Rams primed to continue momentum in Chicago

BY foxsports • September 21, 2012

The St. Louis Rams have been called unprofessional. They've jawed at opponents. They've decked Washington Redskins tight end Fred Davis. They've won one of their first two games for the first time since 2006.

These Rams are more sledgehammer than xylophone mallet, and the rest of the NFL doesn't know what to do about it. You have Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III calling them dirty. You have Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler calling out his left tackle. You have Rams running back Steven Jackson reminding everyone that they don't play in the Big 12.
My, these are different times in St. Louis. There's a pulse. That's more than what could be said for a comatose 2011 season. Remember when the guys in navy and gold were outscored 59-29 in their first two games?

Coach Jeff Fisher has brought a new day, and it feels a bit like noon after a night out in college. You crawl from the covers, slip on stained socks, shake off the daze before brunch and say to yourself, "Did that really happen?"

Yes, Steve Spagnuolo's final season really happened. Yes, the Rams went 2-14. Yes, it was a struggle, it was embarrassing, it was something you'd rather push out the door without trading cell numbers and forget. (That means you, too, Josh McDaniels.)

But we all grow smarter (and savvier) because of our mistakes. A little experience never hurts.

Onto Week 3 …

How will Rams rushers perform?

It's a question of lightning or thunder.

Daryl Richardson is St. Louis' emerging bolt of choice. He has proven to be a seventh-round steal. He's quick. He's shifty. He can burst in the open field – as his season-high 53-yard run against Washington showed. In all, he has a respectable 103 yards on 17 carries.

But thunder is the star of any storm. No doubt, the Rams would prefer to have Jackson stare down linebacker Brian Urlacher on Sunday. The ninth-year veteran didn't practice all week and is listed as questionable. Officially, he's day-to-day because of a groin injury sustained against the Redskins. Unofficially, you can imagine the bruiser will play if his 29-year-old self allows. 
No matter what happens, an effective ground game could take a load off Sam Bradford. Last week, the third-year quarterback silenced the nonsense among some who questioned keeping him instead of drafting Griffin. He torched the Redskins for 310 yards passing with three touchdowns.

Part of the reason why? The Rams' 151-yard rushing day.

How will the Rams get into Cutler's head?

Their past is promising. The Rams picked off Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford three times. They baited Griffin into one. They've shown this unit has more attitude than a sleep-deprived bearcat with Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins on the corners.

Then there's Cutler. Yes, the same noodle right arm who tossed four interceptions in a loss to the Green Bay Packers last week.

In the name of J'Marcus Webb, Chicago fans better hope Cutler has cleaned up his act … and his mouth.  

Expect St. Louis to rip a page from its Week 2 playbook. Expect more attack. Expect aggression against a vulnerable signal-caller, popping him when the chances come, capitalizing on opportunity and flying back for more.

Remember this: The Rams' defense is more Packers than Indianapolis Colts. So don't bet the estate on Cutler repeating his 333-yard, two-touchdown performance from Week 1.

After all, much of what happens on Sundays is mental.

Advantage, St. Louis.

What will happen?

More momentum. More reason to mark a turnaround. More reason to forget about bad memories that came before.

My, these are different times in St. Louis. The Rams are one series and a Kevin Smith touchdown catch from being 2-0. There's anticipation for fall Sundays – and not because the Cardinals are in the thick of a wild-card chase. The NFC West doesn't look like the division Roger Goodell forgot anymore. And Spagnuolo's “four pillars” are being used as Fisher's footrest someplace.

Cutler is just the quarterback St. Louis needs to keep its good times rollin'. He's solid when he's firing on target, but he's a head case when he's firing blanks. You never know what gunslinger you'll get in the pocket – Brett Favre circa Green Bay or Billy Clanton circa Tombstone, Ariz. The Rams will do their best to crown Bad Jay their MVP.

They've been called unprofessional, dirty, scrappy, winners.

They've become a surprise, a team worth watching, a franchise with edge.

We'll see the sledgehammer again this week.

Aren't these Rams so much more fun?

Pick: Rams 24, Bears 17

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follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email
him at aastleford@gmail.com.