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Bernie: Loss Will Help Rams To Start 2013 Hungry
Bernie: Loss will help Rams to start 2013 hungry
5 hours ago • BY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist
SEATTLE • The Rams’ final game of the 2012 season became an ideal way to make the turn to the future. A defeat is never positive, but a 20-13 loss to Seattle was the right way for the Rams to go out.
I will explain. And no, I wasn’t conked on the head by an overly aggressive Seahawks fan. I say these things with a clear head.
The Rams played well enough, and tough enough, to know they can square up and trade blows with a Seattle hit squad that could be the NFL’s best team. Knowing that they can throw down with this unholy beast in Seattle is healthy for the young Rams’ confidence.
The Rams (7-8-1) weren’t a winning team in 2012. They were not a playoff team. There will be no parade, or party favors. As of now, the Rams don’t have one player deemed worthy of inclusion on the NFC Pro Bowl roster.
Obviously, there is much work to do. They still operate with a talent deficit. But the Rams are no longer every bully’s favorite flunky. In 2012 the Rams gave notice that they will no longer serve as the litter box for the NFC West.
“I think those guys in that room can stand up and look people in the eye and say, ‘Hey, the Rams are back.’ And that’s what we wanted to accomplish this year,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said.
For much of the day the Rams matched the Seahawks’ all-purpose ferocity but gave way at the end.
That’s OK — but in no way am I suggesting that losing is acceptable. Quite the opposite, really. Losing in this manner should be unacceptable to the Rams, and leave them unfulfilled.
Instead of coasting into the offseason with a winning record and a distorted sense of achievement, the Rams will feel the sting of knowing that they still carry the stain of a losing mark. The Rams will feel the hurt of knowing they lost games because of too many mistakes and a shortage of big plays. That’s why they couldn’t hang on and win in Seattle.
By losing the last game and coming up agonizingly short of the franchise’s first winning season since 2003, the Rams will be even more determined to make it over the hurdle in 2013.
At 7-8-1 the Rams will be less vulnerable to the blather of happy talk, and more resistant to false hope and hype. The 2012 Rams have no trophies to display. That 7-8-1 record is a welcome improvement, but it is made of tin.
There is nothing to celebrate.
Nothing, that is, except for a promising future.
If the Rams care deeply about winning and making the kind of commitment that’s necessary to develop something special, this defeat should motivate them. This is no time to take bows.
“Big-picture wise, good things happened this season,” Rams GM Les Snead said. “But because of those good things we’re going to internally set the bar higher. I think externally the bar will be set higher, and that’s what you want as a competitor in this league.”
Please don’t misunderstand my point.
We should give the Rams credit for posting their best record since 2006, for their impressive 4-1-1 record in NFC West conflicts, for their three consecutive road wins.
We should acknowledge Fisher’s outstanding coaching job, and Snead’s fast start in repairing the roster. There are legitimate reasons to look forward to the league’s youngest team making a leap in maturity, knowledge and performance in ’13.
Sunday at CenturyLink Field, the Rams competed like mad in the NFL’s most imposing home venue, playing to a 13-13 tie until Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson did his magical escape act in leading his team down the field for the winning TD with 1 minute, 39 seconds remaining.
A Seattle offense that had averaged 32 points a game at home was limited to 20 points by the Rams. And while the Rams’ offense (as usual) lacked the firepower to put up more than 13 points, their 331 yards were the second-highest total allowed by the Seahawks at home this season. Seattle had given up an average of 6.6 points in its previous three home games.
The appropriate overview came from Rams defensive end Chris Long, who led an STL charge that netted six sacks.
“We’ve taken steps forward,” Long said, “but I’m (ticked) off that we lost the game. We’re all upset. We wanted to win that game as much as any game.”
The Seahawks were favored by 101/2 points, and for good reason. They’d mauled visiting teams this year. But the Rams came in here convinced that they’d stun Seattle by winning. This is the latest example of how Fisher transformed the team’s mind-set in one season.
“To see how fast we gelled together, and to see how quickly the culture changed in one offseason — it’s been night and day,” linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “Just the expectation of going into a stadium to win. Every guy in this locker room today expected to win this game. We have a ton of respect for Seattle and what they’ve done. But you couldn’t convince the 53 guys in here, and the coaching staff, that we couldn’t come in here and claw and fight and win.”
But the Rams lost. And what they don’t need is everyone telling them how wonderful they are for losing more games than they won. That happened after the Rams’ 7-9 season in 2010, and the football operation lost its collective mind. The result was a horrific 2-14 collapse in 2011.
I don’t envision this being a problem with Fisher and Snead. These guys know what they’re doing. And they know they have a lot to do.
“I think as we sit back and get away from it a little bit and start to do our assessment, I think we’ll come away feeling like we made strides,” Fisher said. “We took advantage of the opportunity to play a lot of young players. Playing time for young players is essential to their improvement. So we will expect to see them improve over the next couple of years.”
That’s fair. That’s accurate.
And that isn’t enough.
Sunday’s loss in Seattle merely reinforced the glaring need for more overall talent and additional playmakers to stimulate the offense.
Snead is fired up by the challenge of upgrading the roster again. Fisher is jacked up over coaching up this collection of young players and developing them into champions.
Veterans such as Steven Jackson, Long, Sam Bradford and Laurinaitis are savoring the opportunity to be a part of a team that matters again. They want to realize the dreams of double-digit win totals and trips to the playoffs.
“There are a lot of things we can do,” Snead said. “And I think leaving here tonight with this taste in your mouth will be that little extra fire in your belly that will get you up a little earlier and make you want to go work.”
As the Rams were preparing to leave the locker room, Long hugged team owner Stan Kroenke.
“We came a long way this season,” Kroenke told Long.
A long way, yes. But not far enough.
And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.
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Re: Bernie: Loss Will Help Rams To Start 2013 Hungry
In my opinion, the most meaningful statement in the article comes from Les Snead, who said that "internally, the bar will be set higher". You can be rest assured, Les, that fans will mirror the same expectations. Let that serve as notice to anyone who grumbles when a Rams player/players don't play up to expectations in 2013 and is taken to task by a member of the forum or elsewhere. Improvement was shown this year, both collectively and individually with many guys. And I'm encouraged and as happy as one can be with a losing record. But don't think for a second that 7-8-1 will be the expectation next year.
I'm confident the Rams' players are certainly not satisfied with where they stand and will work their tails off to take that next step in year two of the Fisher era.
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