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    Burwell: Rams Have Chance To Define Season

    Burwell: Rams have chance to define season

    December 1, 2010

    "There's something happening here. ... What it is ain't ex-actly clear.''

    -- Buffalo Springfield, "For What It's Worth"

    No team or season is ever the same. Some years, you can see a championship outfit establish itself right out of the gate, or for that matter, foresee a cataclysmic season going off the rails in the blink of an eye. Other years, the character of a team and the course of a season take on a slower and more fascinating pace. In case you haven't caught on by now, this year's Rams are definitely on that slower and more fascinating path.

    A lot of people who once were snubbing the youngsters at Rams Park are now beginning to acknowledge that the kids may be on to something. If you watched all the talking heads on ESPN and NFL Network over the past few days, there was some grudging recognition that the Rams are doing something out here in the NFC West, even if no one is quite sure what to make of it.

    What can you say about a 5-6 team that is the leader of such a motley division? Do you praise the youngsters for taking advantage of the situation or mock the sad state of affairs of a division that is the undisputed weak link in pro football?

    In other words, do you call the youngsters in blue and gold a promising work in progress or an imperfect impostor lucky to be in the conversation?

    There isn't an honest man in that Rams locker room who isn't fully aware of their improving, but not entirely flattering status. After finally winning a tough game on the road with Sunday's 36-33 thriller over Denver, Steven Jackson got it right. "This is really big for us," said the big running back. "It means we're headed in the right direction. ... Pulling off this game here gives us a (boost) of confidence because these games as we go on are going to get more challenging, they're going to get tougher, the stakes are going to get higher. (But) now that we've been in this situation and we've come out with (a positive) outcome, it does a lot for us going into December."

    The best thing the Rams have going for themselves as they head into the final stretch of the regular season is one incredible word:


    They have five games to clearly define who they are, to show people if they are good or fortunate, deserving or lucky. They have - at such a surprisingly early juncture in their development from abysmal to competitive - the chance to actually control the direction of the conversation about their status. And the opportunity is coming at the ideal time, because it's starting to look like they might be maturing in the nick of time.

    Each week has been a revealing stress test for the Rams. And as the bar gets raised a little higher, the Rams have been forced to prove whether or not they were ready, willing or able to leap over it.

    Some weeks they flew over it effortlessly, other weeks, they scaled it with the grace of a three-legged ox. On other, more painful Sundays, they appeared to have been on the verge of passing the test, only to tumble back to earth with nothing to show for their efforts but bumps and bruises.

    But Sunday in Denver was a test that had to be passed, and the Rams got through and won. Now look at the schedule. It seems as though things couldn't have been scripted for these final five weeks any better if Steve Spagnuolo had plotted out the schedule himself.

    With each week, another timely stress test presents itself. And if his team (and the coaches, let's not forget the guys who are executing the game plan) is maturing as well as it appears, then everything is happening at just the right time.

    Now that they have finally passed their first road test after a season full of frustrating struggles, the Rams head to Arizona this weekend to face another wounded and fractured team seemingly in free fall. A few months ago, I don't think this young team would have been ready to handle such prosperity as facing a team in turmoil (and preparing on a short week after getting scorched Monday night). But the Denver victory showed that they can handle such fortune. So why can't they take advantage of this precious gift?

    So after two road games against flawed opposition ready for the beating, the stress test gets more challenging. Two straight games against two of the better teams in the NFL, with a road game in New Orleans against the defending Super Bowl champs, then back home in for an interstate showdown against AFC West leaders Kansas City.

    After that competitive, but frustrating loss to the Atlanta Falcons, which showed the Rams that they can play with the better teams in the league, will they be ready to graduate to the next stage in their development by beating one or two of those legitimate contenders in December?

    What has been building for months has now come down to a five-week stretch that will either make or break this unpredictable season, either turning it into something beyond our wildest imaginations or settling us down into a far more depressing reality.

    Spagnuolo keeps telling this young team to keep its eyes only on the near horizon, think only about one game at a time, and that's the smartest thing to do for a team still learning how to navigate its way through the length of a 16-game season.

    But since they are starting to mature quicker than we expected, that might mean that some of them are starting to peek beyond the near horizon. And what they see is an opportunity to do something a lot more impressive than simply squeaking into the postseason with the modest goal of just being one game better than these imperfect lugs from the NFC West.

    On the road in New Orleans seems like the only hurdle still too steep for the Rams to handle. But everything else on the schedule doesn't seem so daunting. It's there for the taking. It's not going to be easy, but it's no longer an impossible dream.

  2. #2
    LA Rammer's Avatar
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    Re: Burwell: Rams Have Chance To Define Season

    here we go again with the define talk again...

    It's Jim not Chris

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    Re: Burwell: Rams Have Chance To Define Season

    I will give Burwell credit for not focusing on any one game as defining the Rams but instead looking at the whole season.

    But on the other hand isn't that kind of a "duh" statement? All teams should be defined by their season.

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    Re: Burwell: Rams Have Chance To Define Season

    i`m just impressed Burwell is down with the Springfield..thought he`d be more Edwin Starr.

  5. #5
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    Re: Burwell: Rams Have Chance To Define Season

    I love the article, thought it was informative, yeah it was a bit " duh" but lately, unlike past years, I am starting to like what he writes because it is so true. Can the Rams "graduate" to that next step and not just be satisfied IF they do win the division, or will they "repeat " the grade 12?

    I really hope, for our RAMS sake, that we do graduate, with honors!!! We rightly deserve it and we have been humbled for far too long. It is time for us to graduate, and that does not start in January, that starts ( or should I say continues without skipping a beat) this Sunday in AZ.

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    Re: Burwell: Rams Have Chance To Define Season

    I very much disagree with his last statement. New Orleans is NOT a hurdle that is too steep to climb over, not now. Are they better than the Broncos, absolutely. Are they battle tested for the hard December and January games? You bet. But are they perfect, or are they susceptible to a fall?

    If not for a miracle, they lose at Dallas. They got embarrassed by Cleveland. If our defense holds against Brees(who has not been his usual accurate self this year), I feel very confident in saying that Bradford can score against the Saints defense. I'm certainly not saying we'll win down in the Big Easy, but it's no longer impossible.
    I believe!

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    Re: Burwell: Rams Have Chance To Define Season

    I think we are all appreciative of the effort the team has given this season, and also agree that improvement has been shown after being at the bottom of the barrel for several seasons. The Rams certainly have much improvement to make, but being 5-6 atop a weak division is more an indictment of Seattle SF, and Arizona than it is an indictment against the Rams.

    I dismissed all talk about winning the division 4 or 5 weeks ago. But things have changed since then. The Rams have every opportunity to win this thing. They have three winnable division games left. And most importantly, THEY ARE BETTER than the other three. San Francisco has underachieved and has question marks everywhere. Arizona is an absolute train wreck without Warner, Boldin, Dansby, etc. And Seattle simply isn't very good, having just been blown out at home. All of this isn't to suggest the Rams are head and shoulders above their competition, but they have more things going for them and have a brighter future in my mind than do SF, SEA and Ariz.

    Because expectations were low going into the season, I will not be destroyed if they come up short, but I WILL be disappointed knowing the division was there for the taking and we couldn't seal the deal. I don't believe in that "house money" nonsense; with improvement comes heightened expectations- which is the way it should be.

    I think Burwell makes valid assertions, not the least of which is that when opportunity presents itself, one must seize it- or someone else will.

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