Now let's see if Rams will flip-flop again
By Bryan Burwell
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Saturday, Sep. 24 2005

To the untrained eye, the early weeks of a NFL season can be as deceptive as a
complicated defensive scheme is to a rookie quarterback. That's why most
football wise guys know better than to put too much stock into the premature
giddiness or irrational depression of the first two weeks of any NFL season.

Whatever character a team eventually takes develops over a longer and far more
revealing test of time.

So as we cast a discerning eye toward the 1-1 Rams as they return to the Edward
Jones Dome for Sunday's home opener against the Tennessee Titans, we're still
waiting on more tangible evidence before forming any judgment about what really
lies ahead.

After two games, all we know about them is that they won a game they could have
lost and lost a game they should have won. They've managed to provide us with
just enough to keep us interested, but not nearly enough to get us terribly
excited or depressed just yet.

That's all about to change. The Rams are heading into a character-revealing
stretch that either will expose their old flaws or accentuate their new
strengths. There aren't too many people who don't believe that, when it comes
to the Rams' struggling offense, it's a matter of when, not if, things will
start clicking again.

The resurgent defense is another story. The storyline for the new and
supposedly improved defense is one punctuated by lots of raised eyebrows.

After two weeks, the Rams' rebuilt defense is walking around with impressive
stats, surrendering an average of only 58 yards a game on the ground. But they
did that against two teams with remedial rushing skills. Over the next six
weeks, the Rams will face a series of strong running teams that will provide
them with all the tests they need to dispel doubts or validate them.

Five of the Rams' next six opponents average 114 yards rushing a game and have
Pro Bowl running backs who are named Tiki Barber, Shawn Alexander, Deuce
McAllister, Edgerrin James and Fred Taylor. And though the Titans don't have
anyone in their backfield with resumes as gaudy as those Pro Bowlers, they do
have Chris Brown and Travis Henry, who churn up 97 yards a game between them.

Everything the Rams need to prove their worth as legitimate contenders is laid
out in front of them. With four of their next six games at home, they can take
advantage of the schedule and head into their bye week in great shape for a
postseason run.

Presumably, the Rams will take advantage of the Dome, where they are 39-9 over
the past 54 games. Yet the provocative blend of opponents over this stretch
will help answer a ton of questions about the 2005 Rams, or pile on even more.

I'm not going to minimize what the Rams did against San Francisco and Arizona.
The Rams defense, with its new linebackers, healthy tackles and constantly
secondary, took advantage of an inferior opponent as they should have.

"Last week's game ... serves notice to our entire team that if our defense
comes to play, we can win games," said defensive co-captain Tyoka Jackson.
"There is no extra added pressure for our offense to have to score 30, 40
points for us to win anymore. I don't think that's the case anymore. In terms
of building confidence and building some momentum for the rest of the season,
that game was important for us."

A year ago, the Rams spent nearly the entire year flip-flopping, which defined
them as an 8-8 football team. They teased us all season. Ultimately, they were
unable to make any serious challenges outside of their own mediocre division.
Today, they can begin altering those mediocre impressions, or firmly cementing
them.