If you love the sport of football, yesterday was truly a day to remember. In the afternoon, you had two of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the game going head-to-head for a shot at another Super Bowl; one that could very well set one above the other on the all-time list. In the second game, you had an all-out bloodbath of a contest, with two NFC West rivals dueling in their third meeting of the season. Better yet, for those in Rams Nation, you got to witnessTom Brady, the New England Skygaters, and the Kaepernick-ing 49ers all see their season come crashing to an end. Beautiful.
Obviously, there were plenty of highlights, including an epic post-game “interview” from Richard Sherman. However, what can the St. Louis Rams take from those games?
1. The NFC West is not only the deepest and most competitive division in the NFL, it is also, obviously, the most entertaining to watch. Whether it is old school footballers interested in a ground-and-pound battle or new school fans drooling over explosive, offensive circus shows, the NFC West is the place to go. Colin Kaepernick, Larry Fitzgerald, Robert Quinn, Richard Sherman, Tavon Austin, Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch… the list goes on an on. Hopefully, the rest of America got a little taste of what we get on a regular basis.
2. Most in Rams Nation are still, understandably, lamenting the horrible ACL injuries that were sustained by Sam Bradford and Jake Long. However, the one positive about not being in the playoffs is that those injures will all occur prior to the new year. Thanks to FOX unapologetic replaying, everyone watching the game last night got to watch (over and over) Navorro Bowman likely tearing several ligaments in his knee. Assuming that is the case, there is little chance that Bowman will be able to undergo surgery, rehab, and be back in the swing of things for the start of Week 1 of the 2014 season.
3. Eric Decker and Anquan Boldin continue to impress, as two of the lone free agent wide receivers that the Rams “should” have their eye on this offseason. Boldin led the 49ers with five catches for 53 yards, including the only touchdown throw of the day for Colin Kaepernick. Decker ended his day with five catches for 73 yards, and snagged a late-game onside kick attempt that helped ice the game for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
If Boldin is your “player of choice,” the loss by the San Francisco 49ers might have been the best thing that could have happened. Not only will the price to obtain Boldin likely be significantly lower, he may be more apt to leave, having been stripped of his shot at the Super Bowl. Guess we will see this offseason.
4. In both games, the ability to rush the passer and force turnovers ended up deciding who would be in the Super Bowl. Terrance “Potroast” Knighton’s sack on Tom Brady on 4th down ended the comeback hopes of New England, and the strip-sack turnover forced by Cliff Avril on Colin Kaepernick was one of the most pivotal moments of the game for Seattle. With Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree on the roster, forced fumbles and sacks should be a constant in St. Louis into the foreseeable future.
5. Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks, if nothing else, showed that you can get into the Super Bowl by riding a workhorse running back and relying on a dominant defense. Aside from the eight-plus second, “running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off ” deep bomb to Doug Baldwin, the Seattle passing game was stagnant, to say the least. Wilson managed only eight passing first downs, barely surpassed 200 passing yards on the game, and finished with a QBR of 38.9 (out of 100). To put that into perspective, that is nearly the exact same stat line that both Sam Bradford and Kellen Clemens managed against the 49ers in their losing efforts this season (12 first downs, 202 passing yards, 24.6 QBR; 13 first downs, 218 passing yards, 18.7 QBR).
The Seattle Seahawks are a team that has an identity, understands that identity, and wins games despite some inept offensive production. The St. Louis Rams may have found their identity towards the end of last season. Let hope they can build on that!