(Football StL) -- Sunday in Detroit, the Rams will play what amounts to an extremely critical game for their future. No, the season is not on the line against the Lions. No, a win or loss will not determine the success or failure of the Jeff Fisher regime.
Not even close.
But what this game does tell us, however, is how close the Rams are right this second to competing against the league’s best.
Folks, the Lions are stacked. QB Matthew Stafford is an emerging superstar who threw for more than 5000 yards and 41 touchdowns a season ago. At just 24 years old, he’s just getting started on his ascent towards being among the very best (if he’s not already there now). WR Calvin Johnson is absolutely there with regards to being the best at his position. The word “ridiculous” comes to mind when describing his physical abilities. Human beings are not supposed to be that big (6’5”, 236 lbs), that fast (4.32 seconds in the 40 yard dash) and have that kind of eye-hand-coordination.
Defensively, the front 4 is as good as you’re going to see in the NFL. Led by Ndamukong Suh, they’re strong, athletic and play with the proper technique...a deadly combination. Suh, in particular, is incredibly hard to stop. He can overpower you or he can blow past you in a gap. 14 sacks in 2 NFL seasons tells you something.
Under previous coaching staffs, this is a game the Rams would not even compete in. They’d hang tight for, oh, a quarter or so and then completely implode. Under previous coaching staffs, this is a game where the players would be saying “here we go again” not long after kickoff.
This is, we’re led to believe, a new era. A new beginning where nothing that happened in the last 5 years matters.
Well, prove it.
Now’s the time to show that all of that wasn’t just talk...that it wasn’t some PR stunt to get the fan base excited again. Because it worked. I’ll give the Rams that. This city has a buzz about it now with regards to its football team. And you don’t want to disappoint the fans again.
But at some point, talk is cheap. At some point, the players have to go on the field and prove that things are indeed different than they were before. They have to prove that the problems that have plagued them in the past are, actually, in the past. And this is a new future.
Sure, Jeff Fisher’s a veteran coach with a very marketable mustache. Sure, Les Snead has the greatest hair in the business. Sure, Kevin Demoff gave fans a thrill by getting himself dunked in a water tank on the first day of training camp.
Unfortunately, mustaches, hair and water tanks don’t win football games. Players do.
All the PR campaigns to get the fans pumped up again were a tremendous distraction from the 15-65 record of the last half decade.
But try as you might, you can’t distract everyone forever. It’s like taking a test in school. You can pretend it’s not going to happen all you want. You can forget that it’s there and hope it goes away. But come 3rd period history, that teacher is handing out that test. And you have to take it.
The last several months have been quite fun for this organization to get the fans buzzing again for their football team. Given 15 wins in 5 years I have to commend them for doing such an admirable job on that front.
Play time is over though. Enough talking about how things are different.
It’s time to prove it.