Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Once again, the St. Louis media have the pom-pons out after the Rams tenth win of the season last night on "Monday Night Football." Anyone who buys into the hype is going to be in for a cold awakening come playoff time.

Once again, the Rams squeaked past a subpar opponent (4-9), almost blowing the game in the final minutes. Once again, they won on defense, against a Cleveland Browns squad that ain't exactly an offensive juggernaut. Once again, golden-boy quarterback Marc Bulger had a strictly ordinary night (223 yards passing, 1 TD, 1 INT).

Al Michaels said in the pre-game that "these Rams are looking like the Rams of 1999." Perhaps--if one only looks at their record. The resemblance to that Super Bowl-winning team ends there. The Rams of '99 blew other teams off the field. The Rams of '99 could destroy you in ten different ways. Defensive players lost sleep over having to play against that offense. The Rams of '99 were able to consistently beat quality opponents. The Rams of 2003 have clinched a playoff spot by feasting on subpar competition (their strength of schedule ranks in the bottom 10 percent of the league), and by playing in a lousy division.

A win is a win, and you can only beat the teams on your schedule. I don't blame the Rams for the watered-down competition. Good for them for clinching a playoff spot so quickly. There aren't many good teams in the league this year, so who knows how it might turn out?

Still, watching them struggle to eke out wins with a weak-armed quarterback and a head coach who is beyond clueless when it comes to managing a football game (the Rams rarely have any time outs left in the last ten minutes of a game) against bad football teams, it's difficult for me to imagine them beating anybody any good. Their saving grace is that they may not have to play anybody any good until the NFC championship game.

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