Two games into the season, many St. Louis Rams' fans are still trying to figure out what they've got in this 2013 version. Is this the dark horse playoff contender that many pundits talked about in the preseason? Or are these the "same old Rams" who haven't sniffed the post-season for nearly a decade?
The debate is over in my mind. Here's why the St. Louis Rams have officially graduated to contending status:
1. A playoff caliber front seven on defense. The football axiom hasn't changed. "Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships." Even those who followed "the Greatest Show on Turf" have to admit that Kevin Carter, London Fletcher and Todd Lyght were every bit as responsible for those Super Bowl appearances as Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Isaac Bruce.
The 2013 Rams have a dominant defensive line and active linebackers who can run with tight ends and pursue sideline to sideline. Robert Quinn is emerging as THE dominant pass rushing end in the NFL and Chris Long hasn't even gotten started yet. Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford are undervalued defensive tackles who are good run-stoppers and push the pocket back regularly.
2. A quarterback who can carry an offense. Like we said after last week's game, Sam Bradford is among the elite NFL quarterbacks. All he needs some help from the aforementioned defense and his young receivers to get some big game wins on his resume.
After two games, Bradford is fifth in the NFL in yardage and touchdowns. His two interceptions were off deflections at the line of scrimmage on relatively safe throws. Especially in the no-huddle, he looks every bit as poised and in control of an offense as Joe Flacco. Most significantly, he's led his team back from two score deficits two weeks in a row. If the defense stops Matt Ryan Sunday, who knows what happens?
These two alone take the Rams from being also-rans to being able to be mentioned as a playoff contender. There's one thing, however, that really takes the Rams to the next level:
3. An organization and a city that expects winning. Not too long ago, St. Louis was home to football apathy. Losing and mediocre efforts were the expected norm. Not long ago, maybe even last season, Sunday's narrow loss in Atlanta would have been considered a moral victory. Not any longer.
Our Twitter timeline was full of disappointed fans venting. Most importantly, Jeff Fisher expressed the disappointment of the team, saying, "I wish we could play them again tomorrow."
St. Louis fans know this team is different. So do the Rams. Now it's time for the results to be different.
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