It was weird. The San Diego Chargers had just taken a 10 point lead after the Rams turned a 10 – 6 lead into a 20 – 10 deficit in about 30 seconds of game time. Same Old Rams, right? But that’s not the thought that popped into my head. What crept in was the thought that the Rams could still pull this off. Then they did score, and they did cut the Chargers lead to 3.
Flash forward a little and some bad tacking, a recurring issue on the day, let Keenan Allen reach the endzone for a 29 yard score to put the Chargers back up 10 with 8 minutes to go. A lead that has seemed unsurmountable by the Rams over the last 10 years. Yet I still thought the Rams could do this. They needed to answer with a score of their own and then make a stop on defense.
Then it was quickly 4th down, and Johnny Hekker was on to punt. But he didn’t punt. Hekker caught the snap and fired a pass to Stedman Bailey who had easily shaken his defender down the sideline. Suddenly, that feeling began to creep back in. What was this? Confidence? I haven’t felt this confident the Rams were going to pull off a win since Marc Bulger capped a 17 point come-from-behind win with a 52 yard touchdown pass to Shaun McDonald in 2004.
Slowly, maybe too slowly, the Rams moved the ball down the field. Then Shaun Hill hit Bailey for his first career touchdown. Which quickly became the second long touchdown pass called back on an illegal hands to the face call on the offensive line. A few plays later Stedman found his way open in the endzone again, and caught his second first career touchdown. No penalty. Rams down 3. We’ve got this.
After a big 3-and-out by the Rams defense. Austin lined up for the punt, and I just knew he was going to have a big return. He’s been so close to breaking big plays the last few weeks. Something was bound to finally happen. When the Chargers’ punter out-kicked his coverage it was off to the races. With a couple quick hurdles Austin sprang to the outside and was going down the sideline. Finally getting forced out at the 5. But there were flags. Offsetting penalties. A phantom hold on the Rams and an illegal chop block on the punter.
Here we go again. The Rams are finally catching some breaks on the field, and then losing them to officiating. Yet somehow the Rams managed to drive back down to the 6 with a little over a minute left. The Rams had the advantage. The long drive. The big stop. The punt return. The drive back down after the penalty.
This teams identity is suppose to be the running game. On the first play form the 6 they ran with Benny Cunningham to the 4. The Chargers quickly burnt the first of their three timeouts. Then Hill dropped back for a pass, and he never saw the Chargers’ Marcus Gilchrist. And the game was over.
I would have preferred the Rams run the ball two more times and force the Chargers to burn their final two timeouts if they didn’t score. Then still have a chip shot to tie. That’s not how things went though.
But here’s the thing. Despite the Rams inability to make that final step over the edge to become a winning team, I feel like they actually have a chance to win every game the rest of the season. That’s something that hasn’t been felt in St. Louis in a long time.
While they may be on the outside of the playoff race, at least this year there is something interesting in the months leading to Spring Training.