Whereas Rams gamers underwent massages and coverings and tried to bathe off the frustration of their 27-23 loss to Seattle on Sunday, a staff staffer walked across the locker room at SoFi Stadium to choose up their discarded towels and water bottles. On the again of his T-shirt, beneath a Rams brand, was the slogan, “2022 Write Our Next Chapter.”
It grew to become clear a number of weeks in the past, when the Rams started a dropping streak that reached six Sunday, that this chapter gained’t be practically as thrilling or profitable because the drama they lived final season after they mortgaged their future the previous few years and gave up a raft of prime draft picks to amass Matthew Stafford, Jalen Ramsey and Von Miller in an all-in run for a championship.
Their triumph in Super Bowl LVI impressed one other slogan on one other T-shirt, this worn by normal supervisor Les Snead within the Rams’ championship parade. It proclaimed his contempt for constructing round draft picks through the use of an expletive that was unfit for household viewing however strengthened he had been proper to favor confirmed gamers to draft picks with boundless potential that may by no means materialize.
Snead gave up quite a bit however gained the final word prize, and that’s the entire level. Why be content material to be a staff that makes the playoffs on a constant foundation however hardly ever goes far, when he noticed an opportunity to win all of it?
The championship banner that hangs at SoFi, the compact-car-sized championship rings gamers and coaches earned, the road in historical past books … successful all that was price every little thing he gave up.
However now, cost has come due. After an extended playoff run it’s no shock the Rams have been badly depleted by accidents, particularly on their offensive line. Or that Stafford, with a pieced-together offensive line making an attempt to guard him, has been damage and is now on injured reserve due to a spinal twine contusion.
Coach Sean McVay mentioned Sunday there’s a very good probability Stafford is completed for the season. There’s no level in bringing him again and risking extra harm. The Rams are completed, too. However their issues would possibly solely be starting, with salary-cap dilemmas looming and no first- or fourth-round draft picks in 2023 to make use of or commerce as a technique to speed up the rebuild they’ll want.
“These are the times that you really learn,” McVay mentioned. “I know for me, personally, this is the most challenging thing that you’ve ever gone through. It’s forcing a lot of reflection that wouldn’t exist otherwise.
“I don’t want to go through this but I’m grateful because if you have the right perspective, growth can occur, and I want to be better for these players, for these coaches. That’s the thing about sports, man. When things are good it’s easy. When things are challenging you really are forced to live out the stuff that you talk about.”
One factor McVay ought to have discovered on Sunday was that he beforehand had underused working again Cam Akers, who had a season-high 17 carries for 60 yards and two touchdowns towards the Seahawks (7-5).
Akers was exiled from the Rams for about two-and-a-half weeks in October, returning to apply in early November. He had been sad over how little he had been deployed and over being instructed in coaching camp he hadn’t proven sufficient depth. He was instructed to remain residence. The Rams couldn’t discover any takers in commerce talks.
On Sunday, with McVay needing the working sport to assist backup quarterback John Wolford, Akers got here by means of. He scored the Rams’ first landing, capping their first possession with a one-yard run, and barged into the tip zone for the six-yard run that gave them a 23-20 lead with two minutes and 56 seconds left within the fourth quarter.
The protection couldn’t maintain the lead, however Akers did his half effectively. It introduced again reminiscences of his exile, although he wouldn’t elaborate.
“A lot that I’d rather not say. Just I learned from it,” he mentioned. “I know what I can do. I know what I’m capable of; I know who I am.”
As a fired-up Bobby Wagner led the Rams’ protection on Sunday with two sacks and an interception towards his former staff, Akers was a touchstone for the offense.
“I’m not much of a vocal guy. I’m more of a guy who’s going to go out and do it, lead by example. Make the play. Try and make the play when it’s there,” he mentioned. “I feel our offense has got a lot of leaders who are more do it by example, not vocal guys, and that’s something that we got to get better at offensively, is having guys step up and step up and be those vocal guys that we need, vocal leaders.”
McVay spoke about having seen enchancment, which is one thing to cling to because the Rams make a fast turnaround to face the Raiders at SoFi Stadium on Thursday in what’s positive to sound and really feel like a Raiders residence sport.
“You’re not going away with the moral victories, but I think we can all see the steps that this group has taken. A lot of positives. But we want to be able to win the football game,” McVay mentioned. “It’s tough because of the amount of work that these guys put into it. But we just came up short. Didn’t make quite enough plays. But there was a lot of things that we can build on.
“This is challenging. But I’m proud to be going through this with these guys, and this is where real growth can occur.”
What they did to win final season was price it, regardless of how painful these last few video games is likely to be.