In the midst of what can be described as nothing other than a "lost season," the Rams have faced critique from every direction, especially from within their own fan base. What's wrong with Brian Schottenheimer's play-calling? Why is the Rams' defense so soft? Why hasn't Tavon Austin lived up to his billing? Why didn't the Rams sign a legit backup quarterback? Why can a team like the Colts, the only team worse than the Rams in the 2011 season, be suddenly competing with the league's elites, and how far away are the Rams from that status? Is the Rams' high-risk, high-reward draft strategy inherently flawed?
After today's shocking blowout upset of those Indianapolis Colts, the Rams have the luxury of being able to answer those questions.
Life without Sam Bradford so far has seen the Rams step up considerably in his absence, playing well enough to win but just poorly enough -- especially at quarterback -- to lose. If you were feeling charitable, you could point to those evidences of good play as "Progress," but charity is in short supply in a town that has not seen winning football in ten years. Years of losses have a way of sapping the clarity and color from those rose-colored glasses.
So when Robert Quinn and Chris Long combine to forcibly separate Andrew Luck from the football, and that football gets carried into the end zone for easy Rams points, the primary reaction from Rams Nation is blinking disbelief. "This isn't supposed to happen to us."
When Zac Stacy finishes an impressive offensive drive jump-started by Tavon Austin and Chris Givens and puts the Rams up 14-0, the fleeting reaction is "uh oh." As in "This just sets the table for a dramatic Colts comeback." Don't judge us, that's just who we are.
But when Tavon Austin scores three consecutive touchdowns on plays of 98, 57 and 81 yards to put the Rams up 35-0 on the Colts, and when those Colts have less than 100 yards of total offense to show for themselves at that point in time, all the doubts and pain get washed away, leaving only disbelief.
How did this happen? Where did these Rams come from? What the *&%# did I just see? And this: WOO HOOOO!
The answers are in Jeff Fisher's and Les Snead's blueprint for rebuilding this team. It has taken longer than we would like, but the explosive talent that the Rams drafted is finally exploding. The Rams defense and special teams consistently gave the Rams short fields, and Zac Stacy carried the load early, setting up Kellen Clemens to have his best (and easiest) day as a pro: 247 yards and 2 TDs on only 9 completed passes.
The so-called Jeff Fisher attitude on defense is finally being matched by legitimate play-calling and legitimate play-making, with constant pressure, big hits and opportunistic hands making up for the occasional lapses in discipline. (As an aside, I find that it is much easier to look past broken plays on defense, such as the long catch-and-run plays by Donald Brown and Daniel Herron, when you have a thirty-point cushion on the scoreboard.)
All over the field, you could point to players drafted or signed by the Fisher-Snead regime making plays: Chris Givens' fantastic 35-yard grab setting up the Rams' first offensive touchdown. Any one of Tavon Austin's electric runs. Trumaine Johnson's athletic leaping interception of Andrew Luck in the end zone, snuffing the last vestiges of hope in Indy. Jake Long's muscular run-blocking that set up a game-icing 50-yard run by Benny Cunningham.
Add contributions from trusted veterans Chris Long, Robert Quinn and James Laurinaitis -- the latter positioned for a timely interception after a perfect "Tampa Two" deep drop. Add in Rodger Saffold playing guard for the first time in his college or pro career, and doing so admirably well -- and this after another week of rumbled discontent and assurances that this season would be his last in horns.
Add it all up, and you have a statement win, not only for this team, but for the direction that this team is heading.