One of my favorite things about sports in general is the history of the games. The undeniable legends who stood taller than everyone else, the greatest plays in history, the indelible moments that come to define legacies.
Like any institution, often these sports attempt to embrace their past, encouraging people and the participants of their sports to learn the history of the game. The name Jackie Robinson may not exactly be a household name, but you would likely be able to find a large portion of the population who is at least familiar with the name. MLB embraces Robinson’s contributions and has an annual Jackie Robinson Day on April 15, during which all MLB players wear the number 42, the number Jackie wore when he broke the color barrier. Some fans like it, some find it annoying. Whether or not you enjoy it, it’s hard to deny that MLB has gotten their point across.
Football season’s over, right?
Tell that to the members of the St. Louis Rams who attended Tuesday night’s screening of the film Draft Day. Starring Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, and Denis Leary, the film is scheduled for release Friday.
Hoping to stir up some excitement for the actual NFL draft (May 8-10) as well as the upcoming season, several players on the Rams roster (and some cheerleaders, much to the delight of the males in the audience) came out to the Chesterfield Galaxy theater and mingled with season ticket holders, signing autographs and taking pictures with the fans.
The culmination of the 2013 National Football League season brings the country’s biggest game to the country’s biggest city. This Sunday thousands of fans and media will descend on the New York area with millions more tuning in from around the globe to watch the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks do battle for the sport’s biggest prize and be crowned NFL champion.
Everyone knows the clichés “Defense wins championships!” and “The best defense is a good offense.” This year’s Super Bowl is one of the most anticipated games in recent memory because it will pit those two clichés head to head as the number one ranked offense (Denver) battles the number one ranked defense (Seattle) in Super Bowl 48.
Just how good is each offense and defense respectively? The Peyton Manning-led Broncos had the top-ranked pass offense, the top-ranked total offense, and the top ranked scoring offense. Manning himself had a historic 2013 campaign, setting single season records for both passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55). Couple this with the Seahawks defense that was tops in the league in pass defense, scoring defense, and total defense, and you get a very rare matchup: the clear-cut best defense going against the clear-cut best offense. This will be only the sixth occurrence of such a matchup Super Bowl history and only the fourth since the merger of the NFL and AFL in 1970. The last occurred in 1991 (before most of the students in my classes were even born) when the top-ranked defense of the New York Giants defeated the top-ranked offense of the Buffalo Bills 20 to 19 in Super Bowl 25 (my older readers will remember the name Scott Norwood). Sunday also marks only the fourth time in the current playoff system that the top seeded team in each league will play each other, with both teams winning 13 games in the regular season to secure the number one seed.
The 2013 campaign for the St. Louis Rams kept fans on an emotional roller coaster all season long. There were the highs of blowout wins over Chicago, Indy, and New Orleans, the emergence of Zac Stacy as a feature back, and Tavon Austin racking up 3 touchdowns of over 55 yards in a little over a quarter against the Colts. There were the lows too, though: an injury that prematurely ended Sam Bradford’s season (which was statistically the best early season of his career), abysmal losses to Dallas and Tennessee, and coming up one yard short against the Super Bowl-bound Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football.
Throughout this topsy-turvy season, however, there was one constant: Defensive End Robert Quinn was dominant. He was not just one of the Rams’ best players; he was one of the best players in the entire NFL. This was confirmed last week when Quinn received the prestigious PFWA (Pro Football Writers of America) Defensive Player of the Year Award. And the honors didn’t stop there. He was selected to the Pro-Bowl as a first-team all-pro and earlier this week was picked to be one of the four Pro-Bowl captains.
The NFL is back! Every year the first weekend of August marks the unofficial kickoff of the new pro football season with the Hall of Fame Game. With this game, the six month long separation between football and fans ends and the new season begins. Also during this time, NFL teams are wrapping up their training camps, preparing to move into preseason workouts.For the second year in a row the St. Louis Rams concluded training camp with “Fan Fest.” This year’s event allowed fans the opportunity to tour the locker rooms, attempt a field goal, test their passing accuracy, or just hang out on the field.
The Rams also allowed a limited number of fans to attend a Q & A session with team executives Kevin Demoff (VP Football Operations and C.O.O), Tony Pastoors (Senior Assistant) and Les Snead (General Manager). Needless to say, you know where I spent my time at this event.
I had the opportunity to ask Demoff what the internal expectations are for the 2013 season.
“At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what the record is. Whether it’s 8-8, 9-7, 10-6, or even 9-6-1; it’s to win the NFC West and host a playoff game,” Pastoors added.
In order to achieve (or even get close) to those goals, the Rams are going to need a big impact from their new talent to complement last season’s strong defensive effort with a down-the-field offense that translates into points. The Rams have to improve in the red zone and on 3rd downs. The team ranked in the bottom half in red zone touchdown percentage at 51.35%, and Rams quarterbacks had a red zone passer rating of only 74.7, which was 27th in the league. Additionally third down conversion percentage was only 32.1% (29th in the league), and 26.37% of the time the Rams had a three-and-out, the 5th worst percent in the league. When asked about how the Rams would improve the offense, GM Les Snead said, “I told these guys (scouting and personnel staff) ‘go find people to score touchdowns.’ The more weapons you can get on offense to make the defense try to figure out where to go, the better.”