2013 a Season of Progress, Adversity

Posted Jan 12, 2014

Entering the year as the league’s youngest team in perhaps the league’s most challenging division, the 2013 St. Louis Rams continued a steady ascent, despite absorbing what was arguably more than their share of adversity.

After beginning the year with the best seven-game start of his career, QB Sam Bradford was lost for the season when he tore his left ACL in a 30-15 loss to Carolina on October 20. The Rams ended that day 3-4, with backup QB Kellen Clemens under center for the remainder of the year. Clemens responded by leading the Rams to four more victories, including wins over playoff-bound Indianapolis and New Orleans. Along the way, Clemens established career-bests in passing yardage (1,673), completion percentage (58.7), touchdown passes (eight) and passer rating (78.8).

Rams general manager Les Snead lauded Clemens for his ability to not only weather the storm on the field, but guide the Rams’ young receivers through the second half of the season.

“The guy could coach,” Snead said of Clemens. “He was a guy that would be after practice before he had to make starts, working with the guys. I like the way our receivers progressed.”

The Rams’ adversity was hardly limited to the quarterback position. The Rams played their season finale with only two-fifths of their opening day starting offensive line. As they did with much of their adversity, the Rams turned to their talented core of young players to guide them for much of the second half of the season. RB Zac Stacy showed considerable promise by narrowly missing 1,000 yards rushing, finishing with 973, despite starting just 12 games. Stacy was a key part of a rookie-infused offense that produced the most points by a Rams team since 2006. 

The Rams’ progress was not limited to the offensive side of the ball. After a four-game stretch to open the season that had the Rams allowing more than 133 yards per game, they rebounded to post the league’s seventh-best showing against the run for the season. That marked the Rams’ highest season ranking against the run since 2001.

“There’s a lot of things we take pride in, I thought that was one thing in particular,” Head Coach Jeff Fisher said at his season-ending press conference. “The defense settled down and we changed some things. Again, I go back to those two games in five days. That was hard, but we played some excellent run teams. I thought we did a nice job, especially in the average per carry.”

The progress of the Rams in multiple phases bodes well for a team that plays in a division that posted a 30-10 record outside the NFC West—the best such mark since the current division alignment in 2002.

“This organization is heading in the right direction and we will continue to compete in this division,” Clemens said. “Hopefully we’ll end up in one of those one or two, maybe three spots next year that hopefully are still playing in January. There’s a gap, but we’re closing that gap and that’s the positive.”