Tom Brady and the Rams go way back – through more than two decades and a couple of Super Bowls.
We thought we had witnessed the end of the single greatest football career last January in the NFC Divisional Round. It would have been appropriate if the Rams had been the opponent to close the book.
Instead, after a 40-day retirement, there will be (at least) one more chapter this Sunday in Tampa Bay.
We don't know whether this will be the final installment between Brady and the Rams. But as far as their 2022 hopes are concerned, it feels like a "last chance" for the two most recent World Champions.
Both are struggling to establish an identity, and there's an air of desperation to Week 9.
So this is no time to reminisce about the role they've played in their respective histories. Sunday is solely about setting a new course for seasons on the brink.
The Road Ahead
The Rams haven't had to travel since Week 4.
Part of the disappointment of their 3-4 mark is knowing they've only made two road trips – both within the division.
Pretty remarkable that they didn't leave the time zone before the time change! (Reminder to set your clocks back Saturday night.)
Now, as the calendar flips to November, the Rams are on the road for three of their next four.
Seven games down; 10 to go; nine opponents left on the regular season schedule (they'll play the Seahawks twice); only three of those foes currently have a winning record.
What looked like a second-half gauntlet no longer appears as intimidating as it might have this summer.
The problem, of course, is that competition is looking right back at the Rams feeling much the same way.
Unlike in recent years, the NFL's trade deadline passed quietly in Los Angeles.
Based on reports, it's not as if the Rams weren't active. But they were disciplined. And it felt like the marketplace was more competitive than ever, with copycats aplenty, thanks to the Super Bowl LVI trendsetters.
Plus, there are a whopping 24 NFL teams within a game of a Wild Card spot in the loss column.
Unfortunately for the Rams, they also have more needs than they could possibly attack in the present and for the long-term benefit of the franchise.
Certainly, it would have been nice to add a player of Christian McCaffrey or Brian Burns' caliber. But now the window has come and gone, and I believe it gives the Rams the opportunity for a fresh start.
There's a sense of finality once that deadline has passed. For all intents and purposes, the roster you have is the one you'll need to finish with. No looking over your shoulder; no waiting for reinforcements.
Either this group is committed and capable enough, and will have the health and depth to accomplish its goals, or it will not.
They don't need to be a finished product at Raymond James Stadium this Sunday – only better than they were last week against San Francisco.
To borrow from the theme of Tom vs Time: The fate of the 2022 Rams will be determined by L.A. against yesterday.