So it is that Sunday presents not only a challenge for the Rams, but an opportunity. It's time the Rams once again make the dome into a home-field advantage. It's time they show any semblance of being able to win a division game.
Recent history has been bleak on both counts.
In the NFC West, the Rams have lost an astounding 14 consecutive games. They have lost 10 consecutive division games at home. Since 2007, the Rams are 1-17 in division games and are 1-14 in division games at home since 2005. Overall, the Rams are 9-31 at home since 2005 and 2-22 since 2007.
It's tough to get any worse than that. It's time the Rams figure out how to finish drives and finish games. A majority of the games in the NFL are decided by one score or less. It is a fourth-quarter league. For the Rams, the fourth quarter has been a nightmare.
Last season, in eight of their losses, the Rams were within one score in the fourth quarter. Good teams find ways to win in the fourth quarter. Bad teams find ways to lose. It's sounds like a cliché, but it's true.
Last year, the Rams were outscored 139-60 in the fourth quarter and 235-85 in the second half. Over the last three seasons, the Rams have been outscored 420-154 in the fourth quarter and 684-270 in the second half. Those are numbing numbers.
But this version of the Rams truly believe they will start putting their awful past in the rearview mirror. Sunday against Arizona, which has won two straight division titles, is time for it to begin.
Asked about the challenge of facing the defending division champions, coach Steve Spagnuolo said, "That was actually the first overhead I put in the team meeting this morning (Wednesday), that we are playing the NFC West defending champs. They are something that we would like to be some day, so obviously one of our initial goals here is to win the NFC West. We get a chance to begin that path, or hopeful path, with the first game of the season."
Said running back Steven Jackson, "If we want to make strides in winning the division, you have to knock them off. So it's very important that we come out, we play good and we execute. The main thing is, though it's the regular season, we've got to make sure that the young guys have to continue to grow at the rate that they're growing."
And veteran leaders like Jackson hope the growing really begins Sunday.