ST. LOUIS - A change of scenery can be a kick to the conscience. Settings can become stale, the shine from a 3-2 start can dull, the Edward Jones Dome can become Lambeau Field South and a bucket of water tossed in the face after a dream September can be more frigid than the St. Louis Rams red-zone offense.
Given all that, its not a bad thing Jeff Fisher & Co. will try to shake their two-game slide by facing the New England Patriots in London on Sunday. Heck, a move to the United Kingdom worked for Ernest Hemingway. The Rams goal: Not to play like old men near the sea.
St. Louis season is seven games old, but it has featured more mood swings than a date night with Bob Knight. The Rams were all smiles early before a cold front of frowns rolled in after defeats to the Miami Dolphins and Green Bay Packers. Now theyre a few more losses from chucking a chair on the season, saying, check, please and turning attention to the NFL draft.
Theres still reason to watch this weekend if only to see how many Londoners will be blasphemous to their nations history book and pull for the Patriots. How crazy is that? Its like West Coast Rams diehards waving pom-poms for the St. Louis version if the navy and gold ever were to visit Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Be smart. No matter the English accent, friends dont let friends make poor choices.
On to Week 8
How will the Rams handle their reunion with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels?
There was so much good to remember from a 2-14 season last year. Wait for it wait for it OK, Ive got nothing.
So what better time to dig a face from the dustbin and remember what was lost? McDaniels hit the wrong notes for most of Steve Spagnuolos swan song, but he did make decent music with wide receiver Brandon Lloyd: The Illinois product, now with the Patriots as well, led the Rams with 51 catches for 683 yards and five touchdowns in 11 games played. (Danario Alexander and Brandon Gibson tied for second with 431 yards receiving each.)
Another year, a different hoodie. McDaniels has returned to his New England stomping grounds, where the grass is greener as long as Tom Brady plays plastic surgeon for your reputation. The Patriots lead the NFL in scoring offense (31 points per game) and total offense (436.1 yards per game), and they're fifth in passing (286.9 ypg) and rushing (149.3 ypg).
On Sunday, oil meets water. Defense has been the Rams flex all season they rank ninth in the league by allowing 20.1 points per game so they must arrive with extra juice to give themselves a chance. Otherwise, Brady will make their heads spin faster than the London Eye on the way to 3-5.
How will the Rams exploit the Patriots weak pass defense?
This matchup will be like two men with needle biceps squaring off in a truck pull competition. In one corner, you have the Patriots, who rank 29th in the league in pass defense by allowing 290 yards per game. In the other, you have the Rams, who rank 24th in the league in pass offense by producing 209 yards per game.
Hey, no one said this game would be a Mona Lisa on the pitch. The Rams have been such a stranger in the end zone of late that they might have to apply for citizenship if they break the plane at Wembley Stadium. The offense has scored three touchdowns in the past two weeks, which is a wordy way of saying, Not good.
So what, exactly, happened to Brian Schottenheimers offense since a 31-point outburst in a Week 2 victory over the Washington Redskins? Good question. Its the mystery of the moment, like wondering where in the universe Jo-Lonn Dunbar learned that sack dance.
Some enigmas cant be explained.
What will happen?
This space is as much a fan of international travel as the next guy. Sometimes, its good to break from your cocoon and live a little. The Rams have driven down the wrong side of the road the past two weeks. Perhaps theyll feel at home in London cruising on the left side of the line.
But this is American football, and these are the Patriots touching down at Heathrow. Dont you think St. Louis would have a better chance against, say, Arsenal? Check out these recent scores for the English Premier League club: 3-1, 1-0, 2-0. Those are totals Greg Zuerlein can get pumped about.
Alas, no such luck. Its beyond time to start predicting Rams scored in quantities of 3s, since the end zone has become as elusive as Atlantis for a group hobbling without Danny Amendola.
One month, youre the talk of the NFC West. The next, youre becoming a whisper.
How late do the pubs stay open across the Pond?
Pick: Patriots 24, Rams 9