In the second half, that emotion went from simmer to boil and all of the trash talking, shoving and chippy play devolved into a full-on shoving match that eventually resulted in the ejection of Rams defensive end Chris Long for throwing a punch.
From there, a sort of ominous "what's going to happen next?" feeling loomed over the game. Unfortunately for the Rams, what happened next was the one injury the team couldn't afford.
With 5:27 to go in what would be a 30-15 loss to the Panthers, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford scrambled for a 1-yard gain to Carolina's 36. Just before Bradford got to the sideline, Carolina safety Mike Mitchell got his hands on Bradford and pushed him from behind. As Bradford tumbled out of bounds, he was unable to keep his balance and his left leg appeared to sort of stick in the ground.
Bradford crumpled, writhing in pain and holding his left knee as Mitchell stood over him in celebration. Rams guard Harvey Dahl ran over and removed Mitchell, who had been an annoyance to the Rams all day, from the fray and got a 15-yard penalty in the process.
The penalty meant nothing, though, compared to Bradford's situation. The cart came out and took Bradford to the locker room. By late Sunday night, the Rams confirmed their quarterback had suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and would miss the rest of the season.
While the Rams showed more fight than expected in the nine games after backup QB Kellen Clemens took over, any hopes of the postseason rode with Bradford on that cart to the locker room. Not only did Bradford's injury have the biggest impact on the Rams' 2013 season, it also provided more reason to wonder about his long-term future as the team's quarterback.
The Rams have remained steadfast in their commitment to Bradford but losing the chance to evaluate Bradford in his fourth season combined with another injury left the Rams without a definitive answer of exactly what they have in him moving forward.