EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The term "must win" is thrown around loosely these days in all sports but every once in awhile a game comes along that truly does meet the standards.
In Thursday's Ram-blings I linked to a column from Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and he laid out the case for a phrase that probably more aptly describes what the St. Louis Rams face this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars: the "can't lose" game. Let's go a step further and combine the two ideas, how about "must not lose?"
Sitting at 1-3, the Rams obviously need a win to get their season jumpstarted and break a three-game losing streak. In terms of the playoffs (PLAYOFFS?!?!), there are plenty of stats working against a 1-4 team vs. a 2-3 outfit. Forget all of that, though. Sunday's game against the Jaguars takes on many more levels of meaning.
See, as my colleague Michael DiRocco wrote Friday, Jacksonville is currently headed toward all-time levels of failure. Over at Grantland.com, even Bill Simmons has taken notice of the bottoming out Jaguars.
What that sets up for the Rams on Sunday is a sort of darned-if-you-do, darned-if-you-don't scenario. If the Rams beat the Jaguars, many will say they simply did what they're supposed to do. If they lose, well, let's get back to that in a moment. Even a blowout win in which the Rams win by a couple touchdowns or more probably won't erase the memories of the past couple of performances (though Rams fans would surely be fine with the chance to consider it).
None of that matters to Rams players or coaches, of course. Given the events of the past two weeks, the Rams would gladly take a 2-0 win and move on to the next one. A loss, however, could well be crippling on a number of levels.
The Rams already are fighting fan unrest (and rightfully so) for their recent blowout losses. The 24-point defeats at the hands of Dallas and San Francisco have brought on a flood of memories of failed seasons of recent vintage. Beyond that, with the baseball Cardinals playing soon after the Rams-Jags game and the Blues back on the ice, the Rams already figure to have a light turnout this week.
Imagine what a loss to a team on course for a historically bad season would do for crowd turnout the rest of the season? There are implications beyond that, if you want to extrapolate it further. We won't get into those unless it happens but for now it's exceedingly clear that for as much as the Rams want to win this game, they need to as well.
Daily rundown of yesterday's stories in this very space. ... Started with a look at the Rams' familiarity with Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley's defense from his time in the NFC West division. ... Followed with a look at the Rams' plan to get back to basics to help with their struggling run defense. ... Next, it was an injury report combined with a history lesson. ... Finally, a look at rookie receiver Tavon Austin and how patience is a virtue for him.
In the same corner of cyberspace, they offered an extremely early look at a possible Rams' wish list for the 2014 draft. Is it ever too early?
At stlouisrams.com, they provide three keys to Sunday's game against Jacksonville.