This was supposed to be the year the St. Louis Rams took the next step and made the postseason or at least had a winning record for the first time since 2003. Even the Rams offered such optimism in their preseason letter to season-ticket holders. But injuries, a tough schedule, a slow start and a continued propensity for undisciplined mistakes prevented the Rams from making that move. The defense took about six weeks to find a groove while the offense was mostly uneven, struggling regularly against some of the league's better defenses. Those looking for tangible progress will be unable to find it after the Rams finished 6-10, one fewer win than either of the previous two seasons under coach Jeff Fisher. Some will point to more intangible things such as individual player improvement but it's fair to wonder if Fisher will ever do more than take the once-dreadful Rams any further than their current level of mediocrity.
Team MVP: DT Aaron Donald -- No, that's not a misprint. Donald was not only the Rams' best rookie but their best player in 2014. It took five weeks for Donald to elbow his way into the starting lineup but once he did, he was one of the most disruptive defensive tackles in the league. It was no coincidence that the ailing Rams pass rush, which had set a record for sack futility in the first part of the season, took off. Donald finished with nine sacks, including a streak of five games in a row with a sack near the end of the season. He also had 18 tackles for loss and his presence pushing the pocket up the middle led to many sacks for the team's edge rushers. Without Donald in the starting lineup, the Rams had one sack, gave up 152.5 rushing yards per game and averaged a sack on 0.9 percent of opponent's pass attempts. After he entered the starting lineup, the Rams had 39 sacks, gave up 96.25 rushing yards per game and averaged a sack on 9 percent of opponent's pass attempts.
Best moment: The Rams' 22-7 victory against the Denver Broncos. As individual moments go, the Rams had some great ones including "The Mountaineer" punt return fakery that led to a 90-yard touchdown for receiver Stedman Bailey. But the victory against Denver was the moment the Rams most showed what their potential is as a team. Those seven points were the fewest scored by the Broncos since Peyton Manning took over as their quarterback. The Rams claimed their second win of the season against one of last season's Super Bowl participants.
Worst moment: Quarterback Shaun Hill's game-ending interception against San Diego. Just a week after knocking off the Broncos, the Rams found themselves poised to beat the Chargers on the road or, at worst, kick a game-tying field goal. Trailing 27-24 with 1:03 remaining and second-and-goal at San Diego's 4, Hill dropped back to pass with receiver Kenny Britt running a drag route across the goal line. Hill locked on Britt right away but never saw San Diego safety Marcus Gilchrist waiting on the other side. Hill tried to force the throw to Britt and Gilchrist stepped in front to seal the Chargers' win. What's worse, had Hill just waited a half a second, he had running back Benny Cunningham wide open on the left side. It was the team's seventh loss and ended any reasonable hope of a late playoff run.
2015 outlook: This team has had moments where it looks as though it's on the verge of a breakthrough only to take a step back. Heading into the offseason, the Rams don't look like they'll have a ton of holes to fill but the biggest is quarterback. There's no obvious solution that offers a guaranteed fix but the Rams will likely try various avenues, including the possible return of Sam Bradford plus the use of an early draft pick on a quarterback. Add some talent on the offensive line, especially the interior, and in the secondary and the roster would appear to be in good shape. On non-roster issues, Fisher and his staff will need to take a closer look at why they keep starting seasons slow and eliminate the continued penalties, busted coverage and other various miscues that continue to plague them. If the Rams don't take a meaningful step forward next year, they could have another major hole to fill: head coach.