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After discarding butterflies, Rob Boras gives Rams' offense needed boost

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Just before his first game as an NFL offensive coordinator two weeks ago, the St. Louis Rams' Rob Boras found himself overwhelmed by nerves.

In fact, Boras was so nervous that he had to excuse himself multiple times, including once from the coaching booth, so he could vomit.

“Other than maybe the birth of our first child, that might have been the most nervous I’ve ever been,” Boras said. “We all take a lot of pride. We all have a lot of pride in what you want to do. Nobody wants to be embarrassed. You want to do what’s right for everybody. You get nervous.”

By one unofficial count, Boras ejected his pregame butterflies four times before finally settling in to call plays in the NFL for the first time. Boras' unsettled stomach earned him a postgame bucket from head coach Jeff Fisher after the team's 21-14 win against the Detroit Lions. But that wasn't the most important memento Boras took away from his first game as a coordinator in the big leagues.

To complement his bucket, Boras also received a game ball, a sign that once Boras had shed his nerves, he was able to settle into his new role just fine. That progress continued in last week's win against Tampa Bay as an offense that's been mostly dreadful all season has shown some much-needed signs of life with Boras calling the shots.

"I think Coach Boras has kind of implemented a new mindset for everybody to come out and take advantage of and I think guys have been doing it," tight end Jared Cook said. "It’s about preparation. It’s a lot of pressure and a lot to deal with on such short notice but I think he’s done a great job in terms of scheme, I think it has kind of given us a new identity and helped our line out a lot."

To be sure, Boras hasn't turned the Rams into the second coming of the "Greatest Show on Turf." Far from it. But through the first 12 games, the Rams' offense languished under the guidance of coordinator Frank Cignetti. The consistent lack of production ultimately got Cignetti fired and put Boras in the unenviable position of trying to fix a broken offense in a short period of time.

The results through two games have been promising, though they should come with the caveat that the Rams' uptick in offensive performance has come against lowly Detroit and Tampa Bay.

Under Cignetti, the Rams averaged 296.3 yards per game and 14.4 offensive points per game to go with a league-worst 24.5 percent third-down conversion rate. In the two games under Boras, the Rams have posted 318 yards per game, 22.5 offensive points per game and a 28.6 percent third-down conversion rate. Again, not a massive improvement but a noticeable uptick that's been good enough to get the Rams two victories.

And the numbers could be even better had the Rams been able to finish a drive that started at Tampa Bay's 3-yard line but came up short after Boras dialed up three straight runs.

“He was much better, much better," Fisher said. "He’s still agonizing over the first-and-goal on the 2, second-and-goal on the 2, third-and-goal on the 2. We didn’t get it in, but I told him, ‘That’s football sometimes.’ I was not going to give him the fourth-down shot. We needed the points. Beyond that, he was much more at ease. He was in rhythm. There were no issues from a play-calling standpoint.”

What becomes of Boras and the Rams' offense after the season remains to be seen. A number of Fisher's assistants have expiring contracts and if the Rams are to make some changes, the offensive coaching staff would seem most likely to have some turnover. Until then, Boras will at least have two more opportunities to bolster his resume and make the case that he can handle the job and that a full offseason in charge would make a significant difference.

This week should offer a much better tell on whether Boras is making a difference or the Rams have simply taken advantage of better matchups. Seattle's defense is ranked No. 2 in yards allowed per game and scoring defense. Playing in the Pacific Northwest has also been unkind to the Rams under Fisher, as they've mustered just 28 total points in three trips to CenturyLink Field.

In the meantime, Boras has already made inroads with his players, who seem to have bought into whatever he's selling.

“He’s very, very detailed and does a great job presenting whatever new play or whatever new concept that we have, so it’s been great," quarterback Case Keenum said. "He does a great job.”