EARTH CITY, Mo. -- As one might imagine after a second 24-point loss in three weeks, the St. Louis Rams' locker room was a somber place on Sunday afternoon.
Sure, the Rams were disappointed in their fourth consecutive loss and in dropping to 4-7 with little hope of a quick turnaround. But this was something deeper. It was a sense that they'd let teammate Stedman Bailey, who was shot twice in the head last week, down.
"Put it in perspective, he would have loved to have been in the locker room, even now, you know what I mean?" linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "We’re all just constantly praying for Sted and he’s on our hearts and our minds but regardless we have got to play better football. Quite frankly, we wanted to get this one for him and so for us to be down and lose the way we did with all that emotion, it hurts."
Bailey's shooting was the latest and most emotional in a long line of hits the Rams have taken this season. After finding out Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, the Rams went through a full practice while Bailey was going through surgery. Coach Jeff Fisher informed the team that Bailey had made it through surgery and was resting in the intensive care unit after that Wednesday practice. Before it started, the team huddled in prayer for Bailey.
Needless to say, the Rams had hoped to find ways to honor Bailey during the game but most of all by coming out with a victory.
"We were thinking about him the whole game," defensive tackle Michael Brockers said. "I think that’s another reason why a lot of guys are down and frustrated because we wanted to come out here and do this for Sted. Not for ourselves, not for Fish but go out here and do this for Sted and we didn’t get it done."
That the Rams didn't get it done probably didn't hit any player harder than receiver Tavon Austin, Bailey's closest friend on the team dating to their time together at West Virginia. On Friday, Austin said he wanted to wear Bailey's No. 12 as tribute to his friend.
Although he wasn't able to do that, Austin, who posted a photo of him and Bailey together before Sunday's game and a message about playing with a heavy heart, was clearly motivated to do well in Bailey's honor. Fellow receivers Kenny Britt and Brian Quick wrote "SB12" on their towels and Britt had Bailey's initials on his shoes. Austin did none of those things but let his play do the talking.
As it turned out, Austin was the one Ram who played well consistently throughout Sunday's game, chipping in 96 yards from scrimmage and the team's lone touchdown.
"That was very tough but he’s definitely in my prayers," Austin said. "He’s still with me at all times, just not for me, just for all of us. We aren't going to make this about me. It’s about all of us. We haven't stopped fighting yet. We’ve got five left, we’re going to keep on pushing.
"I try to do anything to try to get us a win out there, especially for him. For me, I’m playing for two now so take his load and keep on pushing."
For rookie running back Todd Gurley, the recent adjustment to losing on a regular basis has been a difficult one, but he said after the game that after what happened to Bailey he's trying to keep the big picture in mind.
"It’s frustrating," Gurley said. "I’m just not used to really losing and stuff like that. Just trying to deal with that stuff. But at the end of the day, things could be a lot worse. We have just got to stay positive and just keep focused.
"It definitely opens up your eyes and makes you appreciate life a lot more for sure."
Even with the playoffs probably nothing but a pipe dream at this point, there's no doubt the Rams still have something or more to the point someone to play for.