Balzer: The fine line between success and failure

By Howard Balzer

(KSDK Sports) -- As the Rams rested during their off weekend and watched what was happening around the NFL, they probably couldn't help but wonder what might have been. Right in their own division, the San Francisco 49ers lost to the New Orleans Saints and saw their record drop to 6-4, tied with the Cardinals for second place in the division after Arizona defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Rams reside in the cellar with a record of 4-6, knowing that two recent home games there to be won against Seattle and Tennessee could have also left them with a 6-4 record. That's the fine line that exists between success and failure.

Elsewhere in the conference, Philadelphia leads the NFC East with a 6-5 record, followed by Dallas at 5-5, one game better than the Rams. The Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions lead the NFC North at 6-4, while the Green Bay Packers are also at 5-5.

At the beginning of the season, who would have predicted that Atlanta, Houston and Minnesota -- playoff teams last year -- would currently all be 2-8?

But as it is often said, "Your record is who you are," and the Rams face their final six games hoping to continue any momentum there might have been in their 38-8 thrashing of the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 10 as they headed to their bye.

Putting things in perspective, coach Jeff Fisher said, "We're disappointed with the six (losses) but I think, overall, we're seeing some improvement. Our run game is coming. The last three weeks it's been 200 (yards) and 160 and 140 against good defenses, and so I think that gives you a chance. And we saw some improvement out of our defense last week."

Of course, the Rams know the final six games will be a grind. Three are in the division, all on the road, and two of the other three games are against teams – Chicago and New Orleans -- with winning records. The sixth opponent, Tampa Bay, has won two consecutive games and four of their eight losses are by a combined nine points.

The combined record of their final six opponents is 38-23 and 36-15 without the Buccaneers.

With quarterback Sam Bradford on injured reserve because of a knee injury, Kellen Clemens will steer the team for the remainder of the season. Clemens hopes his play resembles more the quarterback that posted a passer rating of 140.6 against Indianapolis rather than the one, in his first start against Seattle, that had a rating of 36.8. In between, there was a rating of 84.2 against Tennessee.

Fisher noted the progress for Clemens from game to game has been evident.

Fisher said, "You can see our third-down efficiency is getting better. Both of Tavon's (Austin) touchdowns (against the Colts) were third-down plays. He's keeping drives alive, and he's doing a good job in the run game too with the checks — has a really good understanding."

As Clemens said simply, "I get more and more comfortable with each game. Hopefully that continues."

Howard Balzer will be contributing to KSDK Sports throughout the 2013 season. Howard hosts "H and Friends" Monday-Friday on Fox Sports 1490 The Champ. He is also a host on SiriusXM NFL radio and one of 44 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


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