A cautionary tale

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 23, 2007

By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts walker down memory lane
Heading into Week 8 of the 2000 NFL season, there were two questions on the minds of fans and media alike:
Would the Rams go undefeated?
And, b y how many points would they shatter the all-time scoring record?
In 2000, St. Louis was coming off of its Super Bowl win over Tennessee, and the Rams followed it up with a remarkable start the following season.
They kicked off with 500+ yards and 41 points against a good Broncos team that would finish 10-6.
Then they put up 37, 41 and 41 against the Niners, Falcons and Seahawks before hosting 0-4 San Diego in St. Louis. 
That was the big one, a 57-31 win that made San Diego look like a CFL team. The Rams led 47-17 after three quarters, and Kurt Warner finished the day with a perfect 158.3 rating. 
S ound like a certain Patriots-Dolphins game to anyone else?
After a Week 6 bye, the Rams came back in Week 7 to beat Atlanta 45-29 and further reinforce their status as the best offense of all time.
Their numbers:  
  • They had 262 points in six games (43.6 per), on pace for 699.
  • Marshall Faulk was on pace for 2,888 total yards from scrimmage, 1,656 on the ground 1232 in the air.
  • Kurt Warner had 20 TDs in six games, and was averaging 376.7 yards per – on pace for a record-shattering 6,026 yards and 53 TDs.
  • Isaac Bruce was on pace for 1,845 yards and 14 TDs.
  • Torry Holt was on pace for 1,525 yards.
  • The Rams were beating opponents by an average of 14.7 points a game.  
Yes, the Rams were a totally unstoppable juggernaut ...
Except, of course, for the fact that they finished 10-6, barely made the playoffs, and lost in the first round.
So, what happened?
  1. Kurt Warner started playing poorly, then got hurt. Warner had eight INTs in those first six games, nothing to worry about when you're producing huge numbers. But in the next five weeks, he threw 10 more INTs, to only four TDs, then went down with an injury vs. New Orleans. Trent Green played well the rest of the way, but the Rams "only" scored 27.8 points a game over their final 10.
  2. The schedule got much tougher. The Rams played five of their last 10 against playoff teams, and the other five teams on the schedule were at least mediocre.
  3. The defense never improved. St. Louis was allowing 29.5 points a game in that six-game run, but it was assumed that those numbers were skewed by the Rams' big leads. Nope. They allowed 29.7 a game the rest of the way in going 4-6.
Will any of these pitfalls befall the Patriots? They've certainly played better on defense than the Rams, and mistakes of any kind have been pretty hard to find. A 10-6 record certainly doesn't seem to be in their future. 
But the scoring record they're taking aim at seems like a longshot as well. Like those Rams, they have five Quality Opponents left on the schedule, and it's just not as easy to keep the numbers up when the opposition is putting up a bit of a fight.
This Patriot team is no high-flying flash in the pan, but at the very least, New England coach Bill Belichick can use the 2000 Rams as another slice of Humble Pie to serve his team.

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