This piece has been written by guest writer Dave Bodymore.
“Tonight, a dynasty is born,” declared wide receiver Ricky Proehl the last time the Rams and the Patriots met in the Super Bowl.
How right Proehl was. Over the 17 years since, one of those sides has gone on to become the dominant force in the NFL – but not the one he expected.
Now, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s stranglehold on the NFL is beginning to loosen and once again the Rams are back with an offensive genius to try and become the dynasty St Louis, and the over confident Proehl, believed they had.
Under Dick Vermeil and Mike Martz, The Greatest Show OnTurf were transformed from one of the league’s worst teams to one that regularly put up incredible yard and points totals and won Super Bowl 34 against Jeff Fisher’s Titans.
Yet they never became a dynasty, reaching just one more Super Bowl, at the end of the 2001 season, which they lost to a 48-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal having put up 14 points in the final quarter to pull level.
With history repeating itself again, the Rams and Pats meeting in Atlanta once more to decide the league’s best team, could Sean McVay finally be able to produce the dynasty everyone believed would emerge nearly two decades ago?
The Greatest Show
The Rams went into the 1999 season having spent a decade as stragglers in the NFL, a period which included them leaving Los Angeles and heading to St Louis.
Desperate to transform the franchise, Vermeil was tempted out of a 15-year retirement to become head coach, bringing with him offensive coordinator Martz.
What happened next was as unexpected as it was amazing, with Vermeil’s side ending the season 13-3 and making their first playoff appearance since 1989 – knocking off the Vikings and Bucs to reach Super Bowl 34.
When league and Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner helped them beat the Titans 23-16 in Atlanta, they looked to be new top dogs in town. This was going to be the era of the Rams.
Failing to Fulfil Their Destiny
Despite their Super Bowl win, the Rams never developed into the all-conquering side St Louis and the league expected.
Under Martz they carried on racking up yards and points, but never got their hands on another Super Bowl trophy, only returning to the big game once more before this year – losing to the Patriots.
In the 2000 season, they were more dominant offensively than the Super Bowl winning year, racking up 7,000 yards and scoring 540 points.
But turnovers blighted the side. In the three years they were controlling on offense, they also gave up the ball 109 times – that included eight games where they turned the ball over four or more times.
The dismal fall from grace saw just three more winning seasons until McVay arrived two years ago, all under Martz, with one ending in defeat in the Wildcard Round, one in the Divisional Round and the loss against the Patriots in Super Bowl 36.
Speaking about the demise on NFL Films The Greatest Show on Turf documentary, running back Marshall Faulk said: “I felt we had the makings of a team that could definitely get back [to the Super Bowl].
“But I did not know how hard it was to get back to a Super Bowl after losing one.
“You talk dynasties, and obviously we don’t all play in the same era, but you can’t call yourself the Greatest Show on Turf and not be the greatest, you are the greatest.”
Quarterback Warner added: “It was disappointing, of course, because the expectations were high.
“I still believe that that collection of talent and what we accomplished consistently as the Greatest Show on Turf, that is the best offense the NFL has ever seen.
“We ushered in a new era of football that everyone is playing now.”
Back in Atlanta
Since McVay’s arrival ahead of the 2017 campaign, the Rams have once more developed into an exciting, attacking franchise, ready to thrill at each turn.
There have also been flashes of the turnover issues that blighted Vermeil and Martz’s side; particularly in week 14 of this season, when Jared Goff threw up four interceptions in a disappointing defeat against Chicago.
But, despite some concerns, Goff has come up trumps when it mattered most – particularly against Sean Payton’s New Orleans Saints in the Championship game, exuding confidence and making vital passes to guide his side to victory.
In Brandon Cooks and Robert Woods, the side have two receivers who can light up opponents, just as Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce once did. While youngsters Josh Reynolds and, once he returns to full fitness, Cooper Kupp provide further options in the pass game.
Meanwhile in Todd Gurley, just as with Faulk, the Rams have one of the league’s best running backs, with more than 3,750 total yards and 40 touchdowns.
And on the defensive side of the ball, they have an all-star line-up, led by the NFL’s leading talent Aaron Donald, who is almost unstoppable in his mission to reach the quarterback,.
When the Rams step out in Atlanta this weekend, McVay’sinexperience will be put to the ultimate test by mastermind Belichick, who was able to limit the free-scoring Patrick Mahomes in the Patriots last game and will be desperate to ruffle Goff’s feathers this week.
The last time the two franchises met, in the exact same city, a much younger Brady was able to march down the field with no timeouts and set up a demoralising three-point win.
His quality saw the start of the downfall of the Greatest Show on Turf and forged sport’s greatest dynasty.
This Sunday, the dynasty Martz and the then-St Louis Rams started can be ended by McVay and his Los Angeles side and the forging of a new era can begin.
Photo credit : USA Today
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