The game itself was an embarrassment for Rams fans. After standing nose-to-nose with the 49ers in two games last season, St. Louis was outclassed on Thursday night. San Francisco had the game in hand before the second-half even got underway, and with two minutes left in the game, they were looking to simply run out the clock and celebrate a much-needed win.
Instead, the stadium rang with the screams of All-Pro left tackle Joe Staley as he was bent over backwards and crushed under a pile of players on a meaningless play.
Staley is a tough guy, and knowing that probably made the screams carry even more weight. Watching him pound on the turf, with his face as red as his jersey, there was little doubt that he had just played his last play of the season.
Fortunately, Staley waved off the cart and walked off the field with a little bit of help. He would later tweet that he was fine, and joked off his uncontrollable screaming. At the time though, no one knew how serious the injury was, and after San Francisco punted the ball back to the Rams, Fisher called for his quarterback to kneel on the ball.
As the Rams’ offense lined up in the traditional victory formation, the stadium was suddenly filled with boos coming from the remaining St. Louis faithful. Being upset that your team is quitting at the end of the game is understandable, but in this particular situation, the fans should have cheered their team’s nobility.
The Rams had been crushed. The game had lost any feel of competitiveness at least an hour earlier, the score was 35-11 and with 1:43 left on the clock there was no chance of a comeback. Everyone had just heard Staley’s screams, and there was no sense in risking anyone else’s season. Taking a knee was the best move at the time.
Fisher’s decision to run out the clock may not have been popular with the fans that had stuck around till the end, but it was the right thing to do and should be an inspiration to anyone who sees it.
The respect Fisher showed to the opposing players, to his own players and the game itself trumps any complaint a “die-hard” NFL fan could possibly have for the Rams conceding the win. Anyone who yelled out against that type of class has shown the limitation of their own morals, and clearly overlooks the beauty of the sport they claim to love.
Coach Fisher, you did the right thing, and there are plenty out here that applaud the class you displayed to a national audience.