Will Sunday's speedbump in Minnesota send the L.A. Rams careening off course, or simply be a remembered as a moment of growth for a young team still in playoff position?
The Rams were beaten up on both sides of the ball by a superior Vikings squad in the 24-7 loss. Todd Gurley was stymied, earning just 37 yards on 15 carries. Jared Goff couldn't connect on splash plays. The L.A. defense couldn't slow Latavius MurrAy or Adam Thielen and earned zero sacks of Case Keenum.
How Sean McVay's team reacts from here will speak loudly.
"It's frustrating, but the reality is, we needed adversity," left tackle Andrew Whitworth said, via the O.C. Register. "It's not to say that we didn't need to come back and win that game, but when you're on the road in a really hard place to play, against one of the best defenses in the league, to play the kind of game we were in, and for this team to be in the game, I think it shows you that we're legit and we're the real deal.
"If we get this opportunity in the playoffs, and get a chance to get in, then we'll be prepared for it. Those are the kind of games you're going to play, if you want to play after the regular season, if you want to play late in the year in big games. This is the atmosphere you're going to have to learn how to play and win in."
The Rams' high-flying offense was grounded, failing to reach double-digit scoring for the first time this season. After an opening drive touchdown, L.A. earned just 179 yards of offense the rest of the way.
"Didn't do enough things to win the football game, and it starts with me," McVay said. "We talk about it every single week, why you've got to be ready to go, because it's a very humbling league, and I definitely got humbled today. You've got to look at yourself critically. I've got to do a much better job for our team, and especially for our offense. Didn't put them in enough good situations today."
The Rams don't have much time to wallow in self-pity after the loss. L.A. greets the red-hot Saints this week, face the division-rival Cardinals in Arizona, tussle with the NFC's top-seeded Eagles, and head to Seattle all before Christmas.
The brutal schedule will provide a testing ground for Whitworth, McVay, and the rest of the upstart Rams to prove they have staying power in a deep NFC.