December 18, 2015 / 7:04 AM / 2 years ago

Bittersweet finale as St. Louis fans protest possible Rams exit

(Reuters) - The St. Louis Rams enjoyed a bittersweet celebration with their fans on Thursday as they played what may have been their final game in the city, a 31-23 defeat of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Dec 17, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; A St. Louis Rams fan holds a sign in the second half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams won 31-23. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Rams owner Stan Kroenke is hoping to return the team to Los Angeles next season, where they played before moving to St. Louis in 1995.

The move would restore a professional football team to one of the country’s biggest markets but there was little enthusiasm for the plan at Edward Jones Dome, where fans chanted ‘keep the Rams’ and held up signs protesting the potential relocation.

“They’re great fans,” St. Louis defensive tackle Aaron Donald told reporters. “They were loud for us today. They played a big part in helping us win this game.”

Support for the team has rarely been so wholehearted in St. Louis. The Rams entered the night ranked second-to-last in average attendance at NFL matches and the franchise has not made the playoffs since the 2004 season. There has been a renewed optimism this year with the arrival of rookie running back Todd Gurley, who on Thursday became just the third Rams player to surpass 1,000 yards rushing in a season.

But it may be too late for the city of St. Louis.

NFL owners will meet in Houston next month to address, among other things, the fate of the Rams and their possible departure.

Writing by Jahmal Corner; Editing by Ian Ransom

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