Despite their 5-5 record, Rams can make playoffs
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Sunday, Nov. 28 2004
GREEN BAY, Wis. - They manhandled San Francisco in the first half on Oct. 3.
Staged a fourth-quarter comeback of historic proportions in Seattle on Oct. 10.
Two weeks ago in the Seattle rematch, the Rams put on a first-quarter offensive
display reminiscent of the Greatest Show on Turf.
But in terms of dominance in 2004, that's about it for the Rams. It's been a
season of one step forward, one backward, adding up to a well-deserved 5-5
"We've been like a roller coaster this year," defensive tackle Ryan Pickett
said. "We haven't had much consistency, and that's what we're trying to do now.
We're trying to find our identity. We can't be up and down. We can't play when
we feel like it."
With six games remaining and a lot left to play for, can the Rams finally kick
it in gear? Are they even capable of finding that gear?
"I'm hoping it starts Monday night," wide receiver Torry Holt said Saturday.
"I'm really tired of the talking, because it's the same thing each week. We're
preparing well. We're doing this well. We're doing that well.
"Then we get out in the game and we start well, and then we have some mishaps.
Now is the time to shut up and put up. So I'm going to see how we respond on
Despite all of the pratfalls and setbacks, the Rams would qualify as a
wild-card team if the playoffs started today.
"I've mentioned that to them," coach Mike Martz said. "That's the reality of
the situation, and they have to appreciate that. We have control of our own
destiny at this point. And that has to mean something to them."
Granted, this probably isn't the year the Rams make it to the Super Bowl. But
given all they've gone through - including several left guards, a few right
tackles, too many safeties to count, and some disastrous special-teams play -
simply making the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons would be an
accomplishment. And once you get in Paul Tagliabue's postseason pageant, who
"We're not happy with where we're at," quarterback Marc Bulger said. "That's
But, Bulger added, "We're not sitting here at 2-8. We're not where we need to
be, but as bad as we've played, we're still in a position to make the
The NFL games on Thursday and Sunday only helped the Rams' postseason hopes.
The New York Giants fell to 5-6 with a loss to Philadelphia. Tampa Bay, New
Orleans, Arizona, Chicago and Detroit all fell to 4-7 with defeats.
Most important, NFC West-leading Seattle fell to 6-5 after getting spanked by
visiting Buffalo 38-9. So if the Rams can stretch their prime-time winning
streak to nine games tonight in Green Bay, they will regain the lead in the
West by virtue of the tiebreaker edge over Seattle. (Namely, going 2-0 this
season against the Seahawks.)
"We're still hanging on, that's the big thing," defensive end Leonard Little
said. "It's a matter of just taking advantage of the opportunity and winning
some of these games."
Ten victories probably wins the NFC West. Nine victories probably gets a wild
card. But are the Rams, losers of three of their last four contests, capable of
a late-season roll?
"I think the consistency we're looking for, we haven't had it," Bulger said.
"We've been talking about it now for about a month. We need that full, complete
game on both sides of the ball."
Until they do that, the Rams will keep struggling. And of course, there are
easier ways to reverse a slide than staring down Brett Favre on a chilly night
at Lambeau Field.
Winners of five in a row, Favre and the Packers (6-4) are rolling. They need a
victory tonight to keep pace with Minnesota (7-4) in the NFC North.
Today's forecast no longer calls for snow showers, as was the case a few days
ago. Nonetheless, the temperature is expected to dip below freezing, which is
When the temperature is 34 degrees or below at kickoff, Favre is 29-0 at home
in the regular season - 36-1 if you include postseason play. The Rams,
meanwhile, are 4-9 when the temperature is below 50 at kickoff since the move
to St. Louis in 1995.
Neither set of numbers bodes well for the Rams. Nor does the Lambeau mystique,
although the Packers haven't been nearly as formidable there lately. Since the
start of the 1992 season, Green Bay is 75-17 at home in the regular season, but
it is only 7-6 since the start of '03, and only 2-3 this season.
"When you start thinking about mystique and all that kind of stuff, you
probably ought to play someplace else," Martz said. "Every stadium in the NFL's
got something special to it. Lambeau's a special place, but we're not playing
the mystique, or the name. We're playing the Packers."
And that should be more than enough to keep the Rams busy tonight.