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Thread: Playoffs? Spags Still Mum
Playoffs? Spags Still Mum
Playoffs? Spags still mum
BY JIM THOMAS
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
It's next to impossible to get Steve Spagnuolo to utter the word playoff. His steadfast refusal to even broach the topic has become humorous. But the facts are undeniable.
The end game is here. Let the playoff run begin.
After going 13 months without a road victory, winning two of three games on a back-to-back-to-back road swing has put the Rams in realistic position to claim their first postseason berth since 2004.
All that's left of the regular-season schedule is Kansas City at home this Sunday, San Francisco at home the day after Christmas and then the final road trip — to Seattle on Jan. 2. Win two of those three games and the Rams get to eight victories and are probably NFC West champs.
"Obviously, you never want to lose a game," right guard Adam Goldberg said. "But being in the thick of it and playing meaningful football, and having our destiny in our own hands is exactly where we wanted to be. So it's nice to be there."
But with Sunday's 31-13 loss in New Orleans still fresh in his mind, Spagnuolo was having trouble wrapping his arms around that notion, much less the progress that two road victories represent.
"Yeah, I'm having a hard time with that right now because of (Sunday)," Spagnuolo said. "I tend not to go back that way — you know how I am."
But 13 games into the season, the team remains tied for first place and still retains the tie-breaker edge over Seattle. Eighteen-point loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Saints notwithstanding, the Rams are right where they were a week ago. They still control their own fate. They can win their first division title since 2003 without any help.
"What I have a hard time with is it's like we haven't lost any ground, but we want to gain some ground," Spagnuolo said. "That's where we're at. I think the team feels that way, too."
Those comments were about as close as Spagnuolo would venture into big-picture ruminations Monday.
But the big picture looks like this:
• Arizona (4-9) already has nine losses. So if the Rams win two of their final three to finish 8-8, it won't matter what the Cardinals do — the best they can do is 7-9.
• San Francisco (5-8) plays at San Diego on Thursday night. The Chargers (7-6) have won five of their last six, are in a desperate playoff push in the AFC West, and finally have wide receiver Vincent Jackson up and running. If the Chargers hold serve at home Thursday, the ***** will have nine losses and thus be unable to catch an 8-8 Rams team.
• Seattle (6-7) has the toughest path of all. After getting smoked by San Francisco 40-21 Sunday, the Seahawks play host to the NFC's best team — 11-2 Atlanta. Then comes a Dec. 26 trip to Tampa Bay (8-5) against a scrappy Buccaneers team that is fighting for a wild-card berth. If the Seahawks lose those games, and they will be underdogs in both, they will be 6-9 when the Rams come to town Jan. 2.
Under that scenario, if the Rams beat Kansas City and San Francisco, they will have clinched the NFC West at 8-7 by the time they arrive at Qwest Field in the Pacific Northwest.
But the Rams can't get to eight victories until they reach seven. Which at least partly explains why Spagnuolo, when asked if he was now in playoff mode, replied bluntly: "I'm in Kansas City Chief mode. Let's face it, for what we would like to try to do and accomplish, this game's huge."
Truth be told, Rams players know that's the case as well.
"I have no idea who our division teams have to play," Goldberg said. "I know that we play Kansas City, then San Fran, and then Seattle. But really this week, it's all about Kansas City. All eyes are on KC."
The Chiefs have the No. 1 rushing offense in the NFL, and regardless of Sunday's result (they lost 31-0 to San Diego), and no matter who's at quarterback (Brodie Croyle or Matt Cassel), Spagnuolo is expecting a challenge Sunday in the Edward Jones Dome.
And even if Spagnuolo is hesitant to acknowledge the existence of — pardon the expression, a playoff race — he did ask for a little more down the stretch from Rams players in his remarks to the team Monday.
"It's got to all go up a notch," Spagnuolo said. "It has to become really important, making sacrifices and taking care of bodies, and detailing work, and extra time, etc., etc. I think what the guys gotta realize is that it's a special time, this time of year."
So when the team returns to practice Wednesday, he wants a sharp mental focus and a little more intensity.
"We're not going to change anything though," Spagnuolo said. "We're not going to put full pads on and stuff, tackling, or anything like that."
Re: Playoffs? Spags Still Mum
I really want us to win this game. I wanted us to beat New Orleans but kinda sorta knew it was inevitable ( 31-13). But we have to use our home field to our advantage like it has been doing to us all season long. NO time to turn back now.
Lets do this!!
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