By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Monday, Oct. 31 2005
The effort was there against Indianapolis, but the result was lacking. After
the bottom fell out in the second half and the Rams were saddled with a 45-28
loss, interim head coach Joe Vitt tried to rally the troops.
"We told them in the locker room after the game that this, too, shall pass,"
Vitt said. "We have two games to be .500 at the bye, and that was the focus.
Let's take one practice at a time. Let's take one quarter at a time, and let
the chips fall."
Home victories followed over New Orleans and Jacksonville. A landscape that
once looked bleak now has a hint of promise.
The Rams' 24-21 victory over the Jaguars on Sunday guarantees nothing for St.
Louis. A lot of work remains before the Rams can entertain the thought of
making the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons. But at 4-4, at least
the Rams have given themselves a chance as they enter their bye week.
"We said by being 4-4 at the bye, you get yourself in position to get in
position," Vitt said. "That's what we've done."
At 4-4, all things are still possible for the 2005 Rams. At 2-6, or even 3-5,
that probably isn't the case.
"I think we've got a nice confidence, a little roll going here," offensive
guard Adam Timmerman said. "You get some of these guys healthy and just keep
that momentum going. ... It's exciting. Because who knows what can happen the
second half of the season?"
There's a good chance that quarterback Marc Bulger, wide receiver Torry Holt,
defensive end Leonard Little and possibly wide receiver Isaac Bruce will be
back in the lineup Nov. 13. That's when the Rams return from their bye week to
play a key NFC West game in Seattle.
"If we can get all four of us back after the bye, that'll just be a huge spark
to get us going," Bulger said Monday.
Seattle (5-2) plays at Arizona on Sunday, while the Rams are resting. No matter
what happens in that game, the Rams can get themselves back in the playoff hunt
with a victory in Seattle.
"I think so," Holt said. "If we can go there and get a win there, man, the
sky's the limit."
The Seahawks still have several tough opponents on their schedule, including
the New York Giants (5-2), Philadelphia (4-3), and Indianapolis (7-0). The Rams
also have Philadelphia, plus Washington (4-3) and Dallas (5-3) remaining.
Last season, the Rams became only the seventh 8-8 team in NFL history to make
the playoffs, qualifying as a wild card. But it will take a better record than
8-8 to make it as a wild card this season. It may even take 10-6 because of the
strength of the NFC South and the NFC East.
In the NFC South, Atlanta, Carolina, and Tampa Bay have 5-2 records. In the
East, all four teams have winning records.
Right now, the Rams have only the 10th-best record in the NFC. To become one of
the six playoff qualifiers from the conference, the Rams' best hope is to keep
winning while the teams in the South and East knock each other off.
In the South, for example, Tampa Bay, Carolina, and Atlanta have yet to play
each other. The winnowing process begins this Sunday when Carolina plays at
Tampa Bay. In the East, eight games remain in which East teams go head-to-head,
including two Giants-Eagles and two Redskins-Eagles contests.
With every NFC team already owning at least two losses, the conference race
looks wide open heading into November. So, who's the team to beat in the NFC?
"I think it's anybody's guess," Vitt said. "In my opinion, in the month of
November, you separate the pretenders from the contenders. This is going to be
a big month for us coming up. This is when you have to establish yourself and
what is your intent.
"Are you going to be for real? Or are you just waiting for the season to be
over and run for the bus? I know what we'll do. We'll prepare hard, and we'll
have great intent."
If nothing else, the Rams have put themselves into the discussion.
"We've got a great bunch of guys that keep fighting out there," quarterback
Jamie Martin said. "I've been on teams where guys have been out and things
didn't go well, and guys didn't fight like this. It just says a lot about these