R.B. FALLSTROM

Associated Press


ST. LOUIS - Four years ago, the St. Louis Rams sneaked into the playoffs in the final game of the season. Now, they're facing the same situation, needing some help to advance.

But heading into Sunday's finale against the New York Jets, the Rams know it can be done. And if it can be accomplished, after that, anything's possible.

"You go into the playoffs, it's zero-zero and what you've done in the regular season goes out the door, everybody is live bait," wide receiver Torry Holt said. "It's the same feeling now.

"If we go out and take care of our business and hopefully get some good news, we'll go from there."

The 2000 Rams won 26-21 at New Orleans on Christmas Eve to finish 10-6. But it was such a strong year in the NFC that they weren't assured of a berth until the Bears' Paul Edinger kicked a career-best game-winning 54-yard field goal in a three-point victory that eliminated the Lions.

That game ended a few minutes after the Rams' game, and many players were in the locker room when they got the news.

The Rams (7-8) need to beat the Jets (10-5), and they also need some help to make the playoffs for the fourth time in five years under coach Mike Martz. A Seattle loss at home against the Falcons would give the Rams the NFC West title. A loss by the Vikings at Washington or a highly unlikely Saints-Panthers tie would give St. Louis a wild-card berth.

For some players, that would be a good start.

"There's a lot of players in this locker room that's been in the playoffs and I think just getting to the playoffs would not be satisfactory to them," wide receiver Isaac Bruce said. "Getting to the playoffs and then making a lot of noise, that would be a perfect scenario."

If the Rams can advance, players believe they can be dangerous.

"It's the playoffs, so anything can happen, anything goes," Bruce said. "Pretty much like the NCAA tournament."

Plus, the Rams were impressive on Monday night against the best team in the NFC, although the Eagles rested several key players in St. Louis' 20-7 victory.

"Especially when you're winning, it's always fun," quarterback Marc Bulger said. "Our defense and special teams came around and we were running the ball. Things that haven't been clicking are starting to click now, and right at the right time."

Bulger returned on Monday from a bruised shoulder that sidelined him for two games. He said he's not 100 percent but that he threw without discomfort against the Eagles, going 20-for-27 for 225 yards and a touchdown.

His top target, Torry Holt, needs 44 yards to become the first player in NFL history to have 1,300 yards receiving in five straight seasons. Holt is tied for second in the NFC with 87 catches and he's third with 1,256 yards.

"Just one deep ball and we have some things up, so I have to go over and make the grab and get that over and done with," Holt said. "I can't even begin to express how I feel about it.

"To be in the history books of the NFL is crazy, I can't believe it."