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Rams need win at Dallas to Finish Well
Rams need win at Dallas to finish well
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
If the Rams were able to time-travel back to 2002, they might be startled at the similarities to the '05 season, which concludes Sunday night at Texas Stadium.
The final regular-season game in '02 contained little drama for the Rams, who were 6-9 and at the time only the 11th team in NFL history to tumble from the Super Bowl one season to a sub-.500 record the next.
The current Rams (5-10), who will take on Dallas (9-6) in front of a national audience watching on ESPN, also have little more than pride at stake. Their second losing campaign since 1998 was assured two weeks ago when they lost to Philadelphia.
After rallying to square their record at 5-5, the '02 Rams dropped four of their next five games and plunged from playoff contention.
With back-to-back wins over New Orleans and Jacksonville last October, the Rams stood at 4-4 heading into their bye week. Since then, they've lost six of seven games, and only a miracle comeback at Houston has kept them from running the table the wrong way.
Three years ago, Scott Covington was the first-team quarterback for the finale; he was the fourth quarterback to start a game for the Rams that season. The injured Kurt Warner (hand), Jamie Martin (back) and Marc Bulger (knee) were the others.
Martin is interim head coach Joe Vitt's choice to start against the Cowboys. Bulger (shoulder) has missed the last five games; rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick engineered the rally against the Texans but was ineffective in three subsequent starts.
Parallels aside, the bottom line is this: the Rams, who have been part of Paul Tagliabue's 12-team, sudden-death, postseason tournament five of the past six years, go into their last game with the odd realization that it's just that - their last game.
"When you know when the season's coming to an end, you know what the date is, it's depressing," Vitt said. "You miss the guys, you miss the practices, you miss the meetings. We're in this game because we love it."
In 1999, the resurgent Rams already had clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs when they took on the Eagles in the last scheduled game. Philly won 38-31, but a month later, the Rams were hoisting the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl champions.
Since then, the Rams had grown accustomed to having something substantial hanging in the balance as they shuttered the regular season:
• In 2000, they needed a win at New Orleans to have a shot at the postseason. They got it, 26-21.
• In 2001, the Rams qualified as the top seed in the NFC by beating Atlanta 31-13.
• In 2003, they ceded home-field advantage when they lost at Detroit 30-20.
• Last season, a 32-29 overtime victory against the Jets edged the Rams into the postseason at 8-8.
"It is kind of different, knowing that it's all going to be done Sunday," third-year wide receiver Kevin Curtis said. "It's definitely not been the season that any of us expected or wanted. In that sense, it's going to be nice to move on from what's happened."
In one significant contrast to 2002, the team's 11th season in St. Louis has been enveloped in uncertainty and turmoil. Coach Mike Martz was stricken with endocarditis, a bacterial infection of a heart valve, just five games in, and Vitt took over. A spate of injuries and personal heartbreak kept some of the team's best performers on the sideline for extended periods. The roster was juggled time and again, as the coaches searched desperately for solutions.
As the team slumped, Martz's relationship with the front office deteriorated to the point of no return, muddying the waters for the 2006 season and beyond.
"There's been plenty of weird things going on this year," veteran guard Adam Timmerman said.
A new coach, new assistants and a sizable contingent of new players probably will report to Rams Park over the next few months. Before that, though, the current group has one more task to tackle - one that could provide at least a dollop of satisfaction.
"It's definitely a different feeling, but it'll be great to go out there on Sunday night and try to redeem ourselves in front of the whole country," wideout Dane Looker said. "It's a chance to prove we're not as bad as our record looks."
Or as Vitt put it, "It give us a chance to take it out on Dallas."
SJax, a developing quarterbacks best friend...
Re: Rams need win at Dallas to Finish Well
I agree,eventhough it would mean Scidog and I would be bottom dwellers on the mock gambling.
Lets go Rams and kick some Dallas butt.My heart beats crazy and my blood runs wild