By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
12/19/2006

Playoffs? Playoffs!

When queried Monday about the Rams' lingering postseason chances, the perpetually unruffled Scott Linehan didn't come close to reprising former Indianapolis coach Jim Mora's infamous 2001 rant. Instead, Linehan calmly explained that he'd wait another week before studying the possibilities.

"If we don't win this game (Sunday against Washington), the scenarios don't matter," the coach said, the day after the Rams prevailed 20-0 at Oakland and stayed in the hunt. "The best way for us to control that is to play well in our last home game, win the game, and we know that it will take care of itself ... or not."

Actually, the only way for the Rams to have any say in their fate is to win both remaining games, vs. the Redskins and at Minnesota on Dec. 31, to finish 8-8. Anything short of that eliminates them.



That the Rams even have a shot going into the penultimate week is a testament to the jumbled NFC, which boasts a mere five teams with winning records. It wouldn't be out of the question for a .500 outfit to sneak into the six-team conference field.

Still, Linehan urged patience. "If we take care of business this week, then we can visit some of those scenarios," he said. Until then, he stressed, "We're not focused on anything but this game."

Pro Bowl hopes

Pro Bowl selections will be announced this afternoon, and Linehan figures these Rams are worthy candidates for a February trip to Hawaii:

Quarterback Marc Bulger (3,665 passing yards, second in the NFC).

Wide receiver Torry Holt (80 catches and 1,044 receiving yards, both fourth in the NFC).



Running back Steven Jackson (1,916 yards from scrimmage, No. 1 in the NFC; 1,236 rushing yards, third in the NFC).

Defensive end Leonard Little (12 sacks, second in the NFC).

But, Linehan noted, the Rams' standing could damage their chances.

"I think when your record's better, you can expect a few more representatives," he said. "You have to be realistic."

Jackson stays at 84

Jackson also ranks second in the conference in receptions, with 84. He failed to add to that total vs. the Raiders, however. He went catchless for the first time this season after averaging 9.3 grabs in the previous three games.

"It's just how it unfolded," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. "We saw a little bit more pressure from them than they had shown previously, so because of that, Steven wasn't able to get out as much. He was involved in protection" of Bulger.

Jackson also was busy lugging the ball. He ran for 127 yards on a career-high 31 carries.

Brooks vents

Quarterback Aaron Brooks was fuming after Oakland coach Art Shell yanked him at the start of the fourth quarter.

"I'm (upset)," Brooks told reporters. "I didn't like it. I thought it was bad timing. I didn't see any reason why I should've come out."

Brooks also seemed to imply that he'd wanted to get back at Jim Haslett, the Rams' defensive coordinator. Haslett benched Brooks for the final three games last year, when he was New Orleans' head coach.

But Haslett insisted Monday that no animosity existed between the two. "Not at all. I was talking to him before the game, talking about he just had a baby a couple months ago, a few other things," Haslett said.

Yet, he added, he could understand Brooks' motivation. "Wouldn't you want to beat a guy you worked for for the last six years?"