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  1. #1
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    Rams spread holiday cheer with victory

    By Bryan Burwell
    Monday, Dec. 25 2006

    As he made his way around the Rams' locker room, Scott Linehan nimbly navigated
    through the maze of debris strewn about the floor with a huge grin on his face,
    shaking hands, slapping backs and spreading good cheer throughout the room.

    Maybe his rookie season as a head coach hadn't gone quite like he planned it,
    but by some miracle, with one regular-season game to play, Linehan's Rams are
    somehow alive in the race for the NFC's final wild card berth.

    Crazy, wild and inexplicable things happened at the Edward Jones Dome and
    across the NFL landscape as the Rams battled back from a 14-point hole and
    knocked off Washington in overtime, 37-31.

    And now for the first time in weeks, it was OK to put the 7-8 Rams and the word
    "playoffs" in the same sentence.

    "Isn't that something?" Linehan said, sporting a grin you'd expect from a giddy
    child on Christmas morning. But unlike the little kid who only wanted his two
    front teeth for Christmas, Linehan had a far more precious gift in mind.

    "All I want is a victory in Minnesota next week ... and a playoff berth," he
    said without hesitation.

    Christmas wishes and holiday dreams came in many shapes Sunday at the Dome. In
    every corner of the locker room, players were learning the good news that
    Atlanta and New York had lost, and that their slim playoff hopes had just
    gotten a little more robust.

    If you were one of the many "fans" who helped contribute to the TV blackout
    conditions, and spent Sunday morning trying to figure out how far you had to
    drive to see the game (answer: all the way to the Edward Jones Dome), well
    how'd that work out?

    But if you were among the devotees who chose to come to the Dome, consider it
    money well spent, because this was arguably the most entertaining all-around
    performance of the season.

    "I'm not the business guy," said tailback Steven Jackson, "but I would
    definitely sell my team and what we're trying to do here, and tell people 'You
    don't want to miss this.'"

    The Rams offense scored the second-most points of the season (37). They rang up
    579 yards of total offense. Marc Bulger looked like a Pro Bowler (388 yards
    passing, four TDs, 134.5 pass efficiency rating). Isaac Bruce, 34, looked like
    a young stallion (nine catches, 148 yards, 1 TD). Rookie Dominique Byrd showed
    us what happens in this offense when the tight end is a legitimate receiving
    threat (averaging nearly 20 yards a catch). The defense tightened up when the
    game was on the line (only one Washington first down after the third quarter).

    Another great football gift was the continued maturation of Jackson as the
    heartbeat of this team. He plowed through Washington for a career-high 33
    carries, 150 yards rushing, 102 yards on six receptions, scored twice
    including the game winning 21-yard TD in overtime and became the first
    running back in Rams history to have 100 yards running and 100 yards receiving
    in one game.

    But not every wonderful gift came on the field. Tucked in the corner of section
    104, 20 inner-city high school football players were bunched together cheering
    all day, experiencing one of the best presents of their teenaged lives. They
    were sitting in seats none of them could afford. They were about 25 rows away
    from an NFL football field.

    These 20 lucky kids were here on Christmas Eve because Little opened his
    wallet, spent nearly $1,400 so that they had a chance to see their first live
    pro football game.

    Little tried to play down the act, but a friend had told him about these kids,
    who play football on a local suburban public high school team, and have wealthy
    teammates and classmates who may take for granted things like having a computer
    at home, a car to drive, and season tickets to a pro football game.

    But Little understood how difficult it must be for a kid to live in one of the
    worst neighborhoods in the city, attend school in one of the most affluent
    communities in the area, and be constantly surrounded by so much wealth, but
    never have access to the perks.

    So on this Christmas Eve, these kids got the rare chance to experience, not
    just see, how the other half lives. And they got to stand up and cheer for a
    most unusual Santa Claus, one who stands 6 feet 3, weighs 263 pounds and
    tackles quarterbacks for a living.

    I asked Little if he had a chance to go up to talk to the kids after the game,
    if they had a chance to thank him for what he'd done, and he shrugged.

    "Nah," he said. "But it wasn't necessary. I just did what I did because it just
    seemed like the right thing to do."

  2. #2
    jkramsfan Guest

    Re: Rams spread holiday cheer with victory

    this win is a lot better present than the package of socks i'm about to open.


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