Everything that needed to go the Rams' way Sunday did: First, they escaped with a pulsating 37-31 victory in over time over the Redskins. Then, losses by the Giants and Falcons left five teams in the NFC with 7-8 records. The Rams, Carolina and Green Bay are the others. In addition, none of the 7-8 teams play each other on the final weekend, so the scenarios are endless.
For coach Scott Linehan, he simply keeps preaching winning, and let the chips fall where they may.
"I was really proud to be a part of this," Linehan said after Sunday's win. "This football team had to keep plugging away and fighting. If that wasn't a test of character and playing ... It just showed that our team's will to win was at a high for this year.
"We're improving. Is it too late or whatever? I don't know, we'll figure that out. We're alive and still in the hunt."
The Rams are alive because of an astounding offensive performance that saw them put 579 yards on the board, including 509 in regulation. Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs left the game in the first quarter with a fractured shoulder blade, and the Rams attacked all afternoon.
Quarterback Marc Bulger passed for 388 yards and four touchdowns, with wide receiver Isaac Bruce leading the way with nine receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown.
"He defies Father Time, I think," Linehan said of the 34-year-old Bruce. "He had a look in his eye and was frisky all week. It is phenomenal he is able to get so open at his age."
Still, the afternoon belonged to running back Steven Jackson, who was selected for the Pro Bowl earlier in the week. All Jackson did was carry 33 times for 150 yards, catch six passes for 102 and score touchdowns of 64 yards on a short pass and the game-winning 21-yard score in overtime. He also passed 2,000 combined yards for the season and has 2,168.
"Unbelievable," Linehan said of Jackson. "I'm not familiar with all the statistical numbers. He's had a dominant year. With a better record, people would be talking about him with some of the others ... he's having a MVP-type season. He is one of those guys you can go through when you need it."
Jackson just wanted to talk about his offensive line afterward.
"They did a great job and I share all my accomplishments with them," Jackson said. As for going past 2,000 yards, he said, "That means a lot, especially to do it not being banged up. We had to grind for everything we got. Everyone on the field was tired. We just had to go out and will our way through it."
It is the play of Jackson and a young offensive line that has the Rams confident going forward, even beyond this week's game. The defense came up with key stops against the Redskins at critical times, most notably a strip of running back Ladell Betts by safety Oshiomogho Atogwe late in the fourth quarter and a third-and-1 surge that stopped T.J. Duckett in overtime.
"Our defense played well when they needed," Linehan said. NOTES