Said Linehan, "I think the expectation for him now rises every week because we just see an improving player. He's one of our emerging young players that is starting to really handle the role that he has. He was basically a rookie going into this season as far as playing, and had his ups and downs for the first half or two thirds of the season, but he's one of a number of players who's started to really come on here at the end of the year. He's played very consistent.
"Now all of a sudden we're being ultra hard on him like he's played for 10 or 15 years, but I notice that he's playing with so much more confidence. He's blitzing well. He's getting guys lined up. Two weeks in a row he's come up with a real critical forced turnover when the other team's penetrated. This one (against Washington) was certainly a game saver. The guys that play in the back end on defense are playmakers too, and that was a big-time play."
Atogwe forced a fumble late in the fourth quarter, coming up from behind RB Ladell Betts and punching the ball out. That gave him a team-leading six forced fumbles this season.
"He practices that, and we practice that with our secondary; punching the ball out and getting it out," Linehan said. "O.J., he has a knack, has a feel for where the ball is. The fumble on Sunday, the guy actually ... if you watch the tape, he had the ball locked away pretty good. He just had a perfect punch on it from behind, which is something we teach. But you've got to go execute it. He's got a knack for that and hopefully we get many, many more."
"Our plan is to play faster and start faster, but it certainly hasn't happened," coach Scott Linehan said. "That was a big focus of what we were trying to get done this week. I haven't seen the results of that emphasis yet, but I think our guys are coming out with a little too much 'wait and see' instead of taking the game to our opponent or trying to take it that way early in the game. You have to credit the other team for their ability to start fast as well.
"We just keep looking for solutions and finding things we can do or ways we can mix it up. Someone's got to make a play early too. I think we relax and get more comfortable, and as the game goes on we figure out what people are doing. I think it would certainly help us to get off to a fast start and take the lead early in a game for once. We're working on it."
QB Marc Bulger emphasized how the offense seems to start clicking later in games. In fact, the second-quarter total is 122 points, the most the Rams have scored in any quarter.
"We could blame many things," Bulger said, "but the good thing is that we've adjusted well. Once we get into the second or third quarter we make our adjustments, know what they're doing and start to move the ball. It would be nice to get out early on someone, but it just hasn't been the case."
"I think about half way through the year we knew that he could be a threat," Bulger said of Jackson. "I think, not only this year, but years in the future it's going to pay off.
Linebackers have had a tendency the last couple of years to get very deep and take away a lot of our deep in-breaking routes. Now that we have a guy who's a threat to check the ball down, they're going to have to move back up. Knowing his running ability and pass catching will open up our play action and deep balls down the field."
BY THE NUMBERS: 5 - Number of field goals from 40-49 yards K Jeff Wilkins has missed this season. Wilkins is 10-for-15 after he was 20-for-26 over the last three seasons. Ironically, Wilkins has made both his attempts from 50 yards or longer this season and is 14-for-16 since 2003. This year, he has missed from 41, 44, 46, 47 and 48 yards. The 41-yard miss would have won Sunday's game against Washington in regulation.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It just lets you know that every game counts, especially late in the season and in December. The teams that play their best ball late typically are the ones that get into the playoffs. We've been fortunate enough to put two weeks together and it's going to take a third in order for us to complete our goal." - DT La'Roi Glover on the Rams' status entering the final game of the season.