Rams see playoff hopes grow dim but still seek winning record

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams are looking at another season without a postseason appearance.

Winners of three straight games before a 36-22 loss Sunday to Minnesota, the Rams had a chance of making the playoffs if they won their final three games. Now, the final two games serve mostly as a tuneup for next season.

"I don't think they're thinking about next year or the future when you come to work on Wednesday and you're digesting the game play," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Monday. "I think they're thinking about doing the best they can improving their skills."

St. Louis (6-7-1) still has a chance at its first winning season since 2003. The Rams play at Tampa Bay before ending the regular season at Seattle. With a victory -- or tie -- against the Seahawks, St. Louis would finish undefeated in NFC West play.

The Rams, who are 4-0-1 in the division, went 0-6 last season. Arizona was the last team to go undefeated in the West, accomplishing the feat in 2008. The most recent team to go undefeated in division play and not make the playoffs was Oakland. The Raiders went 6-0 in the AFC West in 2010, but finished 8-8 overall.

Quarterback Sam Bradford said the Rams don't plan to change how they prepare even though the playoffs are out of reach.

"We're going to look at the things that we did well this week [against Minnesota] and try to build on those," he said. "We're going to look at the things that we need to get corrected, we're going to try to improve on those, and we're going to try to get better these next few weeks.

"Win two games and build on that going into next year."

Running back Steven Jackson, in his ninth season with the Rams, has dealt with the disappointment of his team missing the playoffs the longest. The player with the next longest tenure with St. Louis is defensive end Chris Long, in his fifth year.

"I definitely was hoping that we could," Jackson said about making the playoffs. "We knew that we had to take each game one at a time and we had to win. [Against the Vikings] we did not get it done, and now I have to show these guys how to finish strong."

The Rams had trouble on both sides of the line against Minnesota.

The defensive line couldn't stop Adrian Peterson, who had 212 yards rushing, though they sacked Christian Ponder twice and recorded 10 tackles for loss.

On offense, Bradford was sacked four times, center Scott Wells had a bad snap that the Vikings eventually converted into a field goal and the team managed just 87 yards rushing.

Fisher said the team has options this week.

"Our challenge is, do we want to mope around as a result to the loss to the Vikings and be that team?" Fisher said. "Or do we want to be the team that's won three of the last four games that's going to go out and try to win another one?

So, that's the approach we're going to be taking."

Fisher also said that guard Harvey Dahl suffered a torn left bicep and will have surgery Wednesday. He will be placed on injured reserve and the Rams are still deciding what to do with his roster spot. Shelley Smith will likely replace Dahl.

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