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With each team coming off victories to snap two-game losing streaks, the Rams will try to keep their faint postseason hopes alive on Sunday when they host the Redskins, who have been eliminated from the playoff hunt.
The Rams (6-8) likely need to win Sunday and in their regular-season finale at Minnesota, along with getting plenty of help, to make the NFC playoffs. St. Louis is a game behind the New York Giants and Atlanta, who are tied at 7-7 for the final wild-card spot.
“This is a big game for us,” St. Louis coach Scott Linehan said. “Whether we make the playoffs or not isn’t the focus. We’re playing against a team that’s probably better than their record and we have to play well.”
It’s hard to argue with Linehan’s view on the Redskins (5-9), considering their performance last Sunday. Washington beat playoff-bound New Orleans 16-10 at the Superdome for just its second win in seven road games this season.
“I have never been prouder of a bunch of guys, with everything that has happened to us this year,” Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. “It was a fight. It was a pride game for us. … They played as hard as they could play.”
In a season which has seen Washington underachieve and fail to live up to some lofty preseason expectations, last week’s win could push the Redskins to finish the regular season on a high note. They’ll continue trying to play the role of spoilers in this game and next week against the New York Giants.
St. Louis’ playoff hopes would not be in such doubt if it could have put together more games like its 20-0 win over Oakland last Sunday.
It was the Rams’ second victory in nine games since opening the season 4-1, and their first shutout since beating Atlanta 36-0 on Oct. 13, 2003.
Named to his first Pro Bowl this week, Steven Jackson rushed for a season-high 127 yards and two touchdowns. Jackson is having a career season with 1,236 yards and nine TDs on the ground, including three in his last two games— all behind an offensive line that has been plagued by injuries.
He is one of the game’s most complete backs, ranking second in the NFL with 1,926 yards from scrimmage and tied for fourth with 82 receptions.
“Steven is having a Pro Bowl year,” Linehan told the team’s official Web site. “I know there are a number of running backs that are getting a little bit more publicity than him based on the seasons the teams are having. I don’t think any of them have the impact, other than one guy, as far as running and catching.”
Jackson goes against a Washington defense which has held its last two opponents to a combined 170 yards rushing after allowing 256 in a loss to Atlanta on Dec. 3.
The Rams offense didn’t turn the ball over for the first time in nine games last Sunday and receiver Torry Holt, named to his sixth Pro Bowl, caught four passes for 59 yards to top the 1,000-yard mark for the seventh straight season.
After allowing 76 points in the previous two games—home losses to Arizona and Chicago—the Rams defense had a strong day against the struggling Raiders offense.
St. Louis had four sacks, intercepted three passes and forced two fumbles, while allowing a season-best 57 rushing yards and 260 total yards.
“It’s just a relief to get a solid performance on offense and defense. It’s great to finally have something good happen for us on both sides of the ball in the same game,” defensive end Leonard Little said. “We’ve got two games left, and we’ve still got a slim chance at the playoffs, so we can’t let up at all. We’ve got to finish strong and hope we get some breaks.”
The Rams, though, are 0-4 at home against the Redskins since relocating from Los Angeles to St. Louis in 1995. Washington has won three straight and six of seven overall in the series, including a 24-9 victory last season as Jackson was held to 24 yards rushing.
Clinton Portis ran for 136 yards and two touchdowns in that game, but he won’t be around this time due to a broken hand and Ladell Betts will look to continue being a very capable fill-in.
Betts rushed for 119 yards on 22 carries last week for his fourth straight 100-yard game, totaling 549 yards during that span. He needs 67 yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his five-year career.
“Ladell has made a real statement,” Gibbs said. “He has led the team is what he has done.”
Improving quarterback Jason Campbell was 13-for-28 for 204 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions in his fifth start. Campbell was picked off five times in his previous three games.
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