ST. LOUIS (AP) -- St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz couldn't care
less that his team finished .500. Somehow, they are in the
"This is why you coach, for moments like this," Martz said
after the Rams extended their up-and-down season. "It really is."
The Rams (8-8) won a finale that, in the end, they needed much
more than the Jets. For much of the game, they played more like the
team that was supposed to be one of best in the NFC than the
seemingly crumbling franchise that had lost four of five entering
the final weekend.
Now they will play at Seattle in the first round Saturday
afternoon. St. Louis won both regular-season meetings.
"We've just had a million things go wrong, and goofy things
happen all year," offensive guard Adam Timmerman said. "We kept
fighting and fighting, and to get in the playoffs is one of those
really sweet things."
The Jets (10-6) qualified as an AFC wild card before the game
even ended, when the Bills lost to the Steelers. They play at San
Diego on Saturday night.
"I hate to lose getting in," coach Herman Edwards said. "But
we'll take it. Now, all we have to do is get in the playoffs and
Marc Bulger went 29-for-39 for 450 yards and three touchdowns,
and Wilkins won it with 3:03 left in overtime for the Rams' fourth
playoff berth in five seasons under Martz.
Despite the loss, New York made the playoffs for the third time
in four seasons under Edwards. But the Jets enter the postseason on
a downer, having gone 5-6 in their final 11 games following a 5-0
They also lost wide receiver Wayne Chrebet (concussion) in the
first half, but Chrebet is expected to play next week.
"The feeling would have been a lot better had we won," Ellis
said. "Obviously, our mood is kind of like in the middle, so we
just have to put this game behind us and get ready for next week."
Curtis Martin had 153 yards on 28 carries, winning the NFL
rushing title with 1,697 yards by 1 yard over Shaun Alexander of
the Seahawks while moving into fourth place on the NFL career
rushing list. The Jets played to win in overtime, keeping Chad
Pennington and Martin on the field. Doug Brien's miss on a 53-yard
field goal attempt opened the door for the Rams' final drive.
"I think both teams showed they were playing for something,"
Jets wide receiver Santana Moss said. "Everybody laid everything
on the line."
St. Louis got great field position at its 43, and Bulger needed
only five plays to get the Rams in position for Wilkins'
game-winner. Wilkins split the uprights on first down after
Bulger's 22-yard swing pass to Steven Jackson.
The Rams won with a revived offense, scoring more than 20 points
for the first time in seven weeks. They had scoring drives of three
and one play in the first half, including a 44-yard catch by Torry
Holt near the end of the half right after a Jets punt.
St. Louis appeared to have taken control early in the third
quarter when Jackson broke a pair of tackles on a 20-yard run that
made it 21-10. But the Jets quickly recaptured the momentum.
Jerricho Cotchery returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards to cut
the gap to four. Less than a minute later, Jason Ferguson stripped
Isaac Bruce after a reception and Donnie Abraham recovered to set
up a 33-yard field goal by Brien.
Vilma's 38-yard return then put the Jets ahead 26-21.
"It wasn't here-we-go-again, that's just the way football is,"
Bulger said. "It's just a matter of stopping the bleeding."
St. Louis retook the lead with 5:06 remaining in regulation,
when two Jets defenders collided, allowing Torry Holt to break free
on a 19-yard TD reception. Jackson's conversion run made it a
3-point lead, but the Jets tied it when Brien kicked a 27-yard
field goal with 3 seconds left in regulation.
Martin has 13,366 career rushing yards. On Sunday he passed
both Eric Dickerson (13,259) and Jerome Bettis (13,294). ... Holt
is the first player in NFL history with five straight 1,300-yard
seasons. He caught seven passes for 116 yards and finished the
season with 94 catches for 1,372 yards. ... Rams OG Tom Nutten
sprained his left knee in the second half and could miss next
week's playoff game. DE Leonard Little (groin) missed some time in
the second half but is expected to play.
The NFL says it is close but still has yet to interview the four players named along with Peyton Manning in a report five months ago that linked them to PEDs.
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