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Desperate Rams love Da Bears

ST. LOUIS (AP) – Six weeks into the season, the St. Louis Rams were perfect and coach Mike Martz was talking about savoring a special place in time.

Now, the defending Super Bowl champions are playoff longshots heading into the final weekend, their aim at a repeat title sabotaged mostly by a leaky defense that is allowing 30 points per game.

After their last-minute loss to the Buccaneers on Monday night, the Rams (9-6) are no longer in control of their fate. In order to keep their faint postseason dreams alive, they must beat the Saints in the regular-season finale and root for the Chicago Bears to upset the Detroit Lions.



”The Bears have a new fan base now,” tight end Ernie Conwell said.

Without both, they’re finished, putting them on the verge of becoming the 10th team in the Super Bowl era – and the second in a row – to win it all one year and miss the postseason the next.



After recent failures, Martz usually went for positive spin, saying what had gone wrong would be corrected. This time, he lashed out at the defense that couldn’t stop what had been an ordinary Bucs offense.

”That upsets me to no extent,” Martz said Tuesday. ”I was very shocked at some of the lack of tackling and effort.”

The Rams’ No. 1-rated offense has lost none of its potency. In the 38-35 loss to the Bucs, they became the first team in NFL history to top 500 points twice. They’re fourth on the points list, and need to score 43 at New Orleans to break the Vikings’ 1998 record of 556.

After his second straight four-touchdown game, Marshall Faulk is only two shy of the NFL record of 25 set by the Cowboys’ Emmitt Smith in 1995. He’s second in yards rushing and receiving despite missing two games with a knee injury. The wideout duo of Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce is only the second combo with 1,400 yards apiece in league history, and Kurt Warner made his second Pro Bowl despite missing 5 games with a broken little finger.

But the Rams have had to win shootouts all season due to a 23rd-ranked defense that returned to poor form after a few weeks of inspired play, largely due to consultant Bud Carson. There were numerous missed tackles against the Bucs, with strong safety Keith Lyle failing to push Warrick Dunn out of bounds on his 52-yard touchdown run on the final play of the third quarter. There were bonehead plays like linebacker Mike Jones’ late hit on the end of Shaun King’s scramble on the Bucs’ game-winning drive.

Norton hopes to stay with Niners


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