Rams, Bucs looking for improvement down stretch
BY FRED GOODALL Associated Press
Sunday, December 23, 2012
12/23/12 at 7:18 AM
TAMPA, Fla. - St. Louis is clinging to slim playoff hopes, while Tampa Bay is already assured of missing the NFL postseason for the fifth straight year.
Nevertheless, the struggling Buccaneers (6-8) join the improved Rams (6-7-1) in agreeing that both teams have plenty to play for in what's left of seasons under new coaches.
Jeff Fisher has instilled confidence in a team that hasn't earned a postseason berth since 2004 in St. Louis. Greg Schiano had the Bucs in the hunt for a spot until last week's 41-0 loss to New Orleans ended any chance of extending their season for the first time since 2007.
"Coach Fisher's impact has been huge. ... I think one of the biggest things is the overall change in attitude of this team, and of this locker room," Rams quarterback Sam Bradford said of the former Tennessee Titans coach who inherited a team that stumbled to a 2-14 finish last year.
The Rams won three straight, including an overtime victory over NFC West rival San Francisco, to surge into contention after a 3-6-1 start. Last week's 36-22 loss to Minnesota damaged their playoff prospects, but they can still make a significant step forward by closing strong against Tampa Bay and Seattle.
"Obviously our playoff chances are slim right now, but we can still have a winning season if we win these next two. And, if we beat Seattle ... we can go undefeated in our division," Bradford said. "So there's still a lot left for us to play for. ... This is the most important game of our season right now."
Like St. Louis, Tampa Bay put together a winning streak to rebound from a slow start to get back in the playoff race. The Bucs won four straight to climb to 6-4, but have not played well during a four-game skid that's left them hoping to win the final two games to avoid a losing record.
Josh Freeman threw four interceptions and lost a fumble at New Orleans in one of the worst performances of his career. But the fourth-year pro remains confident the Bucs can pull out of the tailspin and finish on a positive note against the Rams and NFC South rival Atlanta.
"We're in the early phases of the development of this program. Part of that is learning how to win and win consistently. So that's my No. 1 and only goal," Schiano said.
Original Print Headline: Rams, Buccaneers still have plenty to play for
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Quarterback Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams are still playing for a winning season and a possible spot in the playoffs. SETH PERLMAN / Associated Press