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St. Louis Stays in the Mix

Rout of Eagles Keeps NFC Playoff Situation Muddled: Rams 20, Eagles 7

Associated press
Tuesday, December 28, 2004; Page D03

ST. LOUIS, Dec. 27 -- Rookie Steven Jackson rushed for 148 yards and a touchdown to carry St. Louis to a 20-7 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night, keeping the Rams in the NFC playoff race, before limping off midway through the fourth quarter with a bruised right knee.

With the Eagles (13-2) playing it safe -- running back Brian Westbrook and tackle Tra Thomas did not play -- their reserves were no match for a Rams squad with its season on the line.

Rams fullback Joey Goodspeed bowls over Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard during the Rams' victory on Monday night. (Peter Newcomb - Reuters)

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____ NFL Playoff Picture ____
Already In
Eagles (13-2)*
Falcons (11-4)
Packers (9-6)
Seahawks (8-7)

* Clinched home field.

The Other Two Spots
Vikings (8-7)
Rams (7-8)
Panthers (7-8)
Saints (7-8)
The Vikings make the playoffs with a Rams loss or tie; or a victory against the Redskins.
The Rams win the NFC West with a win and a Seattle loss.
If the Rams lose, the winner of the Panthers-Saints game gets a playoff spot.

Already In
Steelers (14-1)*
Patriots (13-2)
Colts (12-3)
Chargers (11-4)

* Clinched home field.

The Other Two Spots
Jets (10-5)
Broncos (9-6)
Bills (9-6)
Ravens (8-7)
Jaguars (8-7)
The Jets and Broncos earn playoff berths with victories. The other teams need victories and some help.

_____  Week 16 Results _____
Dallas 13, Washington 10
Pittsburgh 20, Baltimore 7
N.O. 26, Atlanta 13
Houston 21, Jacksonville 0
Indiana. 34, San Diego 31 (OT)
Detroit 19, Chicago 13
Cincinnati 23, N.Y. Giants 22
New England 23, N.Y. Jets 7
Buffalo 41, San Francisco 9
Carolina 37, Tampa Bay 20
Seattle 24, Arizona 21
Miami 10, Cleveland 7

St. Louis 20, Philadelphia 7

Kansas City 31, Oakland 30
Denver 37, Tennessee 16

Green Bay 34, Minnesota 31

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Philadelphia gained a mere 155 yards of offense. Starting quarterback Donovan McNabb played only the opening series, which netted 63 yards and the Eagles' only score, a seven-yard touchdown pass to Freddie Mitchell.

With the victory, St. Louis ensured a meaningful finale against the New York Jets. If the Rams (7-8) beat the Jets on Sunday and Seattle loses to Atlanta, St. Louis will win the NFC West. If the Seahawks win and take the division, St. Louis can make the playoffs by winning and having Minnesota lose at Washington, or by Carolina and New Orleans tying.

A win for the Jets would put them into the AFC playoffs.

"After all the drama we've been through this year, to be in position to get into the playoffs, how awesome is that?" Rams Coach Mike Martz said. "We will show up next week and lay it all out there."

Also returning for the Rams, who piled up 419 yards of offense, was quarterback Marc Bulger, out the past two games with an ailing right shoulder. He completed 20 of 27 passes for 233 yards, and hit Isaac Bruce for a seven-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

Martz, who revealed after the game that Bulger has been playing hurt since the season opener, called 10 running plays on the opening drive that covered 73 yards. Jackson ran for 46 yards and Marshall Faulk for 27 before Jackson surged in from the 5.

After Mitchell's touchdown, Jeff Wilkins made a 28-yard field goal to give the Rams a 10-7 halftime lead. He later added a 29-yarder.

After McNabb departed, the Eagles remained in their protective mode with nothing to gain from the game. Koy Detmer was dismal, going 1 for 6 for five yards before third-stringer Jeff Blake came on in the fourth quarter.

The Eagles got a scare in the first half when cornerbacks Lito Sheppard, a Pro Bowler, and Dexter Wynn collided chasing a pass by Wilkins on a fake punt. Both lay on the ground for several minutes before walking off, and Sheppard stayed out with a quadriceps contusion. Rookie fullback Thomas Tapeh was carted off with 28 seconds remaining with a dislocated hip.

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