By Justin Paley
Jets Staff Writer
December 31st, 2004

There is no doubt the Jets and St. Louis Rams will be fired up on Sunday. Both teams will be fighting for playoff spots when the teams meet in St. Louis.

There is no doubt the Jets and St. Louis Rams will be fired up on Sunday. Both teams will be fighting for playoff spots when the teams meet in St. Louis.

”I am like a volcano inside,” Jets QB Chad Pennington said to describe his emotions. “I am really focused on my preparation right now, trying to prepare well. Because once you get in the game on Sunday in a hostile environment, you can’t be thinking, you have to be just playing and reacting.”

If the Jets win, they are in the playoffs. If the Jets lose, then they have to hope Buffalo loses to Pittsburgh or Denver loses to Indianapolis. The Jets want to take care of business on their own.

“We don't want any help,” Jets head coach Herman Edwards said. “We want to win a game. Charity is for people that need it. We don't need charity. We need to go win. We can do that. We have to do that and that's got to be our mind set. If we don't, we don't deserve to get in.”

The Jets know they have to get on the board quickly and often against the Rams.

“We’re going to have to score some points there's no doubt about that,” Edwards said. “I doubt very seriously we'll win it 14-10. We're going to have to be in the 20s, maybe in the 30s, but we have got to score points.”

The Jets average 147.2 yards a game on the ground and need to run the ball on Sunday. Last week, RB Curtis Martin was held to a season-low 33 yards on 13 carries. On the season, Martin has rushed for a career-best 1,544 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Martin talked about his mental state leading up to Sunday’s game.

“It is almost as if you feel a shift in your mindset,” Martin said. “You are a little more on edge. You almost feel that postseason feeling rising in you. It tends to make you a little more edgy, a little more intense.”

The Jets need to get RB Lamont Jordan involved as well. In Jets victories this year, Jordan has rushed 73 times for 381 yards. In the five losses, he has carried the ball only 16 times for 75 yards.

Jordan talked about the importance of getting the running game going against the Rams.

“I have always said this: our offense goes where the run game takes it,” Jordan said. “If you look at the 200 yard games that we have had and the games that we have won, we’ve out rushed our opponent. We have controlled the clock and we pretty much just beat defenses up. I think that is our identity.”

The Jets should be able to run the ball effectively against the Rams, who have allowed 133.3 yards a game on the ground this year, 27th in the NFL.

WR Justin McCareins recognizes the importance of the offense clicking early. “We need to come out with confidence and believe in ourselves and not wait for anything to happen,” McCareins said. “People need to step up and start making some plays.”

This is also a big game for Pennington, who can prove he has the ability to lead his team to victory in a “big” game. Pennington has thrown for 2,492 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season.

Pennington talked about the importance of getting off to a fast start.

“We feel like we need to set the tempo,” Pennington “We face an explosive offense and the best way to defend them is to keep them off the field. But at the same time, what good teams do, is if it is doesn’t go well in the beginning, they don’t just fall out and go to the wayside. They find ways to get back into the game and get back into the mix and finish strong. That is what we have to be able to do if things don’t go our way right off the bat.”

A good match-up should be Rams DE Leonard Little, who has 88 tackles and six sacks, against Jets LT Jason Fabini, who gave up two sacks last week and was called for two penalties.

If the Jets can score early, they can take the crowd out of the game. Edwards talked about how the Jets can take the crowd out of the game.

“If you can score early, then the crowd has nothing to cheer about,” Edwards said. “You have to keep putting points on the board and keep them out of it.”

The Rams defense has struggled this season and are ranked 20th in the NFL, giving up 335.3 yards a game. Last season, the Rams had 46 takeaways. This season they are last in the NFL with just 15 takeaways.

To compensate for the poor defense, the Rams offense has had to put up a lot of points every game.

QB Marc Bulger returned this past week from a shoulder injury and completed 20-of-27 passes for 225 yards and a TD as the Rams kept their playoff hopes alive in a 20-7 win over Philadelphia. However, the Eagles played without most of their starters. The fourth-year pro out of West Virginia has done a nice job this year, completing 292-of-446 passes for 3,514 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

WR’s Torry Holt and Issac Bruce may be the best receiving duo in the NFL. Holt has caught 87 passes for 1,256 yards and eight TD’s while Bruce has caught 84 passes for 1,206 yards and five touchdowns.

Edwards talked about what makes them so good.

“They are very fast on the turf,” Edwards said. “They stretch you vertically. They can make big plays on you. The quarterback does a good job of fitting the ball in tight. They run real precise routes. They have been in the system, it's a fast-paced system, and you've got to get your hands on them. If you let them run free, they can put up a lot of points, put up a lot of yards.”

The Rams have a 1-2 punch at running back with Marshall Faulk and Stephen Jackson. While Faulk is not the same player who led the Rams to the Super Bowl a couple years ago, he is still a solid player who has rushed for 759 yards and three touchdowns this year. The Rams looked to the future in the 2004 NFL Draft and selected RB Steven Jackson from Oregon State. Jackson has lived up to expectations, carrying the ball 124 times for 644 yards and three touchdowns. Against the Eagles on Monday, Jackson rushed for a career-high 148 yards before leaving in the fourth quarter with a knee injury. He partially tore ligaments in his right knee but will play Sunday against the Jets.

The Rams have not been known for their running game and Bulger is glad to have some support on the ground.

“The greatest thing for a quarterback is a great running game,” Bulger said earlier this week in a conference call with the New York media. “It’s nice that we’re getting that going now.”

“He’s a very good player,” Edwards said of Jackson. “He’s fast, big and strong.”

Vilma talked about Faulk and Jackson’s strengths.

“I think it is unlike what I have seen in any other team because (they are) total opposites of each other,” Vilma said. “You have Marshall Faulk, he is a smaller, quicker guy and he can shake you and blow by you and you have Steven Jackson who is a big, burly guy who is just as fast but can run over you.”

The Jets defense is sixth in the NFL and will have to be on top of their game on Sunday. The secondary will have to jam the receivers at the line, allowing the defensive line time to pressure Bulger. A key match-up will be the Jets d-line against the Rams banged up offensive line. The Jets have allowed only 15.3 points per game.

St. Louis head coach Mike Martz praised the Jets defense.

“On defense they are a lot different than what we have seen before,” Martz said. “I really do like what they do defensively. With the multiple fronts and a lot of the different things they do, they create a lot of problems for you. They are physical, particularly with their linebackers. They are a championship-type defense.”

The Rams have a 12-game home winning streak in December, dating back to 1998 and are 5-2 at the Edward Jones Dome this season.

“When you play on the road, you have to be fundamentally sound,” Pennington said. “You have to be able to deal with other elements such as crowd noise and things of that nature and you can’t beat yourself when you play on the road. You make it way too hard when you do that so penalties and turnovers and things we can control as a team, we have to minimize those things.”

The Jets never thought they would be in this position as they started the year 5-0. But it comes down to the final game of the regular season and Martin feels the Jets have come too far to not get into the playoffs.

“I think because this year it is a matter of the work we put in this year, the way we started out this year, the attitude that we had this year, I feel that we deserve it,” Martin said. “We deserve to do this for ourselves because we have all worked so hard and put so much effort (into it). I think a lot of people have taken their commitments to the sport of football to another level this year. It would be a shame to have it end on Sunday.”

MISCELANEOUS TIDBITS: The Jets announced their team awards today. Martin was named Team MVP for the fourth time in his seven seasons with the Jets. The Dennis Byrd Most Inspirational Player Award went to LB Eric Barton, who leads the team with 115 tackles. The Kyle Clifton Good Guy Award was shared by RT Kareem McKenzie and DT Jason Ferguson. The award recognizes exceptionally consistent willingness, cooperation and professionalism in their every day dealings amongst the various departments within the organization. The Ed Block Courage Award was awarded to Pennington. Since 1984, the award annually honors one player from every NFL team who exemplifies commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage. Recipients are selected by a vote of their teammates. And the Marty Lyons Award for Outstanding Community Service was given to McKenzie.

-The Jets are third in the NFL with a +14 takeaway/giveaway ratio.

-The Rams lead the all-time series 8-2 and this will be the first meeting between the teams since St. Louis won 34-14 in 2001.

The Jets are 3-0 against the NFC West this season.

-If the Jets win, besides securing a playoff spot, it would give the Jets 11 victories for only the third time in team history. The other two were in 1968 (11-3) and 1985 (11-5).

-Martin needs one touchdown to establish a Jets record for most touchdowns score in a single-season. Martin has 14 total touchdowns this year. Martin is 47 yards away from passing Eric Dickerson for fifth on the NFL All-Time Rushing List.

INJURY REPORT: As mentioned yesterday, DE John Abraham (knee) is officially listed as questionable for Sunday, but the pass rushing end will not play this Sunday vs. St. Louis. Edwards said Abraham tested his knee this week he ran a little. Earlier this week, Abraham said his goal is to be back for the first playoff game. QB Quincy Carter is the only other player listed on the injury report as he has the flu and is probable. Edwards said Carter practiced today for the first time all week. Edwards said a game-time decision would be made to decide if Carter or Brooks Bollinger is the back-up QB.

-DE John Abraham (knee): Questionable
-QB Quincy Carter (illness Probable

Game time is at 1:00 p.m. Sunday. Local TV is CBS Channel 2 and local Radio is on 1050 ESPN Radio. Check back often to Jets for all the latest Jets/Rams news and reports.