The word "playoffs" isn't being mentioned often around the St. Louis Rams' training facility unless asked by an outsider.
"This team is focused on Buffalo. It's our next opponent," coach Jeff Fisher said Monday at his weekly media gathering at Rams Park. "There's too much that could happen right now. I don't even know what the record is of some teams in the division. So, we just go play."
The Rams have made themselves into a playoff contender — albeit an outside one — with two consecutive divisional victories. Their 16-13 overtime win against San Francisco on Sunday comes a week after winning at Arizona and leaves them as the only NFC West squad undefeated against division opponents with one game to go.
St. Louis (5-6-1, 4-0-1) would need to leapfrog four teams to make the postseason, including the Seattle Seahawks, who host the Rams the final weekend of the regular season. This newfound hope of extending the season comes on the heels of a five-game stretch during which St. Louis went 0-4-1 and fell to 3-6-1.
"Regardless of whether we've won or lost the week before, our focus has gone on to the next week and that's exactly what we're going to continue to do," said quarterback Sam Bradford, who completed 26 of 39 passes for 221 yards against San Francisco. "Our focus now is going to Buffalo and getting another win."
Fisher said that despite the positive results the past two weeks it matters little if his team doesn't get a victory at Buffalo. The Rams have won just one road game and they followed up a 24-24 tie at San Francisco with a lackluster 27-13 home loss to the New York Jets.
The lack of consistency is one reason the Rams aren't talking about making the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
It's been a long road since. They went 29-83 without a winning season from 2005-2011, with their best finish coming in 2006 at 8-8 when the won their final three games. A victory Sunday will give St. Louis a non-losing record this late in the regular season for the first time since then.
"It feels pretty good," running back Steven Jackson said. "We have a lot of room to grow, but the one thing about this team that we learned about the personality of it that guys are going to continue to fight. Guys are going to continue to bring their 'A' game despite what it looks like, despite what people may think. This group of men believe that we can compete at a high level."
Fisher said he likes the growth of his young team, but would like to see more from his offense in the final three games of the season.
The offense has struggled scoring this season and the Rams needed two defensive scores — a fumble returned for a touchdown and a safety — and two field goals from beyond 50 yards to get past the 49ers. Fisher gave credit to San Francisco's defense, ranked second in the NFL for total defense. He also readily offered up the need for the offense to provide some breathing room for the defense.
"We'd like to think we'd end up with balance in the game. We'll score points and play good defense. That was a situation (Sunday) where we found a way to win a game against a good team under difficult circumstances," he said. "But offensively, we need to pick things up here. We made plays in the passing game. Sam played very well against a difficult defense but we need more balance and more chunks and more scoring."