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In upset of Broncos, Rams prove to be factor in playoff race

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This is the backstory to one of the great moments of Week 11, the St. Louis Rams' startling win -- behind a backup quarterback -- over the Denver Broncos. The Rams' shocker, as well as the Atlanta Falcon's surprising rise into first place in the NFC North following a 2-6 start and the Pittsburgh Steelers' fourth-quarter rally past the Tennessee Titans on "Monday Night Football" are nominees for the GMC Never Say Never Moment of the week. Cast your vote for the GMC Never Say Never Moments of Week 11.

The Rams are carving quite a reputational niche for themselves this season. Despite last-place status in the ultra-competitive NFC West, the Rams are finding success against teams deemed as Super Bowl contenders entering this season. The Rams had already knocked off the previous two NFC champions -- the Seattle Seahawks (in Week 7) and San Francisco 49ers (in Week 9) -- but not many figured that the Rams would hang with the Broncos, a team that -- up until a humbling Week 9 loss to the New England Patriots -- seemed to be steamrolling toward another AFC crown. With backup quarterback Shaun Hill making just his second start of the season, the Rams managed to stifle the Broncos, holding one of the NFL's most explosive offenses to just one score in a 22-7 victory.

Here are the key moments before the moment:

Hill shows off his arm

The play: Hill goes deep for receiver Kenny Britt for a 63-yard touchdown play.

The aftermath: The touchdown gave the Rams a 10-0 before the end of the first quarter, and America was alerted early that there might be a potential upset brewing in the "Gateway to the West." The long scoring play put Britt on a path for a 100-yard receiving game, his first since Week 14 of the 2012 season at Indianapolis. Britt finished the game with 128 yards receiving, easily outdistancing his previous best this season -- a 69-yard performance in a 34-31 defeat to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3.

Broncos finally answer

The play: Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning connects with receiver Emmanuel Sanders for a 42-yard touchdown that cut the Rams' lead to 13-7. With a little more than two minutes remaining in the half, Denver finally closed the gap on the Rams.

The aftermath: This was the closest the Broncos got to threatening the Rams' lead. St. Louis led for the entire game. This marked just the third time all season that the Broncos trailed at the halftime. That should have been a good sign for the Rams, since the Broncos failed to rally in the second half for wins in the each of those games.

Olgetree picks off Manning

The play: With the Rams now up 16-7, linebacker Alec Ogletree intercepts a Manning pass intended for tight end Jacob Tamme.

The aftermath: The Rams' defense -- expected to be outstanding entering the season -- was just that against the potent Broncos offense. The Broncos were held to 397 yards of total offense; just 28 yards rushing. This was the second consecutive game that the Rams held an opponent to exactly 28 yards rushing, having done the same against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 10. Since 1950, the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams have played 948 games and only once have held consecutive opponents to fewer than 30 yards rushing.

Donald denies desperate Denver

The play: Facing a fourth-and-4 situation at the Rams' 28-yard line, the Broncos -- down 19-7 -- opt to go for it. Rookie defensive tackle Aaron Donald thwarts the attempt, sacking Manning for a loss of 12 yards

The aftermath: This was Donald's fourth sack of the season, tied for the league lead among rookies with the Minnesota Vikings' Anthony Barr. The Rams have 18 sacks in the past five games after getting just one sack in the first five games combined.

The moment

The play: Rams cornerback Tremaine Johnson picks off Manning late in the fourth quarter, and all hope of a Broncos comeback are eliminated.

The aftermath: Following the interception, Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein booted a 53-yard field goal -- his fourth of the game -- to give the Rams teh 22-7 advantage they enjoyed at the end of regulation.

In a span of five games, the Rams have beaten the Seahawks, 49ers and Broncos. The Rams have defeated both Super Bowl combatants, joining the 2012 Baltimore Ravens (who defeated the opponents of Super Bowl XLVI, the New York Giants and New England Patriots, among others, en route to winning Super Bowl XLVII).

The Rams (currently standing at 4-6) have their work cut out for them to get back into the NFC playoff race, but have shown that they can be a factor in determining which teams make the playoffs and which seeds those teams attain. Three of the Rams' six remaining games come against teams currently in the thick of the playoff chase -- Week 12 at San Diego, Week 15 vs. Arizona and Week 17 at Seattle. This Week 11 performance should serve as a warming to those contenders to not underestimate the Rams, or suffer the same fate as the Broncos.

Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.

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