If the Rams are anything, they're constant. Constantly going into the half with a lead or the game close, only to lose in the end falls within the parameters of constant, and so here we are.
St Louis started the first quarter ferociously; registering 3 sacks, recording a safety, breaking off a 53 yard run (Steven Jackson) for a score and jumping out to an early lead.
After falling behind 0-10, Josh Wilson took the ensuing Rams kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown, and Seattle closed to within 3. But the Seahawks would not mount any kind of threatening offensive in the 1st half because the relentless blitzing schemes employed by Jim Haslett would keep Hasselbeck under constant pressure and in a perpetual state of harassment. Hasselbeck was blitzed 7 times, hit 3 times, sacked 3 times and hurried on almost every throw.
Hasselbeck wasn't the only quarterback in this game taking punishment, however. Marc Bulger, under heavy pressure of his own, forced a shovel pass to Brian Leonard with 7:25 remaining in the 1st quarter that bounced off the intended target and into the waiting arms of Patrick Kerney. Bulger would leave the game after that series with rib and back pain and would not return.
The Rams' special teams unit redeemed themselves later in the half when Nate Burleson fumbled on a punt return after a stiff shot by Pisa Tinoisamoa forced the ball loose and was recovered by ST standout Eric Bassey. On the following drive, Gus Frerotte connected on a quick slant pattern to Isaac Bruce in the endzone to increase the Rams lead to 16-7.
St Louis had a chance to break the game open late in the second quarter with a 1st and goal from the 2 yard line. The Rams settled for three points in what could only be described as an absolutely atrocious goal line offensive. With 1st and goal, the Rams ran straight up the gut for no gain. 2nd and goal, the Rams inexplicably ran Jackson to the outside before he was tackled for a 4 yard loss. A false start and incompletion on 3rd down netted the Rams negative 9 yards and a field goal to extend their lead to 12.
Seattle changed their M.O. late in the half - going to a "rifle" formation and employing a hurry up offense. The Seahawks were successful with this new formation until Burleson broke off his route in the endzone and O.J. Atogwe stepped in to haul in the catch where Burleson should have been. That was Atogwe's second interception in as many games - last week he caught the game-clincher against San Francisco with time expiring to seal the win.
Crisis averted (for the moment). The first time these two teams met this year, the Seahawks outscored the Rams 23-3 in the second half at Qwest Field. With a 12 point lead, the Rams were anything but safe going into THIS half, despite outgaining the Seahawks 180 to 89 in total yards.
In the second half, the Seahawks came out and picked up right where they left off. Moving the ball efficiently from the mini shotgun formation, Hasselbeck was able to see the blitzes and buy himself a little more time to scan the field.
In their first drive, the Seahawks traveled 41 yards and tacked on 3 points to get the train rolling.Seattle also took advantage of the aggressive style of defense the Rams were using by adding more draws into their repetoire - one going for 46 yards when Maurice Morris split the defensive line and took advantage of an absense of defenders in the secondary. A play that set up a 9 yard TD pass to Deion Branch to bring the score to 19-17 Rams.
Using what was working more proficiently, the Seahawks traveled 80 yards in the 4th quarter and capped the drive with a 5 yard run by Leonard Weaver to pull ahead for the first time in the game.Meanwhile... back at the hall of injustice....The Rams, in true Rams fashion, were unable to add to their lead at all in the 2nd half.
In place of Marc Bulger, Gus Frerotte proved that he is anything but a starter in this league. After starting out strong and hitting on 8 consecutive passes to 6 different receivers including a touchdown, the journeyman backup began to unravel. Passes were overthrown, underthrown, thrown behind, batted down, or otherwise just picked off.
It's pointless to speculate as to whether Bulger would have connected on some of the throws that Frerotte had that stalled drives and negated potential touchdowns, but the fact remains that Gus just can't get it done. A valiant effort, yes, but it is only fitting that his mishandling of a snap on 4th & goal with 30 seconds remaining in the game (and down by 5) actually cost him the game. In his postgame press conference, Linehan assigned blame to both Frerotte and McCollum for the muffed exchange, but anyone with eyes could see that Frerotte started the play without the ball in hand.
You have to give credit where credit is due though. Seattle's defense came to play every bit as much as St Louis' defense. Behind defensive end Patrick Kerney (5 tackles, 3 sacks) and Lofa Tatupu (9 tackles), the Seahawks were able to keep the Rams from getting comfortable in the passing game and kept runningback Steven Jackson from doing TOO much damage.
Jackson ended up with 90 yards rushing, 15 receiving and 1 touchdown. Good enough any other day, but when not accompanied by a solid passing game - not good enough. Bulger and Frerotte combined for 193 yards, 1 td, 2 interceptions and 3 fumbles.
Seattle finishes their season meetings with the Rams by outscoring them 40-6 in the 2nd half this year. The only solution to this problem would be for the Rams to score WAY more points in the first half to counter this ridiculous stat.
Then again, so would actually stopping teams in the second half.
News, Notes & Anecdotes
- Isaac Bruce moves into 17 place all-time in the NFL in receiving touchdowns with 81, passing Art Powell.
- Fakhir Brown is now 2nd in the league in pass defenses.
- Jeff Wilkins passes Mark Mosely for 16th all-time in the NFL in P.A.T.'s
- Will Witherspoon registered just 11 sacks in his first 5 years in the league, but now has 6 on the season.
- Seattle came into this game with the longest streak (since 1972) of games with 4 or fewer penalties (13) before committing 6 today.
- The Rams averaged 3 turnovers a game in their 8 losses. They committed 2 today and now have 26 total.