Colossal comeback haunts Seahawks
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Friday, Jan. 07 2005

SEATTLE - Shaun McDonald had made his share of game-winning plays in high
school and college. But not like this.

"Not where I score, and the game's over," McDonald said. "That's something you
dream of, and I'm glad I was part of that."

Just five plays into overtime Oct. 10 at Qwest Field, the Rams faced a
third-and-8 from their 48. The Seahawks sent seven pass rushers at Marc Bulger.
Had center Andy McCollum not picked up a blitzing linebacker, Bulger probably
gets plastered and the Rams lose. But McCollum picked him up.

Meanwhile, McDonald saw the nickel back drop off him to rush the passer and
adjusted his route accordingly. He ran a deep route right at - and right by -
Seattle safety Terreal Bierria.

"Marc put up a beautiful ball and I caught it in stride," McDonald said.

McDonald's 52-yard touchdown catch meant sudden death for the Seahawks and
sudden victory for the Rams. And it capped one of the biggest late-game
comebacks in NFL history.

McDonald remembers slamming the football against the stadium wall in the north
end zone at Qwest and then getting pinned against that same wall by his
delirious teammates. It was so much fun that McDonald was oblivious to the
angry Seahawks fans in that end zone. But teammate Larry Turner wasn't.

"I remember how (upset) the fans were," Turner said. "You could see the fans
throwing (plastic) beer bottles, and ice cream cones. I just remember their
whole crowd was thinking that they had the game won, and we just came back and
surprised them."

Boy, did they. After being dominated in the first half, the Rams still found
themselves trailing 27-10 as the fourth quarter wound down. But a miraculous
catch by tight end Brandon Manumaleuna with 5 minutes 34 seconds to play began
the second-biggest comeback in league history in the final 6 minutes of a game.

"I think (the pass) was for Isaac," Manumaleuna said Thursday. "But I got in
the way of it. I didn't know (Bruce) was there until I saw the film. I just saw
it in the air and went and grabbed it."

With three Seahawks defenders in the area, no less.

"Brandon's catch is the catch of the year by anybody's standards," coach Mike
Martz said. "When Brandon made that catch, I don't think there was a guy on the
sideline who had any doubt in their mind that somehow we'd figure out a way to
win this thing. That was my feeling.

"It was an amazing play. To me, that's probably right there with Isaac's Super
Bowl catch, and Ricky Proehl's catch against Tampa Bay" in the NFC title game.

Well, maybe a very distant third. But it was an amazing catch. That
jump-started the comeback, and McDonald's catch finished it, giving the Rams a
33-27 victory.

Around Seattle, the game has come to be known by some as "The Collapse."

"It was a hard game to lose, goodness gracious," Seattle coach Mike Holmgren
said. "It was one of the tougher ones in my lifetime. ... It took us a little
while to get out of that. But it's been that kind of season, kind of up and
down. But here we are."

Here they are, with a chance to avenge two regular-season losses to the Rams.
With a chance to wipe out, or at least soften, the memory of that Oct. 10
meltdown.

The memory of that Rams mosh pit in the end zone. ... Of Bruce posing for the
crowd with one foot on his helmet. ... Of Seattle safety Ken Hamlin angrily
kicking away Bruce's helmet in disgust.

"You shouldn't be in the NFL if you let one team beat you three times in one
year," Seahawks cornerback Ken Lucas said. "They can have the first two during
the regular season, but we're in the same place now. If we can win this one,
then we can forget about the last two."

There have been 15 occasions when a team that swept a season series met the
same opponent for a third time in the playoffs. On 10 of those 15 occasions,
the 2-0 team won the third meeting as well.

Keep in mind, however, that nine of those three-game sweeps were accomplished
at home in the playoffs. The Rams must do it on the road. Only the 1999
Tennessee Titans won a third game on the road, defeating Jacksonville in the
AFC title game. In fact, the only three Jaguars losses that season were against
Tennessee.

"There's definitely a challenge of (beating) the team that's trying to get
revenge," Tennessee offensive guard Benji Olson told Nashville reporters. "I
think maybe we were in their head a little bit. Maybe it got to them a little
bit that they couldn't beat us, and that might have detoured them from beating
us."

There's no doubt the Seahawks want revenge this afternoon.

"We have a bad taste in our mouth, man," Seattle defensive end Chike Okeafor
said. "It's definitely going to be revenge."

But there's no doubt the Rams are indeed in Seattle's head.

"Definitely," Rams defensive end Anthony Hargrove said. "They've put on a good
game, but we've still come away with victories. So they might think they can
run the ball all day. But if you don't win, then what's all that?"

It's called the offseason, if you don't win this afternoon.