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By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Then: From 1999-2004, the Rams won 43 of 53 games at the Edward Jones Dome
Now: Rams are winless at the dome this year and have lost 12 of their past 16
Over a period of six seasons, from 1999 through their last playoff season 2004 the Rams won 43 of 53 home games.
There was no tougher place to play in the National Football League. You could almost see defenders' knees buckle during pregame introductions as the Rams ran out to the guitar riffs of "Kashmir," the Led Zeppelin rock classic.
They don't play that song any more at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams don't win there any more either at least not lately. Since the middle of the 2005 season, the Rams have lost 12 of 16 home contests.
They are winless at home this season losing to Carolina, San Francisco, Arizona, and Cleveland. A loss Sunday against visiting Seattle would match the longest home losing streak for the Rams since the move to St. Louis in 1995. (Dick Vermeil's squad lost its last five home games of the '97 campaign.)
No wonder the Rams have had trouble selling out the stadium lately. Of course, the Rams can begin to change all that, starting with Sunday's game against NFC West rival Seattle. A loss would eliminate the Rams from NFC West title consideration (though they would remain mathematically alive for a wild-card berth.)
A win would extend Rams winning streak to three, no mean feat considering the team's franchise-worst 0-8 start. Just as importantly, it would be the first home victory for Rams fans since last Christmas Eve against Washington.
"We definitely want to give that to them," linebacker Chris Draft said.
In return, Draft is asking for a little help from the stands.
"I asked the other day. I asked the fans for three false-start penalties," Draft said. "That means they've got to get loud. Seattle, you know, they've got their 12th Man. Last time we went there, they had Ichiro with a pink scarf on what was it, purple? getting the crowd up."
Ichiro Suzuki, the Seattle Mariners' star outfielder, raised the "12th Man" flag at Qwest Field in pregame ceremonies, getting the crowd fired up for a 33-6 drubbing of the visiting Rams on Oct. 21.
Draft doesn't want a "12th man" helping the Rams from the stands Sunday he wants about 65,000 men, women, and children.
"If all St. Louis gets in that stadium, it's going to be deafening," Draft said. "I want three (false) starts. It can be more than that. But I want three false starts."
Three or so Rams touchdowns wouldn't hurt either in a game that has met NFL sellout requirements, and will be televised locally (KTVI-Channel 2).
"Home field is always so much better when you're winning," tight end Randy McMichael said. "Especially when our town is not a big football town. This is a baseball town; everybody knows that.
"And in order for it to be a football town, you have to win. We haven't done a good job of doing that at home, but we've got to find a way to get the fans excited about Rams football, and hopefully, this week will start it."
Easier said than done against the Seahawks (6-4), who have won three of their past four and appear to be gaining a bead on their fourth straight NFC West title. The Seahawks scored a season-high 30 points last week against Chicago and bring the NFL's ninth-ranked offense to the dome.
The Rams' improving defense better get used to it, because four of their final six opponents were ranked in the top 10 in total offense entering the week. Besides Seattle, Green Bay was fourth, Cincinnati fifth, and Pittsburgh 10th.
The Rams have yielded only 75 yards rushing combined in their past two games. With a big assist from the St. Louis offense, which has hogged the clock lately, the Rams' defense allowed fewer than 100 yards through three quarters against both New Orleans and San Francisco. Things got a little dicey in the fourth quarters of those contests, with the Rams struggling to sit on leads. But there's a growing confidence on the defensive side of the ball.
"I felt like last week (against San Francisco), we did a good job of playing team defense," linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said. "Guys were coming in from all angles and playing well. So I think we're definitely gelling."
But the Rams have lost five straight in the series with Seattle, and last month's contest in the Pacific Northwest was a low point of the 0-8 nightmare.
"It seemed like everything that could go wrong did go wrong that game," McMichael said. "It was really a pathetic showing on our part as an offense."
Mirroring the Rams' problems at home lately has been struggles against the NFC West. Before last week's 13-9 victory in San Francisco, the Rams had lost 12 of their past 15 games against the West.
Perhaps the victory at Monster Park signified the beginning of a "payback tour."
"It felt good, definitely, to get like a piece of that back," Tinoisamoa said.
On Sunday, the Rams would like a piece of the Seahawks for the first time since 2004.
"Yeah, we owe 'em a lot," Tinoisamoa said. "And it's been a while since we won. But they're a tough opponent."
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