No miracle this time
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sunday, Nov. 13 2005

SEATTLE There was a moment in the fourth quarter, after the Rams
had scratched their way back into the game, when Marshall Faulk turned to his
teammates and said, "This looks real familiar."

"And it did," said teammate Dane Looker. "When we got that touchdown, it put us
down by eight. We felt we could get in position to make a run at it."

They trailed by a modest 24-16 with seven minutes to play Sunday after a Marc
Bulger touchdown pass to Torry Holt.

For sure, the Rams had faced bigger deficits at Qwest Field than eight points.
Last year, they were down 17 with less than six minutes to play, yet rallied to
win 33-27 in overtime.

"Maybe some guys that weren't on the team, Alex (Barron) and those guys,"
Bulger said. "You've got to remind them that we've been in a lot worse
situations than this. There's a lot of time; we can come back."

Not this time. When the final chapter is written on how the West was won in
2005, it will be duly noted that the Seattle Seahawks got the ball with seven
minutes to play in the fourth quarter with that 24-16 lead. The Rams had all
three timeouts remaining. Their task was clear: force Seattle to punt. Score a
touchdown, and then tie the game with a 2-point conversion.

Trouble was, the Rams didn't get the ball back until there was just 1:12 to
play. By that time, they were out of timeouts and trailed 31-16. That's because
Seattle basically won the NFC West with a time-consuming - and for St. Louis -
spirit-draining drive that chewed up 69 yards and nearly six minutes of clock.

On a day when he would finish with 165 rushing yards, Seattle wunderback Shaun
Alexander carried nine times on that drive. Four times on the drive, the
Seahawks were faced with third-down situations - and on all four they
converted. Alexander the Great took care of the final conversion himself,
racing 17 yards around left end on third and 1 to finish off the Rams with his
third touchdown of the day.

"On that drive, that's what was going on the whole game," defensive lineman
Tyoka Jackson said.

Namely, the Seahawks being able to get it done in critical situations ... and
the Rams unable to do the same. As a result, it's all but a foregone conclusion
that the Seahawks will repeat as NFC West champions after Sunday's 31-16
victory over St. Louis.

Seattle is 7-2, having swept the Rams for the first time since realignment
placed the two franchises in the same division in 2002. The Rams are 4-5 and,
in effect, are four games out of the division lead because Seattle holds the
tiebreaker edge by virtue of that series sweep.

"So many things can happen," Bulger said. "They're obviously playing well right
now. But they're going to lose a couple, just like we have."

Perhaps. But don't look for a Seattle collapse. Not with 2-7 San Francisco
(twice), 2-7 Tennessee and 2-7 Green Bay all remaining on the Seahawks'
schedule.

"They're clearly in control of the West - Seattle," Rams wide receiver Torry
Holt said.

"They were just a better team today," defensive end Leonard Little said.

"My hat goes off to them," said wide receiver Isaac Bruce. "I can't take
anything away from them. They played well. They played strong in all three
phases of the game."

Not even the return Sunday of four Pro Bowlers for the Rams - Bruce, Bulger,
Holt and Little - could change that. Bulger (shoulder injury), Holt (knee) and
Little (death of his brother) had each missed the past two games for St. Louis.
Bruce had missed the previous five contests with a turf toe injury. Bulger
passed for 304 yards, including that 14-yard TD pass to Holt midway through the
fourth quarter that had cut Seattle's lead to 24-16.

But one red-zone meltdown after another earlier in the game helped sealed the
Rams' fate. In four red-zone possessions in the opening three quarters, the
Rams managed only three field goals.

"That was the difference in the game," Bulger said. "We were able to move the
ball all the way down to the 10-yard line, it seemed like, and we couldn't get
in. If we get in half the times we get down there, it's a different game."

On one of those four ventures inside the Seahawks' 20, the Rams opted for a
fake field goal - which backfired.

The Rams were getting the better of it in the early going, leading 3-0 early in
the second quarter and keeping the lid on Alexander and the Seattle running
game.

Five minutes into the second quarter, the Rams were poised to take a 6-0 lead.
But instead of what would have been a chip-shot field goal by Jeff Wilkins on
fourth and 3 from the Seattle 8, the Rams got tricky. Seattle's Marcus Trufant
wasn't tricked.

St. Louis lined up in field-goal formation, but holder Looker took the snap and
pitched the ball to Wilkins. Before Wilkins could get to the first-down marker,
he was dropped for a loss by Trufant.

"We've seen them on film pretty consistently come strong from the wide side of
the field," Looker said. "They'll bring the rush off that side."

But it didn't happen that way. "They played the right defense for that, and we
missed the opportunity," Looker said.

Instead of rushing hard toward Looker and the expected kick, Trufant laid back.
And when he spotted Wilkins running to his left to take the pitch, Trufant was
all over him.

Vitt said the decision was his.

"I wanted to get points," he said. "When you're facing the No. 1 offense in the
National Football League, we thought it would be high-scoring. Tendency-wise,
(the fake) was there. It was there in the first game. ... It backfired, and
that's my fault."

Momentum shifted to Seattle, which scored 24 of the game's next 27 points.

* * * * * * *

Red alert in the red zone

The Rams and Seahawks each took five trips to the red zone Sunday. The
Seahawks scored 3 TDs, while the Rams could get only one. The Rams' drives to
the red zone:

Drive start ... Began on ... Plays ... Yards ... Result

14:54 (1st) ... Rams' 26 ... 10 ... 61 ... field goal
0:22 (1st) ... Rams' 37 ... 10 ... 51 ... lost ball on downs
14:45 (3rd) ... Seahawks' 27 ... 5 ... 9 ... field goal
13:29 (4th) ... Rams' 25 ... 8 ... 62 ... fumble
8:35 (4th) ... Seahawks' 46 ... 4 ... 46 ... touchdown