By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Monday, Nov. 26 2007

Center Andy McCollum snapped the football, started blocking his man ... and
then, as he put it, "waited for the crowd to cheer when we scored a touchdown."

Running back Steven Jackson headed to his right, scanning the defense for a
soft spot as he waited for the handoff.

On fourth-and-goal from the 1, with just 30 seconds to play, there is no need
for style points. As Jackson put it: "Hopefully you break the plane before the
collision happens."

But McCollum never heard the cheers.

And Jackson never got the handoff.

Quarterback Gus Frerotte ended a tough day with a miserable play, fumbling the
snap from McCollum. Frerotte regained possession of the football, but before he
could do anything with it, he was brought down by Seattle defensive end Darryl
Tapp.

So after failing to execute a basic power running play, the Rams fell to
Seattle 24-19. At 2-9, the Rams are officially eliminated from NFC West title
contention. At 7-4, Seattle is closing in on its fourth consecutive West
championship.

In a season full of nightmare losses, particularly at home, this may have been
the worst.

In a series replete with heartbreaking losses to Seattle, this may have been
the biggest heartache.

"Everybody was upbeat in the huddle," right guard Todd Steussie said,
describing the mood before the Rams' final offensive play. "To a man, I think
we all thought we were going to get the ball in. It's still a sense of shock
that we didn't."

After initially noting that "it wasn't a perfect exchange," Frerotte basically
blamed himself for the botched play.

"I'll be thinking about that (play) all night," Frerotte said. "You're in the
league this long, and something like that happens. In a critical situation — it
was very disheartening for me. That's not something that a professional should
have happen to him. ... I didn't come through for the guys when they needed me
to."

As he broke the huddle, Frerotte said he even reminded himself to make sure he
got the ball securely from center.

Frerotte entered the game midway through the first quarter after a concussion
resulted in an early exit for starter Marc Bulger. Things started well enough,
with Frerotte completing his first eight passes and leading the Rams on a
touchdown drive late in the first quarter and a field goal drive early in the
second for a 19-7 halftime lead.

The St. Louis defense, employing a three-man front almost exclusively — and
sending relentless blitzes at Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck — had the
Seahawks on their heels.

But as it did in last week's game against San Francisco, the Rams' offense went
into a deep freeze in the second half. The Rams had nine offensive possessions
after Jeff Wilkins' 23-yard field goal gave them that 19-7 lead:

— Seven of those nine possessions resulted in punts, including four
three-and-outs.

— One ended with Frerotte throwing an interception.

— And that final possession ended with the fumbled snap on fourth down.

"We just didn't put the nail in the coffin," tight end Randy McMichael said.
"We had a couple times where we were in field-goal range and (gave up) a sack.
So those are points that you take off the board. Our defense kept us in the
game as long as they could, and on offense, we just weren't able to capitalize."

Seattle, meanwhile, gradually got on track in the second half, taking its first
lead of the day, at 24-19, on a 5-yard TD run by fullback Leonard Weaver with
5:57 to play. But after Josh Brown missed a 52-yard field-goal attempt with
2:44 to play, the Rams had one last chance, getting the ball at their 42 with
two timeouts remaining.

With the aid of a 24-yard pass interference call against safety Deon Grant, who
grabbed Isaac Bruce on a deep post pattern, St. Louis quickly found itself with
a first-and-goal from the Seattle 4, with 1:03 to play and (still) two timeouts.

"We're in the huddle those last three, four plays, and I'm telling Steussie,
'This is a good game. It's a good game to watch. This is exciting. We've got to
finish it here,'" McCollum said. "And then we didn't get it done."

Nope. On first down, Frerotte missed a wide open Bruce at the goal line —
short-arming the ball into the turf before it reached Bruce.

A quick slant pass to Drew Bennett gained 2 yards on second down. On third
down, Jackson nearly scored on a power run off right guard. Frerotte thought
Jackson was in; coach Scott Linehan said at the very least a booth review
should have been in order.

There was no booth review. Jackson, after viewing a stadium replay, agreed with
the call. By the time his hand extended over the goal line, his knees already
were down at the 1.

"As soon as the ball broke the plane, I noticed that I was down," Jackson
said. "It was a good call."

And then came the fourth-down run by Jackson ... that never was.

"It would've been very interesting to see what would've happened," Jackson said.

We'll never know.