By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
11/15/2005
Rams Holt
Torry Holt's 14-yard touchdown was the only TD scored by the Rams in the red zone Sunday against Seattle.
(Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)

The Rams left the Pacific Northwest red-faced about their red-zone performance against Seattle.

"It's really critical in the National Football League to score in the red zone," wide receiver Torry Holt said. "Especially when you're on the road and you're going against the No. 1 offense. ... It puts a strain on your football team."

The Rams couldn't hold up to the strain Sunday at Qwest Field, falling 31-16 to the Seahawks. Although the defense ultimately let the Rams down, the outcome might have been different had the Rams gotten anything done in the red zone.

"We've worked very hard in the red zone, and for the most part we've been very productive," interim head coach Joe Vitt said.

That certainly was the case in the first three games in which Vitt replaced the ailing Mike Martz, and offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild called the plays. Against Indianapolis, New Orleans and Jacksonville, the Rams scored touchdowns on five of eight red-zone opportunities.

And two of the three "unsuccessful" opportunities were kneel-down situations inside the 20 that closed out victories over New Orleans and Jacksonville.

But things went haywire in the red zone in Seattle. The Rams failed to score a touchdown on their first four red-zone forays. And it took a fourth-and-11 conversion, on a 14-yard TD pass from Marc Bulger to Holt, to salvage a one-for-five day in the red zone.

"We didn't execute down there, and that's probably a big emphasis we need to make the next few weeks if we want to make a playoff push," left tackle Orlando Pace said. "It just goes to show how big the red zone is. When you're down there, you've got to capitalize. Field goals won't get it done against the Seahawks."

They certainly didn't Sunday. The Rams had only three Jeff Wilkins field goals to show for those initial four red-zone trips. Had they been able to trade TDs for field goals on just two of those possessions, the score would have been tied 24-24 after Holt's TD catch midway though the fourth quarter. Instead the Rams trailed 24-16 and could never catch up.

So what went wrong in the red zone against Seattle?

"A variety of things," Vitt said. "We had some offsides in the red zone. We had some dropped balls in the red zone. We had a fumble in the red zone. We had a sack in the red zone."

Vitt was a little off on the details. The Rams gave up two sacks in the red zone. And tight end Brandon Manumaleuna's lost fumble at the Seattle 13 early in the fourth quarter didn't count as a red-zone trip because the play started at the 20. By definition, a red-zone possession occurs when at least one play begins inside the 20.

But his overall point was on target. Namely, there is no simple reason for what went wrong in the red zone Sunday. Many things went wrong. On several fronts:

Red-zone trip No. 1:: On first down at the Seattle 15, a missed lead block by tight end Cam Cleeland resulted in a 1-yard loss by running back Steven Jackson.

On third and 8, wide receiver Kevin Curtis dropped a ball in the flat that probably would have gone for first-down yardage.

Red-zone trip No. 2: On first down at the Seattle 15, a cutback rushing attempt by Jackson was stopped for a 1-yard loss because of a nice open-field tackle by Seahawks safety Michael Boulware. Give Boulware all the credit.

On second down, a screen left to Jackson might have produced a touchdown. But Bulger had to delay his throw because of pressure from the right side by Seahawks defensive end Joe Tafoya.

Red-zone trip No. 3: On second and 6 from the Seattle 13, Jackson was thwarted on another cutback run to the right. This time, a strong open-field tackle by defensive back Kelly Herndon dropped Jackson for a 3-yard loss. The play was pretty well blocked, and had Jackson turned upfield shortly after cutting back - instead of going wide - he might have gotten close to first-down yardage.

On third down, Holt and Isaac Bruce were both double-teamed on outside routes. If Bulger had a little more time, he would have found Curtis breaking open in the middle behind Herndon. But Bulger was flushed up in the pocket by Seattle defensive end Bryce Fisher, who was working against Alex Barron. And that resulted in a sack by defensive tackle Rocky Bernard.

Red-zone trip No. 4: On second and goal from the 10, Bulger was sacked by blitzing linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who got around right guard Adam Timmerman.

On third and 21, Bulger threw a perfect pass to the back corner of the end zone, only to have the ball slip through Holt's fingers and fall incomplete.

As Pace said: "Coach Fairchild did a great job calling the plays. We just didn't execute the way we should have."