Rams streak past Seattle
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Sunday, Oct. 10 2004

SEATTLE - Not only was Seattle in the NFC West driver's seat, the Seahawks had
their seatbelts fastened and car keys in hand and had adjusted the rear- and
side-view mirrors.

They had dominated St. Louis for 3 1/2 quarters on Sunday at Qwest Field. With
a 27-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter, they were poised to go 4-0 for
the first time in franchise history and leave St. Louis wheezing in their
exhaust.

Rams quarterback Marc Bulger had looked downright horrible, throwing three
interceptions - just one shy of his career high. Seattle running back Shaun
Alexander, en route to a 150-yard rushing day, was tap-dancing all over the St.
Louis defense. And Rams wide receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt had been
bottled up by the young, aggressive, Seattle secondary.

But then the darnedest thing happened. Against the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense,
a defense that had yielded only 13 points all season, St. Louis scored 17
points in the final 5 1/2 minutes of regulation, then won the game 33-27 on a
52-yard touchdown pass from Bulger to Shaun McDonald.

"I can't explain it," defensive end Leonard Little said. "This team has a whole
lot of heart. Today we showed people that when you're down, just don't give up.
Make plays and claw and scratch your way back into the game."

Claw and scratch they did.

Throwing into double coverage, Bulger connected with Brandon Manumaleuna over
the middle with 5 minutes 34 seconds to play on an 8-yard touchdown pass that
cut Seattle's lead to 27-17.

Seattle went three and out, and after a 39-yard punt return by McDonald, Bulger
threw 41 yards to Kevin Curtis for a TD with 3:30 to play. Lining up in the
slot, Curtis split defensive backs Ken Lucas and Terreal Bierria for his first
NFL touchdown. Seattle's lead was now 27-24.

Seattle managed one first down after the kickoff, but was forced to punt after
Little sacked quarterback Matt Hasselbeck on third and 5 from the Seattle 41.

St. Louis got the ball back with no timeouts and 64 seconds to play at its 36.
Completions of 27 yards to Isaac Bruce and 16 yards to Dane Looker gave St.
Louis a first down at the Seahawks' 18 with 13 seconds to play.

Out trotted place-kicker Jeff Wilkins - aka Money. His 36-yard field goal with
8 seconds to play sent the game into overtime tied 27-all.

The Rams won the coin toss in overtime, and needed only six plays to complete
one of the more improbable comebacks in franchise history. A comeback that was
fast and furious.

On third and 8 from the Rams 48, Seattle blitzed Bulger. Coach Mike Martz was
hoping Bulger would go underneath to Torry Holt, running a slant pattern. But
no. Bulger went for the entire ball of wax.

He threw deep to McDonald, running a streak pattern. He had only a safety -
Beirria - to beat. Beirria tugged at McDonald's jersey to try to slow him down,
but it didn't work.

McDonald streaked into the north end zone for a 52-yard sudden-death touchdown.
Sudden death for Seattle, that is. The end zone quickly degenerated into a mosh
pit as McDonald was surrounded and mobbed by most of his Rams teammates.

Moments later, Bruce tossed his helmet to the ground near the south end zone,
and "saluted" the stunned Seahawks fans. One of the fans responded by throwing
a beer bottle at Bruce. It fell short by about 5 yards. Bruce was unfazed.

"I saw it," Bruce said. "I'm used to that. I'm from the 'hood."

Seattle safety Ken Hamlin also took offense to Bruce's antics. He ran out to
Bruce, kicked Bruce's helmet, and the two exchanged words.

"There was no conflict, no confrontation between anybody," Bruce said later.
"Just two guys fighting for the lead in the division."

Right now, the Rams have taken the fight to the Seahawks, who saw their
franchise-record 10-game home-winning streak snapped. For everyone who thought
the division was Seattle's - and a lot of people did - the Rams' reply Sunday
was: Not so fast.

"I don't know what it shows," Bruce said. But then he added with a touch of
sarcasm, "Just read the standings (today) and you can see for yourself."

The standings show the Seahawks still leading the West at 3-1, but the Rams are
now right behind at 3-2. Seattle, by the way, plays at New England next Sunday.

"People were counting us out way too soon," McDonald said.

Several of his teammates echoed that sentiment.

"Last I checked, WE won the West division last year," running back Marshall
Faulk said. "That's all I know. I'm a factual person."

"I think everybody in this locker room took it as a challenge," offensive
tackle Orlando Pace said. "Everybody was writing us off as far as the division
goes."

Martz practically floated off the field. He still had his sunglasses on during
his postgame news conference. When asked if he'd ever been part of such a
dramatic comeback, he paused, then said: "No. And I've never been a part of a
team like this. This is a connected team."

The Rams locker room was a jubilant place, even among the veterans who have
played in Super Bowls and won division titles. Punter Sean Landeta, ever the
historian, asked a reporter if the Rams had ever had a fourth-quarter comeback
like this since the move to St. Louis.

Nope. The closest came in the 2000 wild-card playoff game against New Orleans,
when the Rams almost wiped out a 31-7 deficit but lost 31-28.

Bruce, who has been around all 10 seasons in St. Louis, called it the most
satisfying victory he had ever been a part of in the NFL.

"It's fun," Faulk said. "It's a whole new area. It's fun because we got guys
around here that aren't used to doing things like that."

Even Rams President John Shaw, a person not prone to overstatement, said, "It
was the most exciting comeback I've seen. I can't remember one this big."

And one that may have salvaged a season for St. Louis.