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Seahawks vs. Rams: Hot rivalry with wild plot twists
By Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY
Set the TiVo.
The St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks meet at Qwest Field on Sunday, and if the game with first-place in the NFC West at stake is anything like most of their previous encounters in recent years, it will be worth a second look.
"There's never a dull moment when we play them," Seahawks fullback Mack Strong says. "Something always happens."
Like a game-winning 54-yard field goal as time expires?
That's how the wild game ended when the teams last met in October at St. Louis' Edward Jones Dome. The Seahawks battled from a 21-7 deficit, fell behind again after the two-minute warning, then won 30-28 on Josh Brown's kick.
The thing wasn't settled until referee Ed Hochuli explained that there is no automatic 10-second runoff for an illegal formation penalty — which would have ended the game with the Rams on top — as there is for a false start.
Never mind Rams coach Scott Linehan's energetic celebration on the sideline, with the sight of that last yellow flag.
Obscure loophole in the rulebook, Seahawks win.
Says Strong, "It surprised me. I didn't know the rule. I really thought there would be a 10-second run-off."
Strong remembers that game for its wide range of emotions. The Rams went ahead 28-27 on a 67-yard touchdown catch that receiver Torry Holt considers the most amazing haul of his outstanding eight-year career.
Holt tipped the football, and never broke stride while reaching back and snagging it with one hand before racing to the end zone. It was his third TD as part of an eight-catch, 154-yard game.
"I was hoping that we would go ahead and wrap it up," Holt reflected Thursday. "But as I look back on it, they were moving the ball all day and had time."
Besides, it was Rams-Seahawks. Holt knows what that means.
"When we get together," he says, "it's never over until 0:00 hits the clock. Anything can happen."
DRAMA IN THE NFC WEST: Recent Rams-Seahawks history
Like the second-largest comeback in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter in NFL history?
That occured in October 2004, when the Rams struck for 17 points in the final 5½ minutes, then won 33-27 in overtime on Shaun McDonald's 52-yard TD catch from Marc Bulger.
"Of all the games I've played in this league, that's the one that leaves the most sour taste in my mouth," says Strong, in his 13th NFL season. "That was the turning point in our season. After that, we went into a downward spiral. We never did recover."
The Seahawks made the playoffs that season, but were upset 27-20 in their postseason opener at home — by the Rams.
That game ended with Seattle's fourth-down snap from the Rams' 5-yard line. But Matt Hasselbeck's would-be game-tying TD pass was dropped in the end zone by Bobby Engram. It sealed a three-game sweep by the Rams that season.
Says Strong, mindful of last year's drive to Super Bowl XL, "I think that fueled us for what we were able to accomplish last season."
When it comes to NFL divisional rivalries, nothing matches the longevity of Bears-Packers or the hype of Cowboys-Redskins. Broncos-Raiders has Mike Shanahan-Al Davis spice. And Ravens-Steelers is packed with bone-crushing hits and venom.
Yet for sheer drama, this intense Seahawks-Rams series certainly steps up among the best divisional dogfights in the NFL.
"The way we see it, every team in the NFL wants to beat up on the Rams," says Holt, "but yeah, since Seattle came into the division it has become quite the rivalry."
In October 2005, the Seahawks snapped a four-game losing streak in the series with a 37-31 victory at St. Louis, but only after the Rams' flirt with another huge comeback ended with McDonald's fumbled punt with 3:54 remaining.
This rivalry has only existed in this division form since 2002, when Seattle jumped from the AFC to the NFC West.
The teams have split their 10 meetings since realignment, and it seems likely that for the fourth consecutive year either the Rams (4-4) or Seahawks (5-3) will claim the NFC West crown.
That's where Sunday comes into play. The Seahawks are without their big stars, Hasselbeck and MVP running back Shaun Alexander. The Rams have lost three consecutive games. Doesn't matter.
Something wacky is bound to happen. Drama beckons.
"You know they'd like to come here and get things turned around," says Strong. "But we need it, too."