By Jeff Gordon
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
Sunday, Nov. 25 2007

If ever one play defined an entire season – and perhaps a coaching regime --
here it was:

The Rams trailed the Seahawks 24-19 with 30 seconds left to play. They had the
ball on the Seattle 1-yard line on fourth down.

Back-up Rams quarterback Gus Frerotte was at the helm of the offense, filling
in for the concussed Marc Bulger. Veteran Andy McCollum was back in the game at
center, filling in for re-injured starter Brett Romberg.

Running back Steven Jackson was back in the game, after regrouping from a nasty
blow to his head.

Rams coach Scott Linehan called the fateful play for Jackson, an off-tackle
run. He wanted to put the ball in the hands of his best offensive player.

“I told myself walking up there, ‘This is a big play, I have to stay with the
center,’ because on powers and things like that, they have to move to their
left,” Frerotte said.

McCollum snapped the ball and Frerotte pulled away from center without it. “It
just came out,” Frerotte said. “It wasn’t a perfect exchange.”

Frerotte tried to scoop it up, but where could he run with it? Vince Young he
is not.

“I saw the whole thing,” Seahawks defensive end Darryl Tapp said. “I was coming
on a down block, saw the ball and made a play.”

The muffed snap killed a comeback. The muffed snap cost the Rams a game they
controlled for a half and led into the fourth quarter.

The muffed snap doomed the Rams to their ninth loss in 11 games. The muffed
snap denied Linehan and his staff a glorious opportunity to beat a quality
opponent and outsmart established coaches.

Does it get more painful than this for all involved?

“It was an unbelievable ending in a so far unbelievable season,” tight end
Randy McMichael said.

The Rams raced to a quick 9-0 lead and pushed their margin to 19-7 in the
second quarter. They appeared ready to win their third game in a row by
upsetting their division nemesis.

Their offense was efficient and their defense appeared inspired. Jim Haslett’s
game plan for containing the explosive Seahawks was brilliant. Linebacker Will
Witherspoon enjoyed arguably the game of his career.

But then Bulger left the game with a concussion and put Frerotte on the spot.
Then Jackson, the offensive workhorse, departed after taking a blow to his head.

Linehan’s offense went into a shell, the Seahawks rallied deliberately and you
know the rest of this sad song. The Rams came to life, stormed back during the
last three minute . . . only to come up agonizingly short.

“You are going to be in games where are an inch from winning and you are going
to be in games where you win by an inch,” safety O.J. Atogwe observed.

This loss doesn’t doom this coaching regime. But it WAS a blown chance, a
victory in hand. Beating Seattle would have really, really helped this staff’s
case. Winning a third game with a makeshift and the back-up quarterback would
have been huge.

Instead, there is just more of the same frustration.

“I have been there and I feel the pain, but it is tough sometimes,” Seahawks
coach Mike Holmgren said.

No kidding.
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