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Three-peat! Rams dump Seattle again
Three-peat! Rams dump Seattle again
BY JEFF GORDON
Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
The NFL has had 8-8 teams in the playoffs before. But an 8-8 team has never won a playoff game . . . until Saturday afternoon in Seattle.
Using a diverse offensive attack and clever play-calling, the Rams toppled the Seahawks 27-20 in a predictably exciting wild-card game.
Quarterback Marc Bulger threw the game-winning touchdown pass to tight end Cam Cleeland -– Cam Cleeland! -– with 2 minutes 11 seconds left.
Then the Rams defense mustered one final stop to secure their third victory over the Seahawks this season.
The Seahawks had one last shot to force overtime. But on a fourth-and-four play from the Rams 5, Matt Hasselbeck scrambled around and then bounced an incomplete pass off Bobby Engram.
So the Rams move on.
We’re certain the national media will find more reasons to slap coach Mike Martz around this week, but we’ll give the man his due. Burned timeouts aside, he designed and called an excellent game plan to beat Mike Holmgren’s Seahawks on the road.
(Had the Seahawks possessed receivers that could actually catch the ball, they would have won. But, hey, that’s their problem.)
* The Rams came out firing. After establishing running back Marshall Faulk as a receiver with two quick completions, quarterback Marc Bulger went up top to an uncovered Torry Holt for a 52-yard gain.
Why run the ball when the Seahawks secondary stands transfixed while Holt runs his deep pattern? That play sent Bulger sailing toward a 313-yard passing performance.
* Bulger came back to Holt, who knifed into another gaping hole in the Seattle zone to make a sliding catch for a 15-yard touchdown.
* Cornerback Travis Fisher was paying attention when receiver Darrell Jackson dropped Seattle’s first pass of the game. Fisher managed to field it before it hit the ground for a rare Rams interception.
* On their second trip to the field, the Rams defense earned a three-and-out stop. Nice.
* Bulger found another huge hole in the Seahawks defense, bombing over the top of safety Michael Boulware to speedy Kevin Curtis for 50 yards. Cha-ching!
* Faulk covered the remaining five yards in two carries, pushing the Rams' lead to 14-3 early in the second quarter.
* How sharp was Bulger? How about that pinpoint 22-yard pass to Isaac Bruce through a tiny seam in the second quarter? Brilliant.
* The combination of defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, with a big hit on Hasselbeck, and safety Adam Archuleta, with the pass break-up, combined to thwart the Seahawks on a big third-down play late in the first half.
* Wow! Rookie defensive end Anthony Hargove manhandled Seahawks tackle Walter Jones in the third quarter and dumped running back Shaun Alexander for a loss.
* Cornerback DeJuan Groce broke up a third-down pass in the third quarter, forcing the Seahawks to settle for their second field goal.
* Curtis showed his route-running skills, his speed and his moves on his 31-yard catch and run in the third quarter. That led to Jeff Wilkins’ 38-yard field goal, which pushed the Rams lead to 17-13.
* Faulk busted a throw-back move on a 13-yard run in the fourth quarter, cutting back to his left. That critical run helped set up a game-tying 27-yard field goal by Wilkins.
* The Rams’ special teams coverage -– on kickoffs and punts -– was just fine Saturday, Who said it couldn’t be done?
* Cornerback Jerametrius Butler was sitting on a quick slant pass on a key third-down play late in the fourth quarter. Even if Hasselbeck’s throw was on target, he was there to break it up.
The Seahawks had to punt the ball back to the Rams, who had the opportunity to march back downfield in the final six minutes for the game-winning points.
* You had to love that swing pass to receiver Shaun McDonald, good for 31 yards, to advance the Rams back into scoring position.
* Tight end Cam Cleeland went up to catch the go-ahead touchdown pass with 2:11 left -– and held onto the ball as he got rocked. Nice call, Mad Mike. Cleeland had caught seven passes all season.
The Rams handed a 27-20 lead to their defense.
* Defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy made the most important sack of his career, dumping Hasselbeck with 37 seconds left to slow down the game’s final drive.
* It’s tough to call a play-action pass when you haven’t run the ball yet. That’s why the Seahawks sacked Bulger on the Rams’ first play in the red zone Saturday. Linebacker Chike Okeafor had no reason to respect the run fake.
* What is poor game management? Burning two timeouts on the very first drive of the game because of the Rams’ collective inability to get a play into the huddle.
* Shouldn’t McDonald run forward when he catches punts?
* As he broke up a pass that would have led to a Groce interception, linebacker Tommy Polley committed a facemask penalty on his follow-through. Given the ball back, the Seahawks cashed in with Hasselbeck’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Engram.
* The Rams defense had to burn a timeout to get organized early in the third quarter. Then the offense burned a timeout when Bulger couldn’t get Steven Jackson to line up in the correct spot for the play called.
Then the offense burned the last timeout after Bulger got rocked by Chad Brown on a very ill-advised scramble up the middle.
* A timeout would have come in handy to challenge a horrendous mark of the ball on Hasselbeck’s completion to Darrell Jackson. A replay review would have moved the ball back at least two yards.
* Given a gift first down, Hasselbeck came back with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Jackson to push Seattle ahead 20-17.
* Gallant left guard Tommy Nutten lasted deep into the fourth quarter playing on one good leg. Finally, with 4:55 left, he had to be helped off the field. Rookie Larry Turner had to tag in for him.
* Bulger didn’t budge safety Ken Hamlin with a pump fake, so his bomb down the left sideline toward Holt was picked by Hamlin at the Seattle 4.
Otherwise, he and his offensive colleagues played a pretty game, indeed.
-01-09-2005 #2Zebulon Dak Guest
Re: Three-peat! Rams dump Seattle againOriginally Posted by NickSeiler
Re: Three-peat! Rams dump Seattle again
Zebulon Dak, you have to remember that this is a report by a "st louis" reporter.
They dont know squat regarding football
-01-09-2005 #4Kane Guest
Re: Three-peat! Rams dump Seattle again
That was a very exciting game of football. Credit to Seattle who played their part too. They can take some satisfaction from the fact that they not we are the NFC West Champions - this year.
Marc Bulger was very good today. I'll concur with Martz that he's better than Warner in his prime when he's got us to two superbowls and not before - but he was very good today. He's certainly a lot better than the mistake prone Marc Bulger we had at Quarterback last season.
Torry Holt and Kevin Curtis were magnificent. Marshall Faulk played well through the pain, which was just as well as Stephen Jackson was atypically quiet.
The Defense was better - it's still not that good, but it was better. I really do think that the Defense still needs a major ovverhaul next season, primarily in the Co-Ordinator.
The Offensive line played well in the first half.
Special Teams: truely dreadful. Punting was poor, and as for Shaun MacDonald, he must be the thickest player in the team. Martz should tell him straight - if you can't run forwards (on a punt return) straight away GO DOWN, OR I WILL FINE YOU! Ho many times is this idiot going to run backwards?