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  • First Things First

    Saturday, October 8, 2005

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    All week the questions asked of the Rams have been the same and repeated almost ad nauseum.

    Do you consider Seattle a rival? Do you have a psychological edge because of the three wins against the Seahawks a year ago? What do you remember most about those games from a season ago?

    But come Sunday’s noon meeting at the Edward Jones Dome, there is only one thing that matters to any of the Rams, regardless of which team lines up on the other side.

    “Right now we’re in the mindset that we need to win a ballgame,” receiver Torry Holt said. “As far as all that psychological and physical edge and all that stuff, we haven’t really given too much thought about that…This is an opportunity for us to win a ballgame against a division opponent at home. The guys understand how critical this is, how critical this game is.”

    Any thoughts of rivalries or bitterness toward the Seahawks notwithstanding, this game is about as important as a game taking place in the fifth week of the regular season can be.

    Like last season, it appears that Seattle and St. Louis are going to fight it out until the last week for the NFC West Division crown. Both teams enter Sunday’s game with records of 2-2, sitting atop the division with Arizona and San Francisco at 1-3. The winner will emerge with sole possession of first place in the division, some momentum for the following week and an edge for a possible tiebreaker at the end of the season.

    Those simple reasons for winning make this game more important than anything that happened last year.

    “From season to season, game to game, nothing you have done the week before has any bearing on what you’re doing right now,” coach Mike Martz said. “That was a nice thing last year. It’s over. It’s long gone. We don’t even think about it or talk about it.”

    Unless of course, they are faced with a constant barrage of questions about it, such as this week. Sure, the Rams and Seahawks are fast becoming a big rival in the division, but that is mainly because neither the Cardinals nor the ***** have provided much competition in recent years.

    Last season, St. Louis and Seattle dueled into the final weeks before the division was decided, but it wasn’t like the two teams were exactly dominant. By the time the Seahawks had claimed the division, they were 9-7 and the Rams sneaked into the playoffs with an 8-8 record.

    Because the Rams and Seahawks have been the two best teams in a division that isn’t too deep, these meetings have added importance. If for no other reason, that’s why this is a rivalry that is beginning to boil over.

    “I know how people feel about the West Division, it’s either us or Seattle,” running back Steven Jackson said. “I think that in itself makes it a rivalry. Playing them three times last year and being able to knock them off all three times kind of put a bug with them against us, so I think so.”

    Although opinions on whether it is truly a rivalry might have differed in the Rams’ locker room, the Seahawks seem to be taking it pretty seriously.

    The Rams’ three victories against Seattle weren’t enough to defend their division crown, but they did knock the Seahawks out of the playoffs, something that still stings Seattle’s head coach.

    “We have a lot of respect for that organization, and you kind of know that you have to beat them to win it,” Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "We couldn’t get it done last year.”

    For as joyous as the thoughts of those wins from last year might be for the Rams, any reflection on what happened last week might be equally disturbing.

    St. Louis was embarrassed by the New York Giants just last week after putting together a modest two-game winning streak. The Rams were pushed around defensively, getting caught out of position time and again against the run and the pass.

    By the time the Giants were done, the Rams defense had tumbled to 25th in the league. Things were so bad that Martz didn’t review the tape with the players as he usually does.

    “We don’t like it,” strong safety Adam Archuleta said. “It’s embarrassing so we have to go out there and erase that from our memories. The only way to do that is to go out and dominate this game.”

    The Rams also continued a disturbing trend of falling behind by a substantial amount early in the game and then having to throw the ball repeatedly for the rest of the game. That has limited the number of touches for Jackson and kept the offensive line from being able to assert itself physically.

    While the offense has been able to put up big numbers in the past few weeks, the defense has done that same. The Rams’ inability to put it all together has been the most frustrating part of the first quarter of the season.

    “We just haven’t reached our potential yet,” defensive end Anthony Hargrove said. “We haven’t reached Max Q yet. We still have a lot of time left in this season and we are hoping we can get this together and start really getting this boat rolling. We still have a ways to go. We are not at Max Q yet, we are at Max L.”

    To reach Max Q, the Rams are going to have to begin to find the balance that has eluded them offensively. Seattle is 25th in the league against the run and with the game in St. Louis and Jackson returning to health, this could be the week to do it.

    As for the defense, it is just looking to find a little bit of the improved unit that showed up in the first three games forcing turnovers, limiting touchdowns and pressuring the quarterback.

    If that happens, the Rams could find themselves back in a familiar position…first place.

    “We are trying to take a hold of the division,” Jackson said. “We need to get this win at home.”

    At the end of the day, that’s what matters most.

Related Topics


  • RamsFan4ever
    Rams Prepared for Important Early Season Battle
    by RamsFan4ever
    Rams Prepared for Important Early Season Battle
    Thursday, October 12, 2006

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    In the afterglow of a victory, the Rams get a 24-hour grace period from head coach Scott Linehan to enjoy the win before moving on to the next week. That is a pretty standard cooling down for most teams throughout the league.

    But, after last week’s 23-20 win against Green Bay at Lambeau Field, that down time was trimmed considerably. Not more than 20 minutes after the win, Linehan was asked about preparing for the next game.

    That’s because, at this point, there are few games on the team’s schedule with more meaning than the pair of meetings against Seattle.

    In his first year as the Rams’ head coach, Linehan has quickly learned the importance of the games against the Seahawks and acknowledges the rivalry.

    “I think you always look forward to playing the team that sets the bar,” Linehan said. “The bar was set by Seattle last year in the NFC and in our division. That’s kind of the way the league works. It goes in cycles, but they’re certainly the team to beat, not only in our division, but in the entire NFC. It’s a pretty big challenge for us, but it’s also one that we’ve been looking forward to. It will be a pretty big measuring stick based on how this game turns out this week, and kind of lets us know where we’re at at this point.”

    Soon after the divisional realignment placed the Seahawks in the NFC West, the Rams staked their claim to dominance in the division. The only true challenger from that group to emerge was Seattle. This week’s game is the 10th between the teams in the past five seasons in a rivalry that seems to get more heated every year.

    In 2004, the Rams-Seahawks battle picked up steam after St. Louis won the division in 2003. The Seahawks brashly proclaimed themselves ready to take over the NFC West that year, but the Rams did not oblige.

    The Rams posted three consecutive victories that year, including an NFC Wild Card game win at Seattle in January of 2004. The Seahawks won the division, but they could not get past the hurdle that was the Rams.

    Finally, last year, Seattle made the leap by knocking off the Rams twice last year, winning the division and eventually the NFC Championship before falling in the Super Bowl. Since realignment in 2002, the Rams lead the series 5-4 with a 5-2 record at the Edward Jones Dome.

    At 4-1, the Rams are in first place in the NFC West, a half game ahead of Seattle. The Seahawks are 3-1 and coming off a bye week. It’s only Week 6, but it’s clearly a big game for both teams.

    “I believe that is definitely the case,” linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski said. “The games in the last four or five years always are hard fought games down to the end. I know, being on that side last year, how we won it in the end was one...
    -10-13-2006, 04:20 PM
  • RamWraith
    Rams Preparing for Important Showdown
    by RamWraith
    Thursday, November 9, 2006

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Under normal circumstances the “Seahawks” printed across the front of the Rams’ opponents’ jerseys this week would be enough to inspire myriad emotions. The words rivalry, dislike and disdain come to mind when a game between Seattle and St. Louis approaches on the schedule.

    The Seahawks and Rams will renew acquaintances Sunday, but given the current state of both teams, the rivalry doesn’t mean nearly as much as the possibility of picking up an important victory.

    “It will be big for us to win a game right now, no matter who we’re playing,” defensive end Leonard Little said. “It will be big if we just win the game. Once we win a game we can go on from there, but until then we’re just going to fight to win the game.”

    On the heels of a three-game winning streak, the Rams have countered with a three-game losing skid in their past three contests. That trio of losses has St. Louis at 4-4 at the midway point of the season.

    Obviously, there is plenty of football left to be played and plenty left to play for, but none of it matters unless the Rams can, like Little says, find a way to get a win.

    Despite the .500 record, the Rams find themselves in a competitive spot within the NFC West Division. Seattle has a 5-3 record and sole possession of first place, but the Rams are right on their heels and can move back into a tie with the Seahawks with a victory.

    On the flip side, a loss to the Seahawks could be devastating to the Rams’ divisional and playoff hopes. While every week is important in the NFL because there are only 16 games, it’s pretty clear that, for a midseason game, they don’t get much bigger than this one.

    “It’s like last week, they’re all big,” quarterback Marc Bulger said. “We’re on a three-game slide, it’s in the division, and we dig a very large hole if we lose this one. I think everyone in here understands the magnitude.”

    The first meeting between the teams came on Oct. 15 and was the type of game that will be remembered for a number of reasons. The Rams jumped on the Seahawks early, grabbing a 21-7 halftime lead in a half that St. Louis dominated in nearly every facet.

    The second half brought one of the wackiest finishes to a game in recent memory. The Seahawks forged a comeback by coming up with big play after big play. But receiver Torry Holt’s circus catch for a 67-yard touchdown to give the Rams a 28-27 lead with about two minutes to play.

    Seattle promptly drove down the field before a penalty appeared to give the Rams a 10-second run off for a victory. But, after much confusion, it was ruled there would be no run off for illegal formation and Seattle’s Josh Brown booted a 54-yard field goal to win as time expired.

    The first half featured the Rams at their best, putting up points...
    -11-10-2006, 05:10 AM
  • RamWraith
    Martz puts emphasis on playing with attitude
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Nov. 13 2004

    Mike Martz began the week in a frenzy, and never really calmed down. He is at
    his wits' end over the current state of the 2004 Rams and is trying shock
    therapy to revive his team's fortunes.

    "I've never seen him like this," wide receiver Torry Holt said. "I hate to see
    him like this, because that tells us we ain't getting things done. But it shows
    me that he does care how we perform as a football team, and where we are as a
    football team.

    "So hopefully, we can go out there and give him a performance to kind of cool
    him down."

    Martz's tense, at times abrupt, and at times surly interchanges with the media
    weren't for show this week. The players got a similar - even stronger - message
    behind closed doors. He's tired of mistakes. He's tired of counting on players
    who aren't delivering. He's tired of missed blocks and half-hearted tackles.

    "After that meeting, it was a little quiet around here," Holt said. "Guys were
    a little more focused. Guys were a little more quick in their steps. If that's
    what it takes for us to get back on the winning edge, then I'm all for it."

    Which meeting? Monday's?

    "Every day, actually," Holt said, laughing.

    There is no time like the present, because if ever a season boiled down to one
    game, it's Sunday for the Rams. Seattle comes to the Edward Jones Dome in first
    place in the NFC West with a 5-3 record. The Rams are 4-4.

    Both teams would be 5-4 if the Rams win, but by virtue of their comeback
    victory Oct. 10 in Seattle, the Rams would have the tiebreaker edge. In
    essence, they'd have the lead in the NFC West.

    And what if the Rams lose? They would be 4-5 with four of their next five games
    on the road. Seattle would be 6-3 with their next three games at home against
    Miami (1-8), Buffalo (3-5) and Dallas (3-5). In short, that's not a pleasant
    possibility for the Rams, even with seven games remaining in the unpredictable

    "With all the problems we've had, we're sitting in a situation where if we can
    win one game right now, then we'll be OK," defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson

    "We've been pretty fortunate in that respect," quarterback Marc Bulger said.
    "We are not playing our best right now, but we are still in halfway decent
    shape in this division. We could've built a nice lead, but we didn't. But
    playing as bad as we have, and knowing that we could be tied for first place
    after this game, is a saving factor."

    But even Bulger concedes it's a dire outlook if the Rams...
    -11-13-2004, 07:04 PM
  • RamWraith
    Rams, Hawks Rivalry Heating Up
    by RamWraith
    Wednesday, October 5, 2005

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    While the Seattle Seahawks were off winning the NFC West Division last year, something just didn’t quite feel right.

    Maybe it was that their 9-7 regular season record wasn’t as good as many thought it would be. Or maybe it was the lingering aftereffects of three straight losses to the team that they had been trying so desperately to dethrone.

    “We have been the team in NFC West for awhile and Seattle has made all the right moves to dethrone us,” receiver Torry Holt said. “They are supposed to be the new team on the block in the division.”

    And the Seahawks certainly were the new team in town last year, claiming the division for the first time since they joined with realignment in 2002. The Rams had worn that division crown more often than not other wise, winning it in 2003 and before Seattle joined in 2001 and 1999.

    Still, though the Seahawks were able to claim a divisional crown last year, the biggest obstacle that stood in their way, the Rams, certainly wasn’t moved out of the way. St. Louis defeated Seattle three times, including the most important game of all, an NFC Wild Card game at Qwest Field.

    But there was nary a game played in the NFL at all last year that was more memorable than what happened in Seattle on Oct. 10. The Rams trailed that game 27-10 with less than eight minutes to go.

    It appeared that the changing of the guard in the NFC West was happening on Qwest Field that day and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Seattle running back Shaun Alexander was running at will and the Rams couldn’t get much of anything going against the Seahawks’ defense.

    Then, out of nowhere, Seattle was struck by lightning, not once or twice, but three times. It started with tight end Brandon Manumaleuna’s unbelievable catch in traffic for and 8-yard touchdown. Kevin Curtis followed that with a quick-strike 41-yard touchdown grab down the middle of the field and Shaun McDonald capped it with the ultimate lightning bolt in the form of his game-winning 52-yard touchdown grab.

    “Some of the games we have had with them over the past couple of years have been some good battles,” center Andy McCollum said. “Obviously last year we went up there and anyone involved with it is going to remember that. I think that’s just it. When you have two teams battling for the division every year it turns out to be war out there.”

    But it didn’t used to be that way. In fact, the Seahawks at one time were considered the team most likely to be the perennial doormats in the NFC West. But then they began to start spending money on improving the team, signing high-priced free agent and committing to drafting well.

    Seattle also has apparently bought into the theory that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em by signing defensive ends Grant Wistrom...
    -10-05-2005, 01:15 PM
  • RamDez
    Rams want to show Seattle who is boss
    by RamDez
    Rams want to show Seattle who is boss
    By Jim Thomas

    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Leonard Little (above) says the Rams have been looking forward to the kind of test the Seattle Seahawks present.
    (Chris Lee/P-D)

    SEATTLE - Almost since the first preseason magazines hit the newsstands in June and July, the Seattle Seahawks have been portrayed as the team to beat in the NFC West and an up-and-coming power in the NFC.

    "There's been a lot of talk that they're going to overtake the NFC West, and that the Rams are fading," Rams wide receiver Torry Holt said. "It doesn't bother me none."

    Holt, in fact, agrees with that assessment. To a point.

    "They are an up-and-coming team in the National Football League," he said. "But we won 12 games (last season). We still are the champs of the NFC West. And until somebody dethrones us, then that's the way we're going to carry ourselves."

    And one last thing.

    "You still have to play," Holt said. "No matter what's being said in the papers and the magazines, we still have to go out there and strap it on. And they have to beat us, and we have to beat them."

    So the NFC West sorting process begins in earnest Sunday afternoon at Qwest Field. A victory by Seattle, which is coming of its bye week, puts the Seahawks at 4-0 for the first time in franchise history. It also puts the Seahawks three games up on the loss side against the Rams.

    But a Rams victory puts them at 3-2, and Seattle at 3-1 with the Seahawks traveling to New England on Oct. 17. A loss doesn't eliminate the Rams, but a victory means the division race is on.

    "This one will tell a lot about who's got early control of the division," Rams defensive captain Tyoka Jackson said. "The season's not over after this game, but. ..."

    As for all the Seattle hype?

    "Well, we heard the same thing last year, so what does that mean?" Jackson asked. "It means absolutely nothing, it's just talk. The game's played on the field. ... If we go out and play Rams football, it doesn't really matter."

    In their two victories this season, "Rams football" has meant a mix of running and passing on offense, zero sacks allowed by Rams blockers, and stingy defense.

    In their two losses, the Rams have been pass-happy on offense, allowed five sacks in both contests, and been overly generous on defense.

    There's no doubt Rams players like the more balanced approach on offense. They've been dropping hints whenever asked about the importance of the running game, as if they're almost hoping the head coach is listening.

    "To be balanced is great," offensive tackle Grant
    -10-10-2004, 01:13 AM