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Burleson sparks Seahawks to huge NFC West win

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  • Burleson sparks Seahawks to huge NFC West win

    By John Clayton

    Five weeks ago, Nate Burleson looked like a $49 million goat, who instead turned out to be the most unexpected hero. By being called for an illegal formation instead of a false start in the final seconds of the Seahawks-Rams game in St. Louis, Burleson saved Seattle a 10-second run-off penalty, giving Josh Brown the chance to kick a game-winning 54-yard field goal as time expired.

    On Sunday in a steady downpour in Seattle, Burleson eliminated any confusion about his role. He made the game-saving 90-yard punt return for a touchdown with 8:19 left that put the Seahawks in position to beat and, just as importantly, sweep the Rams.

    How the Seahawks got to Brown's game-winning this week (a 38-yarder) involved two goats in Rams colors. (Goats? Ouch)!)

    Nate Burleson's 90-yard punt return for a TD may have been the spark that propelled the Seahawks past the Rams. "I don't know if I was a hero in the last Rams game because honestly I thought I lost it for a second. Tears were welling up in my eyes," Burleson said. "Today, though, I'm not the hero. The heroes were the guys blocking for me and Josh Brown."

    The goats Sunday were Rams coach Scott Linehan and Rams guard Richie Incognito. Linehan made the bonehead decision to go for it on fourth and a long one instead of settling for a likely sure-thing field goal after winning a coach's challenge early in the fourth quarter.

    It looked as though the Rams had taken a 19-14 lead when Jeff Wilkins kicked a 35-yard field goal, but just before the ball was snapped, Linehan threw his red challenge flag at a sideline official. Turns out Kevin Curtis made a catch about a yard-and-a-half short of a first down at the Seahawks 12-and-a-half yardline.

    Instead of trying the field goal again -- this time it would have been no more than a 30-yarder and just for the record, Wilkins was 11 for 11 from inside 40 yards entering the game -- Linehan went for the first down. The play was a disaster. Fullback Paul Smith didn't hear the play call in which he was supposed to float into a short pass route to force a Seahawks defender into covering him low. Smith just stayed in the backfield, messing up the play. Two Seahawks defenders then had coverage on the Rams' main target, tight end Joe Klopfenstein. With little open, quarterback Marc Bulger tried to make a tight throw that went incomplete.

    Trailing by only two points instead of five, the Seahawks needed to only get a field goal to take the lead instead of a touchdown, easing their margin of difficulty to win the game. That difference became very apparent when Incognito made bonehead decision No. 2.

    Rams halfback Steven Jackson scored a 14-yard touchdown to counter Burleson's touchdown return to give the Rams a 22-21 lead with 2:30 left in the game. Someone on the Seahawks defense ripped off Jackson's helmet. Several Rams blockers came to Jackson's defense, but Incognito wasn't incognito when it came to the officials. He was aggressive enough in his defense of Jackson to draw a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that forced Wilkins to kick off from the Rams 15.

    To make matters worse, Bulger couldn't find an open receiver on the two-point attempt so the Rams had only a one-point lead.

    The Seahawks ended up getting the ball at the Rams 49 after a 33-yard return by Josh Scobey. Backup quarterback Seneca Wallace drove the Seahawks 29 yards in seven plays to set up Brown's game-winning 38-yard field goal with nine seconds left in the game.

    "Just another day at the office," a soaked but relieved Mike Holmgren said after the game. "My goodness, when we play the games, it's been that type of game the last few times we played them, either at their place or here. They compete like crazy and so do our guys."

    By losing, the Rams all but ended any hopes of catching the Seahawks for the NFC West title. At 6-3, the Seahawks lead the division by two games and they have the tie-breaker over the Rams by virtue of the two-game sweep. Worse, the Rams dropped into a tie for second with a ***** team that beat them in their one meeting so far, technically putting the Rams in third place.

    And worse yet, the Rams are in the midst of a four-game losing streak that has involved heart-breaking losses. To top it off, they also lost left tackle Orlando Pace for the season with a torn triceps muscle suffered in the second quarter.

    Seneca Wallace has won two of his three starts filling in for Hasselbeck. He's completed 63 of 110 passes for 675 yards and has thrown six touchdown passes. He has a 78.4 rating. Maurice Morris has gained 511 yards on 136 carries filling in for Alexander.

    "Yeah, we are in a rut," Bulger said. "At the same time, if we were on a four-game win streak, my approach wouldn't change. I try to stay consistent and this the only way you can do it in the NFL. You can't have the peaks and valleys. I think that most of the guys on this team understand that and come out to work to get better. The young guys that don't understand that and want to pack it in, that might work for this year, but they won't last more than a year or two in the NFL."

    Linehan explained his decision to go for it on fourth down instead of kicking the short field goal.

    "The replay was happening right before the clock was running down," Linehan said. "You know they were right about him catching it. It wasn't real clear exactly as to how close it was going to be. The idea was that if we had gotten to fourth and short, we would consider going for it because if we score a touchdown on that drive, we make it a two-score game and it would be a pretty good situation for us. It didn't work out good for us because we didn't convert. We certainly could have used the points at the end of the game."

    Chalk it up to a rookie mistake by a first-year head coach.

    What's bad for the Rams was that the Seahawks were as vulnerable and beatable as they could be. Technically, they were down five starters -- quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, halfback Shaun Alexander, defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs, center Robbie Tobeck and right tackle Sean Locklear. When he arrived at Qwest Field Sunday morning, Holmgren got a sick feeling in his stomach when he found out Tobeck couldn't because of the flu, which forced him onto the inactive list.

    "The trainers are starting to not even look me in the eyes around here," Holmgren said. "But like I told (general manager) Tim Ruskell, I told him about Tobeck when I saw him before the game, and we just said that the next guy had to step up. Chris Spencer has to play. Ray Willis was active and he had to get ready to play. That's really all you can do."

    To the Seahawks' credit, they played hard despite the adversity. For the second consecutive game, Seattle defensive coordinator John Marshall did a nice job of mixing blitzes with four-man rushes to put pressure on Bulger. Even though the defense let Bulger move from 20 yardline to 20 yardline, they tightened things up in the redzone, allowing one touchdown and three field goals.

    Wallace did a nice job of filling in for Hasselbeck, completing 15 of 23 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Despite a sore shoulder and a banged up body, halfback Maurice Morris did a nice job filling in for Alexander, rushing for 124 yards on 21 carries. Now, the Seahawks have confidence in a backup quarterback who is 2-1.

    "It means a lot," Wallace said of having the confidence of his teammates. "Once you step into that huddle and everybody is looking at you and they are saying let's go, that's going to fire everybody up. That's how they were in the huddle. They knew it was crunch time."

    Burleson was the ultimate player in crunch time. Burleson, who signed a seven-year, $49 million restricted free agent offer sheet after Steve Hutchinson signed for a similar number with the Vikings, struggled early in the season and eventually lost his starting job to Deion Branch.

    Now, Burleson only plays about 12 to 15 snaps a game in the three-receiver package. A few weeks ago, Holmgren asked him if he wanted to return punts. He accepted without hesitation.

    "It's tough," Burleson said when asked how it was not to start. "Obviously, as a competitor, you want to touch the ball. With everybody doing so well, I can't complain. We are winning games. I feel like I'm the ultimate team player."

    As a receiver, Burleson has only eight catches for 125 yards, but he's been involved with two plays that beat the Rams. He was a hero with his punt return. He was a hero in St. Louis for not being called for a false start.

    "Heroes come in many shapes and sizes," Burleson said.

    They sure do.

  • #2
    Re: Burleson sparks Seahawks to huge NFC West win

    Where was this special teams expert that Linehan brought in...K J???
    sigpic :ram::helmet:


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      The Seattle Seahawks dismissed a dismal first half and finished with a flourish.

      "They got us pretty good in the first half," coach Mike Holmgren said after
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      Seattle's early play harkened to their most recent performance, an embarrassing
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      When asked to share his intermission words of wisdom, Holmgren said: "I really
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      Center Robbie Tobeck joked that he wouldn't give away team secrets. "I never
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      few things, then said point-blank, 'We're not leaving here without a win.'"

      Holmgren admitted that he told the players he would stick with the running
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      "One of the guys ran a wrong route on the play," said Hasselbeck, who completed
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      Holmgren said he sensed the momentum shift. "A great play always juices up your
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      Seattle left the door open for a Rams comeback, losing a fumble with 2:48 to go
      that led to a 67-yard TD pass from Marc Bulger to Torry Holt. With 1:38 but no
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      -10-16-2006, 05:21 AM
    • RamWraith
      Loss to rival St. Louis ends Seattle's season
      by RamWraith
      By Josť Miguel Romero

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      They lined up en masse to get inside Qwest Field for the biggest pro football game in this city in five years, and some even were late because of more thorough security searches.

      And after those five years without a home playoff game, plus 15 more without a playoff win, it ended too fast and too soon. No matter how bad everyone on the field and in the stands wanted it.

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      On the Seahawks' last chance to tie the score, the ball slipped through the grasp of wide receiver Bobby Engram in the end zone, suddenly sucking the life from the crowd of 65,397 that wanted to believe.

      The play will be etched into this city's memory forever, becoming another chapter in the already voluminous another-Seattle-team-that couldn't win-the-big-one book.

      On fourth-and-four from the Rams' 5-yard line with 27 seconds left, Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck attempted to sidearm a prayer of a pass through heavy traffic. Engram was the only possible target, as Hasselbeck was under heavy pressure and couldn't take a sack.

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      "There's no excuses," Engram said in the locker room, trying his best to stay composed as he painfully relived the final offensive play of the Seahawks' season.

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      -01-09-2005, 10:44 AM
    • DJRamFan
      [Seahawks] Rams' comeback still in Hawks' heads
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      That colossal collapse -- or combustive comeback, depending on which side of the field you were on that October day -- is getting a lot of play this week, for the obvious reason.

      After that game, the Seahawks never were the same team that started 3-0.

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    • RamWraith
      Botched pass in end zone mirrors Seattle's season
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      SEATTLE - The Seahawks' final play in a 27-20 loss to the Rams on Saturday
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      On fourth and 4 at the Rams' 5 with 27 seconds to play, the Seahawks had one
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      Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said the pass protection seemed to break down,
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      "He had to change what he was doing," Holmgren said, "and that affected the

      Instead of a completion in the center of the end zone, the ball nicked the
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      "It came in pretty hot, but I've got to find a way to make that play," Engram
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      The loss extended the longest active streak for playoff futility, stretching to

      Near-misses characterized the season for the Seahawks, a team that some experts
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      Engram called the missed catch "a pretty good analogy. It's been a battle all
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      Holmgren attributed another of the Seahawks' Achilles' heels, youth, to putting
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      Two strikes of more than 50 yards to Torry Holt and Kevin Curtis keyed
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      "That's one area where our youth really shows up," Holmgren said. "You can
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      -01-09-2005, 05:12 AM
    • RamWraith
      Last-second field goal trumps Rams' rally
      by RamWraith
      By Jim Thomas
      Monday, Oct. 16 2006

      Here we go again. Clock running down. Game on the line. And backed into a
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      So it was that defensive end Leonard Little stripped Seattle running back
      Maurice Morris of the football, with the Seahawks moving in for at least a
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      Defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy recovered for the Rams at the St. Louis 7 with 2
      minutes, 48 seconds left to play.

      "Once we got that fumble recovery, it was like, 'All right, we're going to
      win,'" linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said.

      Never mind that the Rams were 93 yards away from a touchdown, trailing 27-21.
      But just when you think you've seen it all from wide receiver Torry Holt, you
      find out he's a world-class receiver -- and a juggler.

      Holt outfought Seattle safety Peter Boulware for a Marc Bulger deep ball at the
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      then he juggled it for the next five yards or so en route to a spine-tingling
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      The dome has seen some amazing plays since the Rams came to town in 1995, but
      Holt's catch has to rate near the top.

      "That's probably as excited as I've been in awhile," offensive guard Adam
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      everything that went into it."

      Jeff Wilkins' extra point gave the Rams a 28-27 lead with 1 minute, 44 seconds
      left. After Holt's heroics, Little said, "I thought we had not a good chance,
      but a great chance of winning this game ... with our players on this team. And
      the players we have on defense."

      Not this time. Just when it looked as if the Rams would pull yet another rabbit
      out of their helmets, Josh Brown kicked the stuffing out of the rabbit.

      His 54-yard field goal as time expired gave the Seahawks a 30-28 victory over
      their NFC West rivals.

      "This is a shock right now, because we're so used to pulling it out at the
      end," Kennedy said.

      Not this time. Six of the last eight meetings between the Rams and Seahawks
      have been decided by seven points or fewer. But Sunday's game may have topped
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      Well, a good 30 minutes after the game, Tinoisamoa said: "Part of me still
      feels like we won."

      After Holt's TD, the Rams' kickoff coverage team pinned Seahawks return man
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      -10-16-2006, 05:20 AM