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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
    ESPN.com


    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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    • RamWraith
      Seattle maintains poise, overcomes a sorry first half
      by RamWraith
      By Kathleen Nelson
      ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
      Monday, Oct. 16 2006

      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
      Seattle's 30-28 victory Sunday. "We had a good second half. We made the game
      more interesting than we had to."

      Seattle's early play harkened to their most recent performance, an embarrassing
      37-6 loss to the Chicago Bears on Oct. 1. The Rams held a 21-7 lead Sunday,
      after the Seahawks gained 4 yards rushing in the first half. The Seahawks
      played both games without Shaun Alexander, last year's leading rusher and MVP,
      recovering from a foot injury.

      When asked to share his intermission words of wisdom, Holmgren said: "I really
      can't. I unloaded on them."

      Center Robbie Tobeck joked that he wouldn't give away team secrets. "I never
      pay attention to that stuff," he said, then 'fessed up. "He reminded us of a
      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
      game. It paid off, with 90 rushing yards in the third quarter, 49 by
      Alexander's replacement, Maurice Morris. Seattle started its scoring barrage on
      a 42-yard touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Darrell Jackson with 6
      minutes, 15 seconds left in the third quarter.

      "One of the guys ran a wrong route on the play," said Hasselbeck, who completed
      19 of 34 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns. "It probably helped the
      play. I saw him run the wrong route on the right and thought, 'Forget that
      side' and looked to the left. It was third and 15, kind of a desperate time. I
      gave Darrell a chance. I didn't think he would get there, so it's really all
      Darrell. He didn't quit on the play."

      Holmgren said he sensed the momentum shift. "A great play always juices up your
      team," he said. "That was a fantastic throw and catch."

      Seattle then scored on a 49-yard field goal and recovered a fumble on the
      ensuing kickoff. Two plays later, the Seahawks took their first lead, 24-21, on
      a 19-yard pass from Hasselbeck to Deion Branch.

      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
      timeouts remaining, Hasselbeck drove the Seahawks from their 17 to the Rams' 31
      but nearly gave away the game when he spiked the ball with four seconds left
      before his wide receivers were lined up properly.

      "I knew what the penalty was; I was mad...
      -10-16-2006, 05:21 AM
    • RamWraith
      Loss to rival St. Louis ends Seattle's season
      by RamWraith
      By Josť Miguel Romero

      Seattle Times staff reporter

      Seahawks

      They came because they thought their football heroes would truly hear their cheers, and that would carry their team over the top.

      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.

      The St. Louis Rams continued their mastery over Seattle, winning yesterday's NFC wild-card game 27-20 and ending the Seahawks' season. It was the third victory of the season for the Rams over the Seahawks, and the most disheartening of all three.

      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.

      On his knees, Engram appeared to cradle the ball. In an instant, it popped free and onto the painted turf in the end zone.

      Incomplete. Rams' ball. St. Louis running back Marshall Faulk flapped his arms in mockery of the Seahawks' fans in the south end zone. All hope was gone as quarterback Marc Bulger took a knee and the clock expired.

      "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.

      "The ball came in hot. I had a chance to make the play. I didn't make the play."

      Engram will have the offseason to think about what would have been a great catch. But the Seahawks deserved some credit for at least being in a position to send the game into overtime, after all that had transpired and seemed to work against them.

      It couldn't have started much worse. Three plays into the game, Bulger went deep for Torry Holt on a corner route, gaining 53 yards as Holt found a seam in the Seahawks' zone coverage.

      Moments later, on third-and-14 from the Seattle 15, Bulger found Holt in front of safety Marquand Manuel in the end zone for the touchdown. Holt appeared to lose control of the ball for a split second. The Seahawks challenged the touchdown call, but it was upheld. ...
      -01-09-2005, 10:44 AM
    • DJRamFan
      [Seahawks] Rams' comeback still in Hawks' heads
      by DJRamFan
      Seattle has struggled ever since St. Louis' Oct. 10 miracle rally

      By CLARE FARNSWORTH
      SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

      KIRKLAND -- They are 11 minutes that will live in infamy.

      With 7 minutes, 47 seconds remaining in a Week 5 game against the St. Louis Rams at Qwest Field, the Seahawks were a couple of guffaws from completing a laugher. Up 27-10, the Seahawks' No. 1-ranked defense had the Rams backed into a third-and-13 corner at their own 31-yard line.

      Before the Seahawks knew what had blindsided them, the Rams ran off 17 points to tie the score in regulation and then scored on the sixth play in overtime to win 33-27.

      Five weeks later in St. Louis, the Rams held the Seahawks without a touchdown in winning a rematch.

      Has the futility of those games, especially that October loss in Seattle, allowed the Rams to take up residence in the Seahawks' psyche?

      "Definitely," Rams defensive end Anthony Hargrove told reporters in St. Louis yesterday. "They've put on a good game, but we've still come away with victories."

      The Seahawks get another shot at redemption Saturday, when they host the Rams once again in the first round of the NFL playoffs.

      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.



      "Heck, I could tell you that we've blocked it out of our minds," coach Mike Holmgren said this week. "But that would be dishonest. You play a game like that, and if you lose a game like that ... I'm not sure I'll ever forget that game."

      The Rams, meanwhile, have relied on the resiliency they flaunted that day several times during the dozen games that followed.

      "We've used that a lot this year any time we've faced adversity," quarterback Marc Bulger said in a telephone interview. "A couple weeks ago, we were 6-8 and we knew we had to win our last two. We reflected back to that final quarter of the Seattle game a lot just because of the hole we were in, and knowing we could dig ourselves out."

      For those who have forgotten, or simply couldn't bear to watch, here's how the excavation process went:


      Bulger completed a 20-yard pass to Isaac Bruce on that third-and-13 play, which became a 35-yard gain to the Seahawks 34 when defensive tackle Rocky Bernard was penalized for a blow to the facemask of the Rams quarterback.


      One more third-down conversion, this time a 24-yard pass to Shaun McDonald, set up Bulger's 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brandon Manumaleuna that pulled the Rams to within 27-17 with 5:34 left in regulation.
      ...
      -01-06-2005, 03:34 PM
    • RamWraith
      Botched pass in end zone mirrors Seattle's season
      by RamWraith
      By Kathleen Nelson
      Of the Post-Dispatch
      Saturday, Jan. 08 2005

      SEATTLE - The Seahawks' final play in a 27-20 loss to the Rams on Saturday
      encapsulated their season.

      On fourth and 4 at the Rams' 5 with 27 seconds to play, the Seahawks had one
      last chance to score a touchdown and send the game into overtime. Seattle
      quarterback Matt Hasselbeck looked to the end zone for wide receiver Bobby
      Engram, a play some of their teammates termed "money in the bank."

      Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said the pass protection seemed to break down,
      which forced quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to move in the pocket.

      "He had to change what he was doing," Holmgren said, "and that affected the
      throw."

      Instead of a completion in the center of the end zone, the ball nicked the
      outstretched arms of an off-balance Engram and fell to the turf.

      "It came in pretty hot, but I've got to find a way to make that play," Engram
      said. "It's a play we've run a few times this year and scored on. I thought
      Matt moved in the pocket a little bit. I was trying to locate him. He was
      trying to find me. We just didn't connect.

      "I just tried to get my hands down there. How clean I hit it, I'm not sure."

      The loss extended the longest active streak for playoff futility, stretching to
      1984.

      Near-misses characterized the season for the Seahawks, a team that some experts
      predicted earlier this season would make a run deep into the playoffs.

      Engram called the missed catch "a pretty good analogy. It's been a battle all
      year. The guys on this team are great. It's been a crazy year. A lot of ups and
      downs. We've just got to find a way to win games like this. That's continuing
      to mature. Any time you have a really good team, you have to go through a
      building process, but this is a game we could have won."

      Holmgren attributed another of the Seahawks' Achilles' heels, youth, to putting
      Seattle in an early hole.

      Two strikes of more than 50 yards to Torry Holt and Kevin Curtis keyed
      touchdown drives that gave the Rams a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter.

      "That's one area where our youth really shows up," Holmgren said. "You can
      coach it, you can talk it, you can drill it, you can bring them in at 6 in the
      morning and look at it, and then when they're out in the field, if you haven't
      seen it enough, sometimes you react in a different way. That's what happened
      today, and that's what happened this season, unfortunately."

      A couple of aspects of Saturday's loss proved uncharacteristic, however.

      Running back...
      -01-09-2005, 05:12 AM
    • RamWraith
      Last-second field goal trumps Rams' rally
      by RamWraith
      By Jim Thomas
      ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
      Monday, Oct. 16 2006

      Here we go again. Clock running down. Game on the line. And backed into a
      corner. This has become a way of life for the Rams this season, and on four out
      of five occasions before Sunday, they found a way out of it.

      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
      victory-clinching field goal Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.

      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
      Seahawks 20. That's approximately where Holt tipped the ball with one hand, and
      then he juggled it for the next five yards or so en route to a spine-tingling
      67-yard touchdown.

      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
      Timmerman said. "That was just an awesome catch. Just the concentration and
      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
      them all in terms of dramatic, bizarre conclusions. How bizarre was it?

      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
      Willie Ponder...
      -10-16-2006, 05:20 AM
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