Finished my stories for the Monday paper. I'll be heading home shortly. In the meantime, here's a detailed look at the game.
BROWN DOES IT AGAIN
By Mike Sando
The News Tribune
Where would the Seattle Seahawks be without kicker Josh Brown? Here's where they are with him: alone atop the NFC West following a pivotal 24-22 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
Brown delivered his third game-winning kick of the season, a 38-yarder that pierced the rain and, perhaps, the Rams' hopes of contending in the division. The Seahawks lead the NFC West with a 6-3 record, two games ahead of the Rams and San Francisco 49ers.
"Another day at the office," coach Mike Holmgren deadpanned.
The dentist's office, perhaps.
The Seahawks, already smarting from injuries to multiple starters, appeared destined for an excruciating home defeat.
Their offense had self-destructed more than once, nearly squandering Maurice Morris' 124-yard rushing performance.
But the Seahawks' special teams changed everything.
Nate Burleson's 90-yard punt return for a touchdown vaulted Seattle into the lead, 21-16, with less than nine minutes remaining.
"It's an amazing thing when an unexpected play happens on special teams," Brown said. "What he did for this team today ignited us."
The Seahawks hadn't returned a punt for a touchdown since Bobby Engram did it in 2003. Burleson's touchdown couldn't stop the Rams from putting together and 11-play, 69-yard drive to retake the lead, but it did give the Seahawks life.
Steven Jackson's 14-yard scoring run, followed by a failed two-point try, left the Rams in front, 22-21, with less than three minutes remaining.
Seattle's offense had been struggling in the second half, but the Rams helped out with a personal-foul penalty following Jackson's touchdown. The Rams accused an unnamed Seattle player of ripping off Jackson's helmet. Guard Richie Incognito shoved a Seattle player in retaliation, drawing a 15-yard penalty.
"My offensive line was defending me and we get the penalty for it," Jackson said. "I don't think they should get in trouble for it."
The touchdown stood, but the Rams were forced to kick off from their own 15-yard-line. Josh Scobey took the return at the 18 and weaved his way 33 yards to the St. Louis 49. Seattle was within 20 yards of a sub-50-yard field goal, and more than two minutes remained.
"The penalty that they had to back them up on the 15 was at the worst time," Brown said. "It killed them."
Morris, subbing for injured league MVP Shaun Alexander, picked up 15 yards on consecutive runs to start the winning drive. Quarterback Seneca Wallace, making his third start for injured Pro Bowl passer Matt Hasselbeck, moved Seattle 12 yards closer with a pair of passes.
Wallace, never short on confidence, changed both pass plays at the line of scrimmage. Seattle then ran up the middle three times before Brown ran onto the field with 13 seconds remaining.
"It felt great," Wallace said of the winning drive. "Everyone had confidence that we could do it. Everybody was battling all day long and for us to end the game that way, it was awesome."
Both teams played hard. Both teams played well at times. Both teams also could have played smarter.
Second-half field position became a problem for Seattle when Seahawks free safety Ken Hamlin picked off a fourth-down pass before stepping out of bounds at the Seattle 8. The 23-yard swing in field position helped the Rams kick a 35-yard field goal for a 16-14 lead midway through the third quarter.
On Seattle's next possession, Holmgren came to regret calling a receiver pass that led to a sack.
Two plays later, with Seattle at the St. Louis 38 and trailing by two, the Rams sacked Wallace and knocked the ball loose. The Rams recovered at the Seattle 33 following a mad scramble for possession.
The Rams responded with an ill-fated fourth-down play call early in the fourth quarter.
Referee Gerry Austin entered the game with six replay reversals in nine challenges, the highest reversal rate in the league. Rams coach Scott Linehan made it seven reversals by turning an apparent incomplete pass into a 5-yard gain on third-and-6 from the Seattle 17.
Linehan threw his challenge flag moments before kicker Jeff Wilkins booted the ball through the uprights for what would have been a 19-14 lead. Austin waved off the field goal before reviewing the play.
Instead of re-kicking from the 12 following the reversal, Linehan called a pass play.
Rookie tight end Joe Klopfenstein had no chance as Marc Bulger's pass sailed through the end zone. Noise might have played a role in one of the Rams' players failing to hear the play correctly.
"It was supposed to be a two-man route off of play-action," Linehan said. "One guy didn't get out on the route. … It was the right personnel group; the player just didn't get the right call.
"That can't happen in critical situations."
Each team followed with two three-and-out possessions before Burleson's punt return put Seattle ahead.
The Seahawks claimed their fourth consecutive victory over the Rams and their 11th in a row against division opponents.
"It's just a great team win," Holmgren said. "There is a lot of importance to this game because of the division and the Rams and all of those things.
"We're going to enjoy this."
By Mike Sando
The News Tribune
Sunday - Josh Brown's 38-yard field goal lifted Seattle to a 24-22 victory over the St. Louis Rams before a record crowd (68,175) at Qwest Field.
Where they stand - The Seahawks lead the NFC West division with a 6-3 record, two games ahead of the Rams (4-5) and San Francisco 49ers (4-5).
A look ahead - Seattle visits the 49ers on Sunday. QB Matt Hasselbeck (knee) and RB Shaun Alexander (foot) could return from injuries for the Seahawks.
Star of the game - Seattle RB Maurice Morris carried 21 times for 124 yards as the Seahawks rushed for 160 yards. Rams RB Steven Jackson was the marquee running back in this game, but Morris finished with more yards and a higher per-carry average.
Key play - WR Nate Burleson put Seattle in the lead, 21-16, with a 90-yard punt return for a touchdown. The play jump-started the Seahawks midway through the fourth quarter.
Sketchy decision - Leading 16-14 early in the fourth quarter, Rams coach Scott Linehan passed up a gimme field-goal try in favor of a fourth-down pass play that failed.
Sketchy decision II - Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren rarely uses trick plays, but he opted for an ill-fated receiver pass from the St. Louis 35-yard-line late in the third quarter. The Rams sacked Branch for a 3-yard loss and Seattle wound up turning the ball over three plays later.
Personnel notes - Second-year OL Chris Spencer started at center after veteran C Robbie Tobeck became sick before the game. Spencer frequently cleared holes in the running game, and he did not appear to allow a sack. … Burleson started for the Seahawks as the team opened in a one-back, three-receiver offense featuring Jerramy Stevens at tight end. D.J. Hackett is the third receiver when the team plays with two running backs. … CB Jimmy Williams was the sixth defensive back when Seattle went to its "dime" defense. The Seahawks had not needed six defensive backs at once since coaches benched starting SS Michael Boulware three weeks ago. … SS Jordan Babineaux started and played the whole game despite a shoulder injury. Boulware had worked with the starters Wednesday and Thursday in practice.
Medical report - Morris (shoulder) came out of the game for the final few plays. … Tobeck (sick) missed the game. … CB Jimmy Williams (ankle) was hurt late in the game. … DT Marcus Tubbs (knee), placed on injured reserve, is scheduled for surgery. … The Rams lost LT Orlando Pace (triceps) to a potentially serious injury. Press-box officials announced the injury as a biceps injury, but Pace said his triceps was injured. … The Rams also lost CB Travis Fisher (arm). LB Isaiah Kacyvenski, formerly of Seattle, kept playing after getting hit in the head.
By Mike Sando
The News Tribune
The Seattle Seahawks' opening drive Sunday produced a touchdown for the St. Louis Rams.
Quarterback Seneca Wallace dropped back to pass from the St. Louis 6-yard-line, only to have Rams defensive end Leonard Little blast him in the back. The ball came loose and Victor Adeyanju returned the fumble 89 yards for a touchdown.
The potential 14-point swing forced Seattle to rally for a 24-22 victory even though the Seahawks rushed for 160 yards.
"It's definitely frustrating," right tackle Tom Ashworth said. "You're marching down the field and you think everything is going great and then all of a sudden – boom! - the coin is totally flipped over."
There was more to the story.
The Seahawks hadn't run the play since a 2003 victory over Detroit. Before that, they hadn't run it since the 2002 opener against Oakland.
Coaches had debated whether to run it Sunday, as they do with most plays. Given coach Mike Holmgren's aversion to calling ill-fated plays more than once, Seattle might not run it for long time.
The play calls for one running back, three receivers and one tight end to line up as receivers.
The quarterback, left alone in the backfield, is supposed to read the defense and quickly decide whether to throw or run up the middle.
The play worked against the Lions in 2003, with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck taking off for a 4-yard touchdown run, also on the Seahawks' opening drive. Against Oakland a year earlier, the play produced little more than a shoulder injury for Hasselbeck.
With Hasselbeck sidelined by a knee injury Sunday, Wallace dropped back and had nowhere to go.
The Rams had foiled the play with a perfectly conceived blitz, taking away both options. Instead of throwing the ball away, Wallace held it too long, hoping to find an open receiver.
"That's a mistake," Holmgren said. "He wants to make a play and that was too bad because we had a good opening drive and I though we were going to get it in there."
The Seahawks trailed 7-0 even though the Rams' offense had yet to take the field.
Ashworth was the only Seattle player who had a chance to catch Adeyanju. That chance was fleeting at best.
"I guess my 40 times are not that good," Ashworth said. "They brought a blitz and they caught us off guard. They got one on us. It's unfortunate, but credit them for calling it and executing it."