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Hawks want to stomp out Rams' one-sided rivalry
Seattle Times staff reporter
Try as they might to downplay it, they remember the pit-of-the-stomach pain of those losses.
And even if the Seahawks try to block out the three losses to the St. Louis Rams last season, the reminders are everywhere this week.
Here's one: In 2004, the Seahawks became the 11th team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to lose three games to a division rival in one season.
Some want to call the Seahawks-Rams semiannual showdowns — the first of which will be played Sunday in St. Louis — a rivalry.
But a rivalry, especially in sports, typically involves two teams that win and lose with equal regularity in head-to-head matchups. The Rams have established early dominance. A rivalry also has longevity, like Red Sox-Yankees, Giants-Dodgers, Packers-Bears or Broncos-Raiders.
By that criteria, St. Louis versus Seattle is not yet a full-fledged rivalry. The two teams have met only seven times since the Seahawks joined the NFC West in 2002. And the Rams are 5-2, with four straight wins.
Seattle @ St. Louis, 10 a.m., Ch. 13
"It's a bigger deal for the Seahawks," said ESPN NFL analyst Mark Schlereth.
Three of those Rams victories came in 2004. The first was the collapse at Qwest Field on Oct. 10, which saw the Seahawks blow two 17-point leads in the second half and lose 33-27 in overtime.
The third came in an NFC wild-card game at Qwest Field, where Seattle lost 27-20 to end its season in heartbreaking fashion.
"It's definitely a rivalry. I just hate to say that because we've lost," Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens said. "So it's not much of a rivalry, but it definitely is our must-win game of the year so far. Not that all games aren't must-win. But, you know, we don't like the Rams."
And who among players, coaches, staff and fans can find anything to like about the Rams in light of their recent dominance?
"You don't want to have a losing streak against any team," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "All those games were really close games. We had our chances. But they got us. They got us."
Holmgren also believes there are no residual effects from the three losses last season.
"This is not last week's game, it's not next week's game. This is this game right now, and that's how we have to approach it," Holmgren said. "Against a good team, against a team that really is one of our top competitors to get where we want to get to, so there's a lot of importance to this game."
At stake, at least on the surface, is first place in the NFC West. Both teams are 2-2 but not exactly turning heads around the league.
Underneath it all, the Seahawks are trying to reclaim their dignity and break the mental edge the Rams have on them. Even though most won't acknowledge it.
But they undoubtedly were listening when Rams receiver Torry Holt took not one but two televised shots at the Seahawks. The first came on Jan. 4, 2004, when Holt criticized Seahawks receivers Darrell Jackson, Bobby Engram and former Hawk Koren Robinson while serving as a guest analyst on ESPN's "NFL Countdown."
Holt said the three couldn't be considered elite receivers because they dropped too many passes.
Then, in April, Holt called out the Seahawks for a lack of mental toughness during an appearance as an analyst for the NFL draft.
"I think Torry thinks a lot of things, and you put a microphone in front of him, Torry is going to say a lot of things. That's just the type of guy he is," said Grant Wistrom, a former Ram and current Seahawks defensive end. "He likes to talk a lot and he backs it up with the way he plays. We take those things personal. I would be very disappointed in our team if we didn't come out and try and to answer some of those criticisms or suggestions or whatever that he had about us last year."
Holt said the past shouldn't matter to either team, and that the Seahawks and Rams match up well and respect each other.
"I was basically saying ... that we do have a mental edge against that bunch because we were able to beat them three times in one year," Holt said of his remarks. "It could have been Cincinnati, if we beat them three times in one year. You're going to feel you have some type of edge over a particular squad."
The Seahawks, for the most part, believe that any advantage the Rams had is gone. Many Seahawks, especially on defense, weren't in Seattle a year ago when St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger hit Brandon Manumaleuna and Kevin Curtis for quick-strike touchdowns, and kicker Jeff Wilkins tied the score at 27, all in about 5-½ minutes.
Then the Seahawks' defensive backs were victimized again, as Bulger threw deep for Shaun McDonald, who ran for a 52-yard touchdown in overtime.
The Rams celebrated like they had won the Super Bowl, to the point of taunting. The Seahawks, 3-0 going into the game and playing before a capacity crowd, stood on the field in shock. It was the beginning of a gradual demise for the Seahawks. They finished 9-7 and won the NFC West, but couldn't get past the Rams again at home in the playoffs.
"I think they come into the game expecting to beat us," Stevens said. "We definitely are placing more emphasis on this game than they do. I think they take it as a given that they're going to beat us, and until we beat them, they have every right to do that."
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company