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Sunday, November 14, 2004 - Page updated at 05:33 P.M.
The St. Louis Rams responded to the tongue-lashings and physical practices by slapping around the Seattle Seahawks.
Marc Bulger got off to a red-hot start and a beleaguered defense held Seattle to three field goals in five trips inside the 20 in a 23-12 victory that earned the Rams a first-place tie with the Seahawks atop the NFC West today.
Martz held little back after consecutive losses to the Patriots and previously winless Dolphins.
"You don't want the head man upset," wide receiver Kevin Curtis said. "It can't help but fire you up a little bit to play even harder."
Martz's tactics included a live scrimmage on Wednesday, a very unusual full-contact drill for the NFL but something that he'll continue after seeing such impressive results.
"It's easy to take things for granted all of us, coaches too," Martz said. "If you don't coach attitude and bring out the passion that they have to play this game, then you start to slide, and I think that's where we were."
The Rams (5-4) responded to Mad Mike by sweeping the season series against their top competition in the West, this time benefiting from an early cushion rather than a fast finish. The Rams led 17-0 early in the second quarter; a month ago in Seattle, they had to score 17 points in the final 51/2 minutes of regulation to force overtime.
"They made key plays when they had to, and we didn't," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "I think that was the story."
Shaun Alexander had 176 yards on 22 carries for Seattle, giving him 531 yards the last three games and putting him over 1,000 yards for the fourth straight season. But Alexander's fumble after a 35-yard gain to the St. Louis 9 early in the fourth quarter blew the Seahawks' chance to tie it, with Aeneas Williams stripping the ball and Rich Coady recovering.
"I was just thinking 'make plays,' and I went out to make a play," Alexander said. "Their defense made a better one."
"We've been giving up points and I'm quite sure teams are coming in and thinking 'Man, we should be able to get at least 30 points,' and rightfully so," Williams said. "When this defense can hold a good offense like that to 12 points it's going to build momentum."
Bulger was 5-for-6 for 71 yards on the opening drive, capped by a 15-yard touchdown pass to Curtis, and was 12-for-15 in the first quarter for 158 yards. By early in the second quarter he had completed passes to nine receivers.
He was ineffective much of the second half playing with the lead, finishing 23-for-34 for 262 yards. But Marshall Faulk helped compensate, shrugging off a lost fumble and finishing with a season-best 139 yards on 18 carries, and the Rams totaled a season-best 202 yards on the ground.
The Rams came out firing. Martz called 13 consecutive passes to open the game and 10 were completions, including the 15-yard TD to Curtis.
He finally called for a handoff midway through the second quarter, resulting in a 14-yard gain by Steven Jackson. Jackson scored from the 4 on the next play for a 14-0 lead.
The Rams played much of the game minus two stars. Offensive tackle Orlando Pace was ejected in the third quarter for making contact with the side judge during a scrum following a lost fumble by Faulk. Torry Holt took a blow to the head in the first quarter and did not return.
"There was never a question he had a concussion," Martz said. "The only thing missing was the little birds flying around his head."
Notes: Rams WR Isaac Bruce had seven catches for 104 yards, his fifth 100-yard game of the season. He last had five 100-yard games in 1996. ... Rams CB Travis Fisher left in the third quarter after taking a blow to the mouth. Fisher had front teeth pushed back in a hit last week against the Patriots. ... Rams OG Chris Dishman left in the second half with an injured left knee and will have an MRI on Monday.
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