Brown hits 54-yard FG as time expires to lift Hawks, 30-28
They were on their way to a crushing defeat. Then they were headed for a comeback win. Then they were staring defeat in the eyes once again.
Seattle Times staff reporter
ST. LOUIS — They were on their way to a crushing defeat. Then they were headed for a comeback win. Then they were staring defeat in the eyes once again.
And just when all seemed lost in the most important regular-season game to date for the Seahawks — a rivalry game, no less — kicker Josh Brown was there for the rescue.
Brown's 54-yard field goal sailed between the goalposts with no time remaining, and the Seahawks left Edward Jones Dome on Sunday with a 30-28 victory and sole possession of first place in the NFC West.
"No problem at all," Brown said. "I just make sure I do what I can control. I told Matt [Hasselbeck] the 36-, 37-[yard line] would be OK. A 54-, 55-yarder and we should be just fine in here, and he said 'OK, be ready.'"
It hardly seemed like the Seahawks would be close at the end. Down 21-7 at halftime, the Seahawks didn't look like a team with a comeback in them.
Lethargic. A step too slow. Sloppy. Confused.
That aptly described Seahawks' performance in the first half.
The pass defense was burned time and again. The quarterback protection wasn't consistent. The Seahawks couldn't establish a running game, Rams quarterback Marc Bulger had forever to throw, and Seattle couldn't get three-and-outs on defense.
In the locker room before the second half, coach Mike Holmgren had some choice words.
"I unloaded on them," Holmgren said.
"Those words aren't allowed on television," defensive end Bryce Fisher said. "We'll just keep it PG and say you have to do better."
The Seahawks did just that. The calls — a couple of pass interference penalties that had the Rams fans in an uproar — went the Seahawks' way. Matt Hasselbeck's two touchdown passes were pinpoint. The defensive and offensive line took over, pounding Bulger with six sacks for the game and giving Hasselbeck the time he needed to make a play.
The running game picked up. The defense got tougher, at least until the final two minutes of the game. The Seahawks forced a turnover on special teams that led to a touchdown, and the offense was forced to punt just once in the second half.
The confidence was palpable.
"Sometimes it takes somebody to step up and make a play that will spark everything, and it's a domino effect," tight end Itula Mili said. "A play here and a play there and before you know it, guys just start clicking."
When Lofa Tatupu intercepted a Bulger pass and returned it 19 yards to the St. Louis 17 with 3:09 left in the game, the Seahawks had rallied from their halftime deficit to a 27-21 lead behind touchdown passes to Darrell Jackson and Deion Branch and two Brown field goals, each from 49 yards.
The Hawks were in perfect position to score, and even a field goal would have assured the win. And then, disaster.
Morris fumbled inside the 5-yard line, and the Rams' Jimmy Kennedy recovered. The Rams had the ball with 2:48 to play, too much time given the nature of the teams' previous games.
Bulger was sacked by Julian Peterson, one of two for the Seahawks linebacker on the day. But the Rams had the ball at their 33 with 1:54 to play facing second-and-15 after a penalty.
Bulger dropped back, fired long and connected with Torry Holt, who tipped the ball away from Seahawks safety Michael Boulware and gathered it in on the run.
Holt outran Tatupu and bounded into the end zone.
"I thought I was about to catch it until he did," Boulware said of Holt. "I was just praying that Lofa was going to help me out, but he was too far away."
The extra point gave the Rams a 28-27 lead, and Seattle took over with 1:38 to play and no time outs.
Hasselbeck went to work immediately. Completions to D.J. Hackett, Jackson and Branch. A couple of Mack Strong runs to get the ball to the Rams 31 with four seconds to play.
"Whoever had the ball last was going to win," Hasselbeck said.
Here's where things got a little crazy. The Seahawks lined up for Hasselbeck to spike the ball and allow for a clock stoppage to get Brown on the field for a kick. But officials waved off the play with a penalty against the Seahawks for illegal formation, as wide receiver Nate Burleson was in the backfield and not at the line of scrimmage, and there has to be at least seven players lined up along the line before the snap.
Only a few penalties would result in an automatic 10-second game clock runoff, which would have ended the game and not given the Seahawks a chance for the winning field goal.
For illegal formation, however, there is no clock runoff, as referee Ed Hochuli explained while making the call.
That gave Brown a shot, and he became a hero once again. The Seahawks rejoiced and reveled, their shouts the only noise in the dome.
"They showed a lot of guts," Holmgren said of his players. "We can build on a win like this down the stretch."