October 10, 2011

2004: Rams Score 17 Points in Last 6 Minutes, Beat Seahawks in OT

The St. Louis Rams were at 2-2 as they faced the Seattle Seahawks on October 10, 2004 at Qwest Field. Seattle, coming off a bye week, was undefeated at 3-0 and looking to build upon a 10-6 Wild Card season in ’03. In their sixth season under Head Coach Mike Holmgren, the Seahawks featured star RB Shaun Alexander and a good quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck, although the receivers were prone to dropping passes.

The Rams won the Super Bowl following the 1999 season, and with the exception of a down year in 2002, had continued to regularly contend in the seasons since. Mike Martz, the offensive coordinator in ’99, became head coach in 2000 and the Rams continued to feature a high-octane passing attack along with the running of RB Marshall Faulk. Originally, the quarterback directing that attack had been Kurt Warner, but injuries dramatically reduced his effectiveness and playing time in 2002 and ’03, and it was Marc Bulger (pictured above) who had emerged as the starter. While not as talented as Warner at his best, he was an accurate passer capable of staying calm in clutch situations, and still had great receivers in Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce to throw to, as well as Faulk in the backfield.

There was a record crowd of 66,940 at Qwest Field, and they had reason to cheer early as the Seahawks drove to a touchdown on their first possession. Hasselbeck completed four passes and Alexander carried the ball five times, once for a 33-yard gain to the St. Louis four yard line and the last time for one yard into the end zone. Seattle added to its lead early in the second quarter following another long possession of 13 plays that went 50 yards and ended with a 48-yard field goal by Josh Brown.

On the next possession by the Rams, they went 78 yards on six plays to get on the board. The big play was a 48-yard carry by rookie RB Steven Jackson to the Seattle nine yard line, and from there Bulger ran the rest of the way for a TD that made the score 10-7.

The Seahawks came right back as Hasselbeck immediately connected with WR Koren Robinson for a 20-yard gain. Later in the six-play drive he found Robinson again for 15 yards to the St. Louis 29 and two plays later he passed to TE Jerramy Stevens for a 24-yard touchdown. Seattle was again up by ten points at 17-7.

Bulger was intercepted by CB Ken Lucas shortly thereafter, but the turnover came to naught when Brown missed a 43-yard field goal attempt. Following a punt by the Rams, the Seahawks did score again as they went 90 yards in just five plays, the last a Hasselbeck pass to WR Darrell Jackson for a 56-yard TD. Seattle led by a tally of 24-7 at halftime.

The teams traded punts to start the third quarter before the Rams put together a 13-play drive that featured four straight completed passes by Bulger to gain 58 yards and ended with Jeff Wilkins kicking a 39-yard field goal.

Following a three-and-out possession by Seattle that led to a punt to start the final period, Bulger was intercepted by CB Marcus Trufant. The Seahawks capitalized when Brown kicked a 34-yard field goal that gave them a seemingly secure lead of 27-10 with less than nine minutes remaining.

The Rams weren’t done, however, and drove 66 yards in eight plays that included Bulger passes to WR Isaac Bruce for 20 yards and to WR Shaun McDonald for 24. An eight-yard scoring throw to TE Brandon Manumaleuna made it a ten-point game with the clock at 5:34. Seattle went three-and-out and, following a 39-yard return of Tom Rouen’s punt by McDonald, Bulger immediately connected with WR Kevin Curtis, who had gotten clear of two defenders, for a 41-yard touchdown.

Suddenly, with the successful extra point, it was a three-point game with 3:30 to go in the fourth quarter. Hasselbeck threw for a 10-yard gain to Robinson when the Seahawks got the ball back, but they failed to move thereafter and were forced to punt once more after the quarterback was sacked for a 12-yard loss by DE Leonard Little on the first play following the two-minute warning. The Rams took over at their 36 with no timeouts remaining and, after throwing an incompletion, Bulger went to Bruce for a 27-yard gain. Three plays later, he connected with WR Dane Looker for 16 yards to the Seattle 18 and from there Wilkins booted a 36-yard field goal with eight seconds on the clock to tie the contest at 27-27 and send it into overtime.

The Rams gained possession to start the extra period and went 71 yards on six plays. They converted a third-and-six situation with Bulger throwing to Holt for 13 yards while being blitzed, and with third-and-eight on their own 48, Bulger threw to McDonald for a 52-yard touchdown (pictured below) to win the game in stunning fashion, 33-27.

St. Louis outgained the Seahawks (441 yards to 391) and had a slight edge in first downs (21 to 20). However, while Seattle suffered no turnovers, the Rams turned the ball over three times.

Marc Bulger completed 24 of 42 passes for 325 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions, and was at his best during the fourth quarter comeback. Isaac Bruce caught 6 passes for 78 yards while Shaun McDonald gained 76 yards on his two receptions, including the game-winning score. Steven Jackson led the Rams in rushing with 64 yards on five carries and Marshall Faulk ran the ball 15 times for 51 yards (Jackson would spell the aging Faulk increasingly during the season).

For Seattle, Shaun Alexander ran for 150 yards on 23 carries with a TD in a losing cause. Matt Hasselbeck went to the air 35 times and had 20 completions for 216 yards and two TDs. Darrell Jackson caught 5 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown and Koren Robinson also caught 5, for 59 yards.

“That's a tough way to lose,” said Seattle’s Coach Holmgren. “As good as we were in the first half, we were average to below average in the second half. Give the Rams credit. They hung in there.”

While the Rams won the next week, they remained inconsistent and finished at 8-8 and second in the NFC West, just a game behind the division-winning Seahawks, who were 9-7. It was good enough to qualify for the second wild card playoff spot, and while they beat Seattle for a third time in the first round (they also defeated them at home in Week 10), they lost badly to Atlanta at the Divisional level. The paths of the two teams would diverge over the next few seasons, as the Rams sank into mediocrity while the Seahawks continued to dominate the division and won the NFC Championship in 2005.

For Marc Bulger, the comeback win over the Seahawks was one of four he engineered during the season. He passed for 3964 yards, completing 66.2 percent of his throws. However, he also was sacked 41 times for a league-leading loss of 302 yards.