Wistrom: It was a total breakdown
With a chance to close out the Rams and build a nice divisional lead, the Seahawks imploded down the stretch.
SEATTLE -- No one identified with St. Louis' incredible 33-27 overtime victory over the Seahawks on Sunday more than Seattle defensive end Grant Wistrom, a former Ram.
He's been on the positive side of big victories that enabled him to go to two Super Bowls, winning one. He switched alliances in part because the Seahawks offered him a $14 million signing bonus. Wistrom was considered one of the reasons the Seahawks were ready to claim the NFC West as theirs. Instead, the defending NFC West champions scored 23 points in a 10-minute stretch of the fourth quarter and overtime to come back from a 17-point deficit.
Rams quarterback Marc Bulger whipped up on the league's No. 1 defense for 202 yards in 10 minutes. The Rams defense that surrendered 24 points and 306 yards in the first half held the Seahawks to 85 yards on 22 plays and three points in the second.
"We went out there in the fourth quarter and played like crap at every position on defense," Wistrom said. "It was a total breakdown. We weren't getting pressure on them. Guys were running around free because he had so much time to throw. We pretty much self-destructed out there."
Had the Seahawks won, they would have owned a 4-0 record and a 2½-game lead over the Rams. Now, the Seahawks could end up falling behind the Rams if Seattle loses on the road next week to New England and if the Rams beat the 1-4 Bucs on Monday night football.
"There are a lot of lessons to be learned every week, probably," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "The statistics can be misleading at times, but also, they are what they are. Having said that, we have to look to see if we could have done better in certain areas or what we did. Before it gets too much doom and gloom, we're still 3-1. We're still leading the division. After the first four games of the season, we're still in good shape record-wise and all that. The difficult thing is that we felt that this was a game we could have won, but we didn't. But we will bounce back next week."
What's puzzling for Holmgren is that he thought he was being aggressive in play calling, but in the end he was being criticized for being too conservative.
In the first half, the Seahawks offense attacked like sharks seeing red meat. Matt Hasselbeck passed for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Shaun Alexander had 98 yards rushing. The Seahawks ran nearly twice the number of plays St. Louis did: 44-24.
The Rams seemed out of sorts in the final two minutes of the half, and the Seahawks were going for the jugular. Instead of running out the first half clock with 1:43 left in the half with a 10-point lead, Holmgren went from broke and had a 90-yard touchdown drive.
Holmgren tried to sit on the lead in the fourth quarter by calling more running plays to kill the clock, but he went for the jugular again with 11 minutes left in regulation. He went for a fourth-and-2 at the Rams 32-yard line, and Hasselbeck hit Jackson for nine yards and the first down. Josh Brown converted a 34-yard field goal for a 27-10 lead.
|“||Before it gets too much doom and gloom, we're still 3-1. We're still leading the division. After the first four games of the season, we're still in good shape record wide and all that. ”|
|—Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren|
A three-and-out with three running plays after the Rams cut the lead to 27-17 hurt because the Seahawks special teams fell apart. Shaun McDonald returned a punt 39 yards to the Seahawks 41. Punter Tom Rouen pulled a hamstring on that play, and the Seahawks had to use Brown as the punter. He had a 35-yard punt that gave the Rams time and good field position to tie the score with 1:14 left.
"Yeah, I think we did a bit," Alexander said of the Seahawks offense when asked if it was too conservative. "Even with that, we didn't finish the game. No matter what I think, everything was average in the second half. I can't say that being conservative had anything to do with it. We played average in the second half, and you can't do that against a good team."
Holmgren tried to sort through the final minutes.
"In a normal set of circumstances, the way we were playing defense, I didn't expect them to score so quickly," Holmgren said. "We had been pretty good at making them drive the ball and not giving up big plays. We had a couple of chances to complete passes and we didn't. That is something I will look at, too. For the game to come out the way it did, what had to happen happened."
If the Seahawks lose the division title again to the Rams, they will look back at this loss with disgust. They had the Rams by the throat and let them live.
John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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