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St. Louis D holds Seahawks to field goals

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Mike Martz's week of anger was no empty
display. He saw the season slipping away for the defending NFC West
champions and thought taking potshots at his players might be his
best shot at turning things around.

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 on Sunday.

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 5½ 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."

Matt Hasselbeck played with a charley horse after colliding with
Alexander on the Seahawks' first play, and ended with one of his
worst games of the season for the Seahawks (5-4), going 15-for-36
for 172 yards. The Seahawks were limited to four field goals by
Josh Brown.

"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."

Game 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.