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Originally published Sunday, September 6, 2009 at 9:04 PM

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After struggling in 2008, Seahawks and Rams hope for strong start

This week offers a blank slate for both teams. A fresh start for two teams under new head coaches seeking to leave last season's struggles in the rear-view mirror.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Sunday

St. Louis @ Seahawks, 1 p.m.

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The rivalry is based on proximity yet it has nothing to do with geography. P In fact, if you go by mileage, St. Louis is the most distant of Seattle's three division rivals. P But the Seahawks and the Rams have been close in two very important ways: on the scoreboard and in the standings.

Since the NFC's Great Western Reformation of 2002 when Seattle switched conferences, the two teams have played 14 times. Eight of those games have been decided by six points or fewer.

It was more than the score that made those games to remember, it was the significance.

St. Louis and Seattle were the conference heavyweights. They finished in the top two spots in the division for four successive seasons starting in 2003.

They were side by side in the NFC West last season, too, except this time it was on skid row. The Rams went 2-14, the franchise's worst season since 1962, while the Seahawks were 4-12, their worst record in 16 years since 1992.

This week offers a blank slate for both teams. A fresh start for two teams under new head coaches — Jim Mora for the Seahawks and Steve Spagnola for the Rams — seeking to leave last season's struggles in the rear-view mirror.

"You only get one first game," linebacker Lofa Tatupu said.

One chance to go 1-0, and familiarity between the Seahawks and Rams will only raise the stakes.

"We've had some great games with them," Tatupu said. "They're excited. I know they are. We both had tough seasons last year."

It was the second bummer in a row for the Rams, who have finished last in the division each of the past two years.

That's been a steep fall for the Rams from their perch as the divisional bully that used to push the Seahawks around. St. Louis won the division in 2003 when the Seahawks made the playoffs for the first time since joining the division, and while Seattle won the NFC West in 2004, it was a paper title. St. Louis beat Seattle twice in the regular season and again in the playoffs.

Seattle has won eight in a row against St. Louis since that game, the Seahawks' longest winning streak against any single opponent in franchise history.

It hasn't been easy, though. Seattle beat St. Louis twice in 2006 on a pair of last-minute field goals by Josh Brown. That was the difference between the Seahawks making the playoffs that season at 9-7 and St. Louis missing the playoffs with a record of 8-8.

That was also the last time Seattle and St. Louis finished the year occupying the top two spots in the division.

Notes

• Seattle claimed offensive tackle Brandon Frye from Miami, his agent confirmed. Offensive tackle Kyle Williams was let go to make room for Frye, a third-year player who appeared in seven games for Miami last season.

• Seattle began signing players to its practice squad, but the Seahawks did not announce the names on it. Receiver Mike Hass will be on the practice squad, according to his agent, and Scout.com reported Logan Payne will be included as well.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

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