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Monday, October 11, 2004 - Page updated at 07:55 P.M.
By Greg Bishop
Isaac Bruce raised his helmet to the heavens and took a leisurely victory lap downfield.
He stopped at the 10-yard line and threw the helmet down. And it lay there, on the Seahawks' field, in their stadium, like the sinking feeling in 66,940 stomachs. Ken Hamlin kicked at it like a soccer ball, but not before Bruce and his helmet and his St. Louis teammates made their point.
The race for the NFC West is only getting started.
And it was the Seahawks who felt they kicked away this game, a 33-27 overtime loss to their division rival at Qwest Field. Ten, twenty, thirty minutes afterward, they were still in disbelief, still processing.
"We lost?" quarterback Matt Hasselbeck asked.
That 17-point lead the Hawks had at halftime? Gone. The first 4-0 start in team history? Maybe next year. That 10-game home-win streak, the longest in team history and tied for the longest active streak in the NFL? In the books. The history variety.
That stranglehold on the NFC West? Try a half-game lead.
"It's shocking, man," receiver Koren Robinson said. "We can't think like just because we're at home and we've got this little win streak and we're undefeated that anybody we play is going to lay down for us. We have to finish the game, man. All 60 minutes of it."
Fifteen minutes wouldn't cut it yesterday, although the Seahawks were so dominant, at first it appeared it would. They finished the first quarter with a 121-11 yards advantage, an astonishing time-of-possession differential (12:11 to 2:49) and a 7-0 lead.
Thirty minutes didn't cut it, either, although Seattle felt pretty good at halftime, up 24-7. It had turned Fast and Furious the nickname for the Rams' offense into Slow and Curious, yielding a scant 122 yards.
After 45 minutes of football, the Seahawks still held a 24-10 lead. They stood on the doorstep of history, 15 minutes away from becoming the first team in Seahawks history to start a season with four wins and no losses.
"That's why this game is 60 minutes long," said Bruce.
Josh Brown made his second field goal to give the Seahawks a 27-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. Then everything the Seahawks built through three dominant games this season unraveled in a flurry of big plays. In 8 minutes and 47 seconds.
The Rams marched 66 yards in eight plays on their next drive, capped by an 8-yard touchdown pass from Marc Bulger to Brandon Manumaleuna. 27-17. And the Seahawks' offense went four-and-out.
The Rams scored on their next play, a 41-yard pass from Bulger to Kevin Curtis. 27-24. And the Seahawks' offense went four-and-out, including an incomplete pass to Bobby Engram on second down, which stopped a dwindling clock.
They weren't for long, as the Rams drove 46 yards in six plays to set up a tying field goal by Jeff Wilkins with eight seconds left. Even then, after a complete and total 17-point collapse, the Seahawks didn't doubt.
"I never thought we were going to lose," linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski said. "I'd tell the guys, 'The next play momentum will turn back. The next play.' I never had a doubt in my head we were going to come out winners."
St. Louis won the coin flip, and six plays into overtime, Shaun McDonald slipped past a blitzing cornerback, blazed past safety Terreal Bierria, hauled in a Bulger pass and ended the play 52 yards downfield in the end zone.
"I'm still just numb right now," fullback Mack Strong said. "It's hard to fathom that we didn't win the game."
Added defensive end Grant Wistrom: "It was a total breakdown. We pretty much self-destructed right there."
The Seahawks spread the blame around. The defense that for fifteen quarters was the best in the NFL yielded 17 points in the fourth quarter, or four more than it allowed in the first three games.
The offense that put up 391 yards didn't convert on third down (a putrid 2 of 12) and didn't help the defense get off the field.
Both sides played conservatively in the second half. That included a dime defense the Rams spliced to shreds. That included a Seahawks offense that tightened, when, receiver Darrell Jackson said, "We should have put up 50 on them."
"You can make up a billion excuses," said running back Shaun Alexander, who gained 150 yards and scored one touchdown in the loss. "But we let our defense down. We totally did. We didn't do anything to let them catch their breath."
Then it ended in that flurry of big plays a long punt return to set up the Rams' second touchdown pass, two long touchdowns in the final minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime. And a team that spent three games holding onto breaks saw its home win streak broken.
Greg Bishop: 206-464-3191 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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