Rams 23, Seahawks 12
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 Sunday that earned the Rams a first-place tie with the Seahawks atop the NFC West.
Martz held little back after consecutive losses to the Patriots and the 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 51/2 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."