ST. LOUIS — Mike Martz’s week of anger was no empty display. He saw the season slipping away from the defending NFC West champions and thought taking potshots at his players might be his best shot at turning things around.
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 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 will 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 5 1/2 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 (5-4), giving him 531 yards the past three games and giving him more than 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, going 15-for-36 for 172 yards. The Rams limited the Seahawks to four Josh Brown field goals.
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, finishing 23-for-34 for 262 yards. 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.