SEATTLE – It would be one thing if the Seattle Seahawks kept getting their hearts broken by the St. Louis Rams’ star players.
You know, a Marshall Faulk touchdown run or a long pass to Isaac Bruce or Torry Holt, something like that.
But for the second time this season, it was the other guys who sparked the Rams to a come-from-behind victory at Qwest Field.
In fact, the winning touchdown in St. Louis’ 27-20 victory on Saturday came from a backup tight end from Sedro-Woolley who had never even scored a touchdown for the Rams, let alone the winning points in an NFL playoff game.
“I lead the team in practice Friday touchdowns,” said tight end Cameron Cleeland, a former University of Washington Husky whose 17-yard touchdown reception with 2:11 remaining was the decisive score. “It’s pretty surreal to do it in front of family and friends in a game like this. I’ve been waiting for one for years.
“You never know when your number’s going to get called,” said Cleeland, who scored 12 touchdowns in four seasons with New Orleans but hadn’t scored since joining the Rams last season. “It’s the standard cliche, but you just never know.”
The Rams seem to be loaded with those kind of guys, unlike the Seahawks, whose receivers seem to drop as many critical passes as they catch.
Wide receiver Shaun McDonald ignited the Rams’ game-winning drive with a 31-yard reception on third down – his only catch of the day – and on the next play wide receiver Kevin Curtis had a 13-yard reception to get the Rams into scoring territory.
Curtis finished with four catches from quarterback Marc Bulger for a career-high 107 yards.
He and McDonald, a pair of second-year players, each had a long touchdown reception during the Rams’ incredible rally for a 33-27 overtime victory here during the regular season.
“Having Isaac and Torry, two guys like that, that’s going to grab the defense’s attention, so it’s just a matter of catching them off guard,” Curtis said. “I don’t know if it’s Seattle’s defense or coincidence, but any time I can contribute, it feels good.”
The big play to McDonald came with the score tied 20-20 and the Rams facing third-and-2 from their own 32-yard line with about five minutes left. In a play they usually run to Faulk, the intended receiver goes in motion to the right and runs a quick out pattern while all the other receivers slant to the left.
Rams coach Mike Martz said he redesigned it for McDonald this week to combine an element of surprise with McDonald’s blazing speed. When McDonald caught the ball wide open in the right flat and sprinted 31 yards down the right sideline, Martz had his payoff.
“I was hoping I would get involved,” said McDonald, who had the game-winning 52-yard touchdown reception in overtime in the first meeting this season. “Kevin (Curtis) was making plays all game … so I was kind of sitting back waiting for my time, and my time came.”
Martz said he never hesitates to go to his younger guys in critical situations.
“You don’t think about that stuff. I don’t think about who they are,” Martz said. “The best thing I can say about this team is you never doubt that the guy’s going to make the play. That never enters my mind.”
Boy, wouldn’t Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren like to have that feeling?
Instead, he has a team whose receivers dropped five more passes Saturday for an unofficial season total of 43.
And he has a team that has lost three games to the Rams this season, four straight overall, and five times in seven meetings since Seattle joined the NFC West in 2002.
The Seahawks may have won the division title this season, but there is little doubt about who rules.
And McDonald, for one, didn’t hesitate to say so.
“We were real confident. When I found out we were playing Seattle, I knew we had a great chance of winning this game,” he said. “We feel like we’re the best team in the division.”
Martz, on the other hand, would have nothing to do with the suggestion that the Rams hold some kind of spell over Holmgren and the Seahawks.
“No that’s not the case,” Martz said. “I think it’s just two good teams going at it. It’s very competitive.”
He said he has the highest respect for Holmgren as a coach.
“He’s won the Super Bowl. He’s as good as it gets, so I don’t know how you could criticize him after this one,” Martz said. “They did win the division, you know, and they won it fair and square.”
But they lost to the Rams, again.
No matter who the Rams go to when it counts.