When the Seahawks last faced
the Rams, it was in St. Louis with Grant Wistrom and Matt Hasselbeck on the
field at the same time, but on opposing teams. Matt had thrown a deep ball to
Bobby Engram who had his eyes on it for the winning catch of his life. While
concentrating on taking it in, back judge Greg Steed, who must have assumed
that Matt was incapable of making such a play, stood near the flight path of
the ball and tripped Engram, claiming that he was trying to get out of the way.
While Engram was glaring
at Steed (a Rams fan dressed like a zebra), Wistrom was busy slapping Hass upside
the head for $5,000 which is mere pocket change when you consider that there
was no immediate unsportsmanlike conduct call.
Wistrom was on a mission
to show Matt that he was the “alpha male.” Matt knows full well
that Wistrom does not hit like a freakin’ girl. Wistrom and Hasselbeck
may not have been friends on that day in St. Louis where the battle for the
NFC West division title was hotly contested, but today they share a common vision
to put the Seahawks in a place they have never been before – 4 and 0 with
a 2 ½ game lead on the division.
Just as the Seahawk sword
is double-edged with Hasselbeck and Wistrom working together on each side, the
importance of this game is double-edged. If Seattle loses, the Rams would regain
an advantage as the Hawks face New England on the road the following week. Not
only would two losses in a row be a momentum killer for Seattle (assuming a
win in New England is not a sure bet), the Rams could regain the lead and the
conference edge. With lowered confidence and a rough trip behind them, the Seahawks
would face the Rams again on Nov. 14, but this time in the A.G. Edwards Dome
with Nelly overlooking from his $9.000 a game booth, “tiltin’ his
Naturally, Holmgren is concerned about the speed of the Rams’ offense
whereas Martz is concerned about the speed and proficiency of Seattle’s
It is a match-up made in
heaven where only alpha players will prevail.
Games between the Rams and
Hawks are beginning to feel like the old Denver and Seattle rivalry where there
was a neck-and-neck struggle to be the alpha team for the division.
By analogy, where Elway
did not always fare well in the Kingdome, Marc Bulger is yet to win a game at
True, Bulger is no John
Elway, but he is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes while sporting a
96.2 rating--third in the NFC, trailing only Daunte Culpepper and Donovan McNabb.
of the past did not always stop the McNabbs, the Culpeppers and the Bulgers
of the league. Enter Ray Rhodes, who helped bring improvement from worst in
the league to middle of the pack defensive rankings by the end of last year.
Sunday’s game will
justify the reputation of the burgeoning Seahawk Defense. Their objective will
be to get the Ram’s offense off of the field and clear the way for the
Seahawk offense to produce consistently. For the offensive-minded Holmgren,
Ray Rhodes’ defense becomes a part of the offensive strategy--a similar
service that Tom Catlin’s defenses performed for the Seahawks of the 80’s
and especially the contribution that Fritz Shurmur made to the Pack in the 90’s.
Rhodes has built a defense
that will take advantage of field position and make things happen in the turnover
category. This is clearly an aspect that Holmgren has not enjoyed consistently
since coming to Seattle.
On a recent telephone conference
interview, Holmgren was more than philosophical about his good fortunes in finding
talent and helping the Hawks develop as a contender. In summary, he told the
media, “We know this is a huge game for us and a big measuring stick for
where we are as a football team.”
Martz himself has no dispute
about who has the upper hand between Seattle and St. Louis at this point. "This
team is growing,” he said of the Rams. “I don't know what we're
going to be . . . . There is no question that Seattle is the team to beat. There's
no question about that."
Ken Lucas stated it with insightful urgency, "How can you call yourself
the best if you never go against the best? You become the best by competing
against the best."
Tomorrow’s game becomes a test of championship proportions, symbolized
by the movement of Wistrom from the Rams to the Seahawks. He is the alpha man
for the next alpha team, handed over like a torch from the old Champs to the
new ones in the making.
Don Christensen writes
for Seahawks.NET. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.