Burleson Scores 1st Career Kickoff Return TD

By: AP
By: AP

Mike Holmgren walked into the Seahawks' locker
room at halftime and pleaded for his kickoff-return unit to provide
a spark for his sputtering team.

Minutes later, Ram-killer Nate Burleson took Holmgren's request
literally and turned it into a 91-yard return for a game-changing
touchdown and the Seahawks pulled away from winless St. Louis 33-6
on Sunday.

"Now, that's great coaching," Holmgren said.

He was finally laughing because Seattle (4-3) overcame Matt
Hasselbeck hurting and Shaun Alexander being shut down and booed
again to climb back atop the weak NFC West entering its bye week.

"Whatever coach says, you've got to adhere to it," Burleson
said after the first kickoff score of his life. "But it's like
super heroes stuff. I don't know if I can do that every time."

It only seems like it to the Rams, who are off to the worst
start in their 70 years in the NFL.

In the Rams' previous visit last November, Burleson's 90-yard
punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter was a go-ahead
score in the Seahawks' 24-22 win. Seattle has defeated its division
rival five consecutive times.

This time, Seattle led just 10-3 at the half, and St. Louis had
only 41 total yards. Hasselbeck was feeling the sting of a hit by
Claude Wroten that strained his right oblique muscle.

One play before Josh Brown's 38-yard field goal in the second
quarter made it 10-3, Wroten drilled his helmet into the
quarterback's right ribs on an incompletion. When Hasselbeck threw
high off Bobby Engram's hand and into the arms of Ron Bartell for
an interception at the Rams 19, he grabbed his side in pain with
both hands.

Many of his passes after that fluttered weakly and mostly to the
turf. Hasselbeck was 3-of-11 for 39 yards after Wroten's hit until
Burleson's game-breaking touchdown return to start the second half.
Seattle seized the game by outscoring St. Louis 23-3 in the second
half while needing Hasselbeck to throw just 10 times.

"He was affected," said Wroten, who later refused to help up
the quarterback when the prone Hasselbeck extended his arm to him
following another hit. "He couldn't put full extension on his
throws after that. ... He choked that ball a little bit."

Burleson choked the Rams' hope for a breakthrough win. He took
the second-half kickoff, ran through a tackle near midfield and
then shook off Jonathan Wade at about the 20 for his first career
kickoff score. He punctuated it doing a preening shake and waving
of the arms like a hawk.

The Seahawks soared from there.

The Rams (0-7) welcomed back Marc Bulger to the offense in a way no one should ever be welcomed.

With lead runner Steven Jackson out for the fourth consecutive
game with a partially torn groin, the Rams had to rely on the
passing of Bulger. And Seattle knew it.

The Pro Bowl quarterback, playing for the first time in three
weeks with sore ribs, was sacked seven times. Four were by Darryl
Tapp, who played the final three quarters with a boxing-like glove
over a broken bone in his right hand. Bulger fumbled three times,
lost two, and finished 21-of-40 for 225 yards passing with three
interceptions.

"I'm a little angry about things. Embarrassed about things.
Frustrated about things. There are no good emotions," said Bulger,
who limped through the locker room.

Tight end Randy McMichael said: "Right now I am embarrassed to
be a (Ram). It is pathetic."

Bulger was 2-of-10 with an interception in the first half. Then
Torry Holt dropped what would have been a 17-yard touchdown pass on an open slant on the drive after Burleson's return.

The NFL's 30th-ranked offense coming in has 15 turnovers in the
seven losses.

Alexander finished with 47 yards on 19 carries. The 30-year-old
MVP from two seasons ago has 107 yards rushing and no touchdowns in his last three games. Three times he was jogging onto the field, out to at least the yard numbers, before Holmgren pulled him off. He was visibly upset that Holmgren kept him on the bench with
Hasselbeck and other starters at the end of the blowout.

"He is frustrated a little bit," Holmgren said. "He just
wants to do well.

"He's probably a little mad at me right now."

Hasselbeck finished 18-of-35 for 195 yards in 3½ quarters, his
second-lowest passing output of the season. He had two touchdowns
and an interception - and joked he was happy to have a strained
oblique.

"Awesome, because I didn't know I had an oblique in there,"
Hasselbeck said . "I'm going to go home and tell my wife."

Notes: Brown made all four of his field-goal attempts and is
13-of-14 this season. His only miss was blocked last week against
New Orleans. ... Tapp's sacks tied Seattle's record done three
times, most recently by Michael McCrary in 1996. ... Donnie Jones
hit a punt 80 yards over the head over Burleson in the second
quarter. It was the Rams' longest punt since Oct. 5, 1947, when Bob
Waterfield hit one 86 yards.


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