SEATTLE — It was as if dice-rolling Coach Mike Martz were calling plays from his St. Louis-area home Sunday.
The Rams, under the direction of assistant head coach Joe Vitt while Martz recovers from a heart virus, were lining up for a field goal in the second quarter to add to a 3-0 lead against first-place Seattle. A third consecutive win and an improbable restart of the NFC West race was in sight.
But instead of settling for the 25-yard kick, Vitt morphed into Martz, providing the turning point in the Seahawks' 31-16 victory.
He had holder Dane Looker flip the ball to kicker Jeff Wilkins, who was about to throw to wide-open Cameron Cleeland at the five. But Seattle cornerback Marcus Trufant charged the kicker. Wilkins aborted the pass and ran feebly into a turnover on downs.
Energized, the Seahawks stormed 87 yards to a go-ahead touchdown, Shaun Alexander's first of three rushing scores. They went on to outscore the Rams, 24-3, and outgain them, 281-46, from that fake until deep into the third quarter.
"I couldn't believe they did it," Alexander said, his voice rising in surprise. "I just think momentum is a strong thing. Whenever you got a chance to keep momentum going, you should never change it, because it gave momentum to us."
St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger called the failed fake "demoralizing."
Alexander romped for 165 yards in a season-high 33 carries. With more St. Louis mistakes, the West might have been won.
The Seahawks, 7-2 and winners of five in a row for the first time since 1999, lead the second-place Rams by three games. Essentially, that is a four-game bulge with seven regular-season games remaining, because Seattle swept St. Louis after losing the previous four to the Rams (4-5).
Bulger, playing for the first time in four weeks, completed 28 of 40 passes for 304 yards with a touchdown and an interception.