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Rams once again knock the Seahawks out of their comfort zone and expose their weaknesses

A GRIP ON SPORTS • A tentative step forward. Another. Another, with a bit more confidence. A couple more. And ... boom. A Ram hits you and knocks you on your backside. Such is the most recent tale of the Seattle Seahawks. Read on.

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• Just 24 hours ago everything looked so bright for the Hawks. A win over the woeful Rams and the fifth seed in the playoffs would be all but secure. A trip to D.C. would await in the first postseason week. As poorly as this season began, it was nothing less than a best-case scenario. But what was it Al Swearengen said in “Deadwood?” Something about announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh? Well He laughed yesterday, only it wasn’t all that funny to Hawk fans. Not with the way St. Louis played through the whistle and beyond, aiming knockout blows aimed at anyone who dared tried to, I don’t know, just play football. Luke Willson went down with concussion symptoms. Russell Wilson slid, gave himself up and still got hit. Hard. Funny thing. The guy running the Rams’ defense once was ejected from the NFL for putting a bounty on opposing players. But the nearly year-long unpaid suspension didn’t seem to change Gregg Williams’ attitude on the importance of knocking key opponents out of games, money available in a bounty or not. And whistle be damned. But I digress. After all, hitting folks with your head – a couple of Rams had to be evaluated yesterday for concussions after trying to take Wilson’s block off but instead hitting each other – or in their head isn’t a problem in the NFL right now, is it? No big deal. Right? But the loss yesterday probably is. There is a decent chance the Hawks could end up the sixth seed now, facing a game in Minnesota or Green Bay the first week. Though neither task is impossible, it would seem a bit more difficult than facing Washington. More importantly, the Rams exposed the Seattle offensive front, dominating the line of scrimmage most of the day and showing the recent improvement might have been an opponent-induced mirage. We’ll know for sure next week. Arizona very well could be playing for home-field advantage, a not-insignificant bauble in the NFL playoffs. And the Cardinals have a pretty decent defensive front. Just ask Aaron Rodgers, if he’s capable of answering today. He got hit yesterday as often, if not more so, than Wilson, as the Packers were beaten down in the desert. All the optimism Seattle built by win after win seemed to go poof in the Northwest rain yesterday, gone like so many notions about this Seahawk season. The question is, which notion will survive the next few weeks? That this team is doomed to mediocrity or that it can get its act together and cut a swath through the NFC playoffs?

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• WSU: Not only did Cougar fans get to celebrate a Sun Bowl win over the weekend, yesterday Gabe Marks gave them something else to cheer about. The wide receiver announced on Twitter he’s coming back for his final year at Washington State. Jacob Thorpe had the news in this blog post. ... It seems as if many of the fans were doing their celebrating in El Paso, as the winter storm that blew through Texas pretty much shut down the city – including the airport. Jim Allen has this story on the disruption of everyone’s travel plans.

• EWU: Former Southern Utah football coach Ed Lamb explains his decision to leave Cedar City and head to BYU.

• Chiefs: Goalie Tyson Verhelst was on his game early at the Arena last night and it propelled the Chiefs to a 3-0 win over Seattle. Tom Clouse has the story of the first game back from the Christmas break. ... Portland won 5-4 over visiting Tri-City on an overtime penalty shot. ... Everett went north to Vancouver and lost 4-2.

• Seahawks: So what happened yesterday? The Rams played harder, with more emotion, for one thing. Even their punter was willing to take a cheap shot or two, though, for him, it backfired. But there is good news. The Rams didn’t make the playoffs, again. So they won’t be able to defeat the Hawks a third time this season. ... The loss showed how important a punishing running game is to Seattle against good defenses. ... Pete Carroll was looking for a positive spin on the game and came up with the possibility it will wake his team up for the playoffs. Other than that, he wants to forget it.

• Mariners: Dave Henderson and the Seattle Mariners have been intertwined off-and-on since the club’s inception. He was their first-ever draft pick, in 1977. He played for them, was on their broadcasts and owned the team’s fantasy camp. (Full disclosure: I worked for Henderson’s fantasy camps the first couple years, as a good friend helped run them for him. My interactions with Henderson were not the same as some other’s.) He experienced some incredible baseball moments and was a part of some special teams. He died Sunday at age 57. ... The M's payroll has grown. There is a problem though. It hasn't kept up with baseball's version of inflation.

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• Another week begins. This one will be full of football. College football mainly. Some college basketball as well. And then the final weekend of the NFL regular season awaits. OK, it’s going to be pretty good. Until later ...




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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