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SEATTLE (AP) -- The St. Louis Rams can say they're the first 8-8 team to win in the playoffs.



Published: Sat, January 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



SEATTLE (AP) -- The St. Louis Rams can say they're the first 8-8 team to win in the playoffs.

Marc Bulger threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns, the last a 17-yarder to Cam Cleeland with 2:11 remaining, leading the Rams to a 27-20 win over Seattle on Saturday and making St. Louis the first 8-8 team to win in the playoffs.

Bulger directed a seven-play, 76-yard drive after Jeff Wilkins tied the game at 20 on a 27-yard field goal with 8:07 to play. Bulger mixed his passes to seven receivers, and hit two on the decisive drive who hadn't caught a pass all day.

The Rams, who will travel to Philadelphia or Atlanta for next week's divisional round, took over at their 24 with 5:42 to play.

Key plays

Bulger got a 31-yard gain on third-and-2 with a swing pass to Shaun McDonald -- his first catch -- then found Kevin Curtis for another 13 yards. Cleeland's TD was his first catch of the day, too, putting St. Louis up by a touchdown.

Matt Hasselbeck marched his team 59 yards to the Rams' 5, where he faced fourth-and-4 with 27 seconds on the clock. He stepped into the pocket, thought about running for a moment and then zipped a pass through Bobby Engram's hands.

Hasselbeck put his hands on his head, pounded the turf and looked like he was near tears as he came off the field.

The Rams, who beat the Seahawks three times this season, appear to be taking flight at the right time. They won their final two games to reach the playoffs, with Bulger throwing for a season-high 450 yards and three TDs in last weekend's 32-29 overtime defeat of the New York Jets.

"We know we're a good team," Bulger said. "We have talent, but we've made a lot of mistakes this year. Seattle played us good but fortunately we've been making plays the last three weeks when we've had to and that wasn't the case all year."

Game statistics

Bulger completed 18-of-32 attempts with one interception. Torry Holt caught six passes for 108 yards and one score, and Curtis had four receptions for 107 yards receiving.

Hasselbeck finished 27-of-43 for 341 yards passing with two TDs and one interception.

Darrell Jackson had a great day, catching 12 passes for 128 yards and receiving one TD.

Both teams had up-and-down seasons, but 9-7 Seattle squeaked out the NFC West title over the 8-8 Rams, giving the Seahawks their first home game in the playoffs since 1999.

Still, Seattle hasn't won in the playoffs since beating the Raiders 13-7 at the Kingdome on Dec. 22, 1984. In the 20 years since, 30 NFL teams won a playoff game -- though the expansion Houston Texans have only been in the league three seasons. They have lost six straight playoff games since then, losing last year in Green Bay when Hasselbeck had an interception returned for a touchdown in overtime.

All four of the previous 8-8 teams that made the playoffs in the modern era -- Cleveland in 1985, New Orleans in 1990 and Dallas and Detroit in 1999 -- lost in the first round.

The Rams led 14-10 at halftime, with Bulger burning the Seahawks on deep routes in the first half -- a 52-yard pass to Holt and a 50-yard strike to Kevin Curtis -- to set up a 15-yard TD pass to Holt and a 1-yard TD run by Marshall Faulk.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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