With another big lead slipping away at home, St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher made a daring call that turned out to be sheer brilliance.
Lined up to punt the ball from their 18-yard line, the Rams instead ran a fake. Punter Johnny Hekker tossed an 18-yard pass to a wide-open Benny Cunningham to pick up a first down and give St. Louis a chance to run out the clock in a 28-26 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
Russell Wilson, who became the first player in NFL history to pass for 300 yards and rush for 100 in the same game, had just led an 80-yard scoring drive — lasting just over 2 minutes — to get the Seahawks (3-3) back within two.
So, for the second time in the game, Fisher resorted to some trickery. It was enough to send the Seahawks to their second straight loss.
"We were having a hard time stopping Russell," Fisher said. "There was too much time left on the clock right there, and I didn't want to give the ball back to him. I thought that was our best chance to get a first down."
Seattle special teams player DeShawn Stead said the Seahawks were on "high alert" because the Rams had a penchant for using fakes against them in the past. It didn't matter.
"I didn't care how it was done, what we had to do to get it done," said rookie running back Tre Mason, who took over as St. Louis' primary running back and had 85 yards on 18 carries.
"As long as we ended with a win, I was happy."
The Rams (2-4) won for just the third time in their last 19 meetings with Seattle and scored more than 20 points for the first time since 2006. St. Louis was averaging just 12.2 points in the last 14 matchups.
St. Louis' last win in the series came in September 2012, when Hekker had a 2-yard touchdown pass on a fake field goal for the Rams' only touchdown in a 19-13 victory. Hekker, a high-school quarterback, is 4 for 5 passing in his three-year career.
"When I first came here, I knew he could throw the ball," Mason said. "I was like, 'Well, does he play quarterback or not?' And it showed. That man has a nice arm."
Here are some more things to take away from Sunday's game.
HOLDING THE LEAD: For the third straight home game, the Rams built an early double-digit lead. But this time, they managed to win. After squandering a 21-0 lead against Dallas and a 14-0 edge against San Francisco, St. Louis went up 21-3 after Stedman Bailey's 90-yard punt return touchdown on the first special teams trick play of the day. Tavon Austin, the Rams' usual return man, pretended to be tracking the ball toward the Rams' sideline, attracting most of Seattle's defenders, while Bailey fielded the punt and zoomed up the sideline for the score.
NO PERCY, NO PROBLEM: After dumping often-injured playmaker Percy Harvin in a Friday trade with the New York Jets that yielded only a conditional draft pick, the Seahawks didn't have any trouble piling up yardage. Doug Baldwin, who confirmed that he had a scuffle with Harvin, filled the void with a season-best 123 yards on seven catches — including a 9-yard TD. It was the second-best receiving total of his four-year career. "When you deal with somebody 12 or 14 hours out of the day, you're going to have issues and conflict. It's a family in this locker room, so just like family members, you get in arguments, you have scuffles," Baldwin said. "That just happens."
SACK CITY RETURNS: The St. Louis defense billed as "Sack City" and led by reigning NFC sacks champion Robert Quinn finally arrived in the second quarter. The Rams had recorded only one sack through the first five games, the lowest total since 1964, according to STATS. Then, in a span of five offensive snaps for Seattle, the Rams got three — one apiece for Aaron Donald, Eugene Sims and Quinn.
WHO RECOVERED THAT FUMBLE?: Even after the Rams' conversion on Hekker's fake, the Seahawks looked as though they had one last chance when Mason fumbled after picking up a first down that would allow St. Louis to run out the final minute. Malcolm Smith punched the ball free from Mason, and cornerback Richard Sherman was on top of it in the middle of a scrum. Instead, officials ruled that the Rams had recovered although it was unclear which player had possession. NFL spokesman Michael Signora said the play was reviewed by the league and that there was "no evidence of a clear recovery by either St. Louis or Seattle." Cory Harkey was credited with a fumble recovery.
"Richard was on top of the ball. He was on his knees and couldn't get flat on the ground. It was right there underneath him," said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who claimed he was appealing to officials to review the play.
WILSON'S BIG DAY: Wilson finished with 106 yards on seven carries and completed 23 of 36 passes for 313 yards and two touchdowns. It was the second time this season Wilson got more than 100 yards rushing. "I really don't want to run, to be honest with you. I'm trying to throw it all the time and keep my eyes down the field," he said. "If it's there, I'll take it last second and just try to get as many positive yards as I can." As for becoming the first QB to pass for 300 yards and run for 100? "That doesn't mean anything unless you win," Wilson said. "I'm not about stats. I'm far away from stats. The only thing I really care about is winning. I've got to figure out a way to help our team win."
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