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Drama unfolds for these foes

Rams, Seahawks are finally ready

SEATTLE -- St. Louis coach Mike Martz made the highlight shows when he flamboyantly said the Rams won't hold hands and sing "Kumbaya." Seattle's Shaun Alexander accused his coach of stabbing him in the back.

Is this the NFL or a soap opera?

"OK, nothing going on this week," Seattle coach Mike Holmgren joked as the Seahawks prepared for today's NFC wild-card playoff game against the Rams.

Not exactly, Coach.

Alexander's claim of being "stabbed in the back" by Holmgren was big news in Seattle this week. The running back finished 1 yard short of the NFL rushing title and he questioned his coach for calling a quarterback sneak at the goal line in last Sunday's win over Atlanta.

Alexander then apologized.

Meanwhile, Holmgren defended his decision to let troubled receiver Koren Robinson have another yank on the coach's disciplinary chain. Robinson, who sat out six of the final seven games, skipped a meeting last weekend.

Holmgren insisted nobody's taking advantage of him.

"I've been at this a long time -- [including] 12 years coaching and teaching in high school," he said. "Believe me, I've heard every `Dog ate my homework' story imaginable. I don't think I'm naive that way."

Who can forget Martz's act this season?

Usually, critics complain that he wastes timeouts. Lately, Martz has offered plenty of material off the field, none more curious than a heated exchange with injured offensive lineman Kyle Turley.

Supposedly, Martz filed a complaint with NFL security, claiming Turley threatened him during a meeting in the coach's office.

"I was never asked about it until recently," Martz explained. "It's unfortunate for the National Football League, but it doesn't serve anybody well at all. It's long gone, a dead issue really."

Then there was this gem, when Martz called out his whole team after an 18-point loss to New England:

"We don't hold hands and get in a seance and sing `Kumbaya, My Lord,' " he said. "I'm not into that. We've got a direction we're going and you're on the train or you're not. Get out. Period."

No wonder these teams had such up-and-down seasons, with Seattle at 9-7 squeaking out the NFC West title over the 8-8 Rams.

"This is a team full of drama and we've had it all the time," said Trent Dilfer, Seattle's backup quarterback. "I guess you could say we thrive on it. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. We're so focused on winning the game."

Oh yeah. The game.

The Seahawks lost both meetings to St. Louis this season, including an infamous Oct. 10 game known for Seattle's fourth-quarter meltdown and embarrassing loss. The Rams erased a 27-10 deficit, forced overtime, and won, 33-27.

Seattle hasn't won a playoff game since beating the Raiders, 13-7, Dec. 22, 1984, at the Kingdome. It's the first time in five seasons that the Seahawks have been home during the playoffs.

Rams quarterback Marc Bulger is rolling, coming off a 450-yard passing effort with three TDs in last Sunday's 32-29 overtime defeat of the New York Jets, a win St. Louis needed to reach the postseason.

Matt Hasselbeck hasn't done poorly, either. In the last four games, he's thrown for 1,140 yards with 10 TDs and four interceptions. The Seahawks have won three of those contests.

Players say all the wacky off-field stuff is meaningless, even more so after kickoff.

"My college coach always said, `Once you get hit in the mouth, everything that happened during the week doesn't matter,' " Dilfer said.

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