SEATTLE -- Matt Hasselbeck waited all season to redeem himself for what happened in last season's playoff game at Green Bay.
One year later, the outcome was painfully similar.
His counterpart at quarterback, Marc Bulger, threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns, the last a 17-yarder to Cam Cleeland with 2:11 to play, leading the Rams to a 27-20 win over Seattle yesterday and making St. Louis the first team without a winning record ever to advance in the NFL playoffs.
"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."
It wasn't the case for Seattle.
Hasselbeck led a final charge but came up short again. Last year, his throw for Alex Bannister was picked off by Green Bay's Al Harris and returned 52 yards for an overtime TD. This time, Seattle faced fourth and 4 at the Rams 5 with 27 seconds remaining. Hasselbeck stepped into the pocket, briefly considered running, then sidearmed a pass that zipped through Bobby Engram's hands in the end zone.
"The ball was coming in hot," Hasselbeck said. "It was a little tight in there. I think I surprised him a little bit."
Said Engram, "I've got to find a way to make that play."
The Seahawks, who won the NFC West at 9-7 despite losing twice to St. Louis, haven't won a playoff game since Dec. 22, 1984, the NFL's longest drought. And this one stings a little more because the NFC West-rival Rams became the first 8-8 team in NFL history to win in the playoffs. "One of these years, we're going to win a playoff game and take that next step," said coach Mike Holmgren, who is 0-3 in the playoffs in six seasons with Seattle.
The Rams, who will travel to Philadelphia or Atlanta for next week's divisional round, beat Seattle in all three meetings this season. Their only other road win this year was at San Francisco.
Jeff Wilkins tied it at 20 on a 27-yard field goal with 8:07 to play. After the defense forced a punt, Bulger got busy. He led a seven-play, 76-yard drive, throwing twice to receivers who hadn't caught a pass all day.
First came a 31-yard gain on third and 2, on a swing pass to Shaun McDonald. Then Bulger found Kevin Curtis for another 13 yards. Cleeland's TD was his first catch of the day. Bulger completed 18 of 32 attempts with one interception, but it was his leadership and calm demeanor that meant just as much to the Rams.