Mike Martz’s week of anger was no empty display. He saw the season slipping away for the defending NFC West champions and thought taking potshots at his players might be his best chance of turning things around.
The St. Louis Rams responded to the tongue-lashings and physical practices by slapping around the Seattle Seahawks.
Marc Bulger got off to a fast start and a beleaguered defense held Seattle to three field goals in five trips inside the 20 in a 23-12 victory Sunday at St. Louis that earned the Rams (5-4) a tie with the Seahawks (5-4) atop the NFC West.
Martz held little back after consecutive losses to New England and previously winless Miami.
“You don’t want the head man upset,” receiver Kevin Curtis said. “It can’t help but fire you up a little bit to play even harder.”
Shaun Alexander had 176 yards in 22 carries for Seattle, giving him 531 yards the last three games and putting him over 1,000 yards for the fourth consecutive season.
Bulger was five for six for 71 yards on the opening drive and was 12 for 15 for 158 yards in the first quarter. He finished 23 for 34 for 262 yards.
Marshall Faulk helped compensate, finishing with a season-best 139 yards in 18 carries, and the Rams had a season-high 202 yards rushing.
Atlanta 24, Tampa Bay 14 -- Bouncing back after the officials denied an apparent defensive touchdown, Alge Crumpler hauled in a 49-yard scoring pass from Michael Vick to clinch the victory at Atlanta.
Crumpler had four catches for a personal-best 118 yards, and the Falcons rushed for 205 yards.
The Falcons (7-2) had a season-high seven sacks to make life miserable for Brian Griese.
The Falcons scored on their first three possessions for a 17-0 lead, but the Buccaneers (3-6) were in position to try at least a score-tying field goal early in the fourth quarter. That’s when the craziness began.
On third and one at the Atlanta 28, Michael Pittman was stopped short of the first down by several Falcons. Before he went down, Travis Hall stripped the ball loose. Chris Draft scooped it up, was tripped by one of his teammates but got up and ran to the end zone.
Tampa Bay Coach Jon Gruden challenged the call. The officials ruled they had whistled the play dead when Pittman’s forward progress was stopped.
But instead of trying a field goal, the Buccaneers went for it on fourth and one and Pittman was thrown for a two-yard loss.
Arizona 17, New York 14 -- Emmitt Smith rushed for two touchdowns and the Cardinals (4-5) sacked Kurt Warner six times, including four by Bertrand Berry, at Tempe, Ariz.
Smith had 67 yards in 19 carries, with 30 of the yards coming on Arizona’s go-ahead touchdown drive. He scored on runs of two and three yards en route to passing 18,000 yards rushing.
Tiki Barber had 108 yards in 21 carries for the Giants (5-4), but had only 28 in nine carries in the second half.
New York’s futility included a bizarre fake punt, with punter Jeff Feagles throwing incomplete in an odd formation with players spread out all over the field.
Carolina 37, San Francisco 27 -- Muhsin Muhammad caught three touchdown passes from Jake Delhomme in the second half, and Todd Sauerbrun made the go-ahead field goal with 4:25 left at San Francisco.
Delhomme was 19 for 34 for 303 yards -- 123 on six passes to Muhammad -- to help the Panthers (2-7) end a six-game skid.
The Panthers scored 17 points in the last 7:12 after Brandon Lloyd’s 30-yard touchdown reception gave the 49ers (1-8) a 27-20 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Muhammad caught touchdown passes of four and 26 yards against a secondary that was without its four top cornerbacks because of injuries.
Tim Rattay passed for 284 yards, but had a key fumble and threw four interceptions.
Sauerbrun, a Pro Bowl punter, put the Panthers ahead with a 34-yard field goal.
John Kasay kicked two field goals for the Panthers before getting injured in the third quarter.