ST. LOUIS (AP) -Winning two straight games after an 0-8 start has given the St. Louis Rams a respite from the doom and gloom. A dose of cockeyed optimism, too.
The Rams are still among the front-runners for the first overall pick in next year's draft, yet outside linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa found himself musing about somehow winning out, finishing at .500 and charging into 2008. Under his dreamy scenario, the Rams would be the talk of the NFL, even if the New England Patriots go 16-0.
``That would be the story of the year, as far as I'm concerned,'' Tinoisamoa said. ``Going from 0-8 to 8-8, that's better than an undefeated season to me.
``There's a lot that goes with that as far as fighting back and being professional, and that's definitely my goal.''
Of course, it could all fall apart before they can run their back-from-the-dead winning streak to a modest three games. The Rams (2-8) were impressive in their first victory at New Orleans, but won no style points last week in an ugly 13-9 victory over the 49ers. On Sunday they'll play the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks.
The Seahawks (6-4) embarrassed the Rams 33-6 in mid-October, knocking them to 0-7, and have a five-game winning streak in the series. They have the inside track on a fourth straight division title despite an injury-plagued season for 2005 NFL MVP Shaun Alexander that has prompted an offensive shift to the passing game.
``I hate to say it's their division, but they've been on top for quite a while,'' Rams running back Steven Jackson said. ``And we do have to go out and beat them.''
The Seahawks dominated in the second half of the first meeting, and intercepted Marc Bulger three times in a game that might be the low point of the Rams' dismal start.
``It was really a pathetic showing on our part as an offense,'' tight end Randy McMichael said. ``We made some of their players look like Pro Bowl players.
``It was just a bad trip all the way around.''
The wild card for the Rams is this time they'll have Jackson, sidelined by a groin injury in the first meeting. It's no coincidence that St. Louis is 2-0 since Jackson returned from back spasms.
Second-round pick Brian Leonard was serviceable as the stand-in, but Jackson led the NFL in yards rushing and receiving last year and is a force when healthy. Plus, a banged-up offensive line with three starters on injured reserve is getting reinforcements with Todd Steussie back from a broken foot in preseason and center Brett Romberg also likely to return after missing three games with a high ankle sprain.
Bulger was sacked six times last week playing behind a line composed mostly of castoffs. Asked whether he knew all of his linemen's names Bulger replied, ``Yeah. I'm not going to take a quiz.''
The Seahawks will try to make it three in a row without running back Shaun Alexander, who has a sprained left knee. Alexander has been hampered all year by a broken left wrist and has become something of a forgotten man, although teammates know it's not his fault they're leaning on quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
``Shaun was playing beat-up and we didn't say a lot about it at the time,'' wide receiver Bobby Engram said. ``We were doing him a disservice. Matt is playing so well and I think you just ride your strength.''
Hasselbeck has been hampered by a rib injury, but coach Mike Holmgren is counting on his experience getting him through gameday.
``Would you like him to practice? Certainly,'' Holmgren said. ``I think it's a tough assignment if you don't practice during the week, against anybody. But he is familiar, and I think if you're going to look for a little bit of a 'glass half-full' thing on there, yeah a division opponent helps.''
The Seahawks finish with four of six on the road, starting with Sunday's rematch in St. Louis. None of the games comes against a team with a winning record, although three are in the Eastern time zone for a three-hour body clock switch. Holmgren doesn't want to hear about that, nor crowd noise nor living out of a suitcase.
``Our organization does a great job in the scheduling, then it's up to individual guys to know how their body is going to respond,'' wide receiver Bobby Engram said. ``Whatever you need to do to get yourself mentally and physically prepared to play, then that's what we have to do.''
The Rams used to have a home-field advantage, but it has vanished with an 0-4 record and two games blacked out on local television because they didn't sell out.
The Rams played to capacity crowds in every regular-season game since moving to St. Louis in 1995 before last year's finale, a matchup of non-contenders on Christmas Eve against the Redskins. Now, it's becoming commonplace.
``This is a baseball town and everybody knows that, and in order for it to be a football town you have to win,'' McMichael said. ``We've got to find a way to get this energized.''

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