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Bizarre kickoff that spurred Rams' win still hard to figure

When the dust settled after a bizarre kickoff to start overtime, Jeff Fisher's Rams got the better of Pete Carroll's Seahawks. Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A look back at the turning-point play in the St. Louis Rams' 34-31 win against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon:

The situation: After a late touchdown pass from quarterback Nick Foles to tight end Lance Kendricks sent the game to overtime, the Rams won the ensuing coin toss and elected to receive. Overtime rules dictate that both teams get a chance to score unless the team receiving scores a touchdown, in which case the game is over.

In an effort to steal that chance, Seattle coach Pete Carroll called for a squib kick to go high in the air to a Rams lineman down the field. Carroll's hope was that there would either be no return or the lineman would flub the catch and Seattle could recover. If that happened, according to referee Jeff Triplette, it would have counted as the Rams' chance to possess the ball (because the player touched the ball) and given Seattle a chance to score via any means to win the game.

The play: Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka set up the kick to hit it high in the air, which he did. But he fell way short on the intended distance, to the point where it looked like a designed onside kick. Hauschka's kick went almost directly up in the air about 14 yards down field. Rookie Rams receiver Bradley Marquez remained poised and saw the ball pop in the air before bailing out and getting downfield to block. He even had the presence of mind to call for a fair catch in an effort to protect himself. Marquez hauled it in as a pair of Seahawks crashed down on him to try to jar the ball loose. After an extended scrum, Marquez emerged with the ball despite Seattle's best efforts to jar it loose.

After separating the pile, Marquez and the Rams realized there was a flag on the field. But when Triplette announced the penalty as an invalid fair catch that would cost the Rams 5 yards and allow Seattle to re-kick rather than giving the Rams prime field position, the St. Louis sideline erupted in anger. The initial call operated under the assumption that Hauschka's kick hit the ground first, thus making the fair catch call illegal. Following a lengthy discussion, a different official said the ball did not hit the ground and the flag was waved off.

"I went with the official who had the primary responsibility with that," Triplette said after the game.

In the end, the call did no harm but it seemed to prevent the officials from making the proper call, which would have been a 15-yard infraction against Seattle for hitting Marquez after he called for a fair catch. As ESPN NFL Nation columnist Kevin Seifert pointed out, the rule actually states that an opponent can't block or tackle the player who calls for the fair catch. In this case, Marquez wasn't technically blocked or tackled, but the only out in the rule states that if the contact is incidental, it's OK. But there's no way the contact can be considered incidental here.

Fisher was unhappy with the lack of a call in that situation and said he asked about a flag for hitting Marquez only to be rebuffed.

"I just couldn’t convince them to enforce the penalty because they just wouldn’t put the ball on the 35-yard line,” Fisher said. “They just said, ‘We’re going to give you the ball right here. We’re not going to re-kick, so let’s go.’”

The fallout: Although the situation didn't get sorted out to its fullest extent, the eventual decision certainly offered the Rams a golden opportunity to put the game away. They took over at Seattle's 49 and after a 2-yard run, quarterback Nick Foles delivered a perfect throw to receiver Stedman Bailey for a 22-yard gain to Seattle's 25. After three more plays netted 6 yards, Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein booted a 37-yard field goal for the decisive points.

In a game full of plays that shifted its course, nothing was decided until overtime, but it was the kickoff to open OT and the bizarre sequence that followed that put the Rams in position to seal the deal.