ST. LOUIS (AP) — Everyone is well-aware of Jeff Fisher's affinity for trick plays. He really knows how to pick his spots.
"If we need them, if the opportunity is there, that's who we are," Fisher said Monday. "That's what we do."
Johnny Hekker's fake punt that helped the St. Louis Rams play keep-away and finish off the Seattle Seahawks was a mixture of design, deception and derring-do. The call caught Rams players by surprise, too, until special teams captain Chase Reynolds said, 'Yeah, it's real! Let's do it!"
They got over the shock, then put one over on the Super Bowl champions on fourth-and-3 from the Rams 18 and less than three minutes to go when Hekker hit up back Benny Cunningham for 18 yards.
"We're so prepared, it's scary," Hekker said. "There was no off call. It was go time. We were ready."
Fisher's rationale was simple. That was the only way the Rams could win.
Russell Wilson had been nearly unstoppable, becoming the first NFL quarterback to pass for 300 yards and run for 100 yards, and the Seahawks would have had plenty of time.
Seattle had a whopping advantage in total yards, 463 to 272, but lost where it count. Maybe, even from the 18, they should have known.
"That's the kind of team they are," Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman said. "Jeff Fisher is a gambling coach and he takes them at different times in a game. It was a good play and a good call."
That was the fifth time in three seasons Fisher has relied on his punter's arm instead of his leg. Hekker is 4 for 5 for 60 yards and in 2012 duped the Seahawks for the go-ahead touchdown pass on a fake field goal when Danny Amendola dawdled leaving the field and lined up all alone near the sideline.
"Sure, there's a couple of butterflies definitely," Hekker said. "We work on every situation possible. We're ready when the time comes."
Stedman Bailey's 90-yard punt return got a massive assist from Tavon Austin, who staggered and then tumbled to the turf while preparing to make a phantom catch on the opposite sideline. Fisher noted with a smile that other special teamers yelled "Right! Right!" to further confuse the Seahawks and draw them toward Austin.
Don't forget Fisher's masterpiece of deception. The Music City Miracle, the lateral pass from Frank Wycheck to Kevin Dyson that kept the Titans alive in the 2000 postseason for a Super Bowl matchup against the Rams, who beat them 23-16.
"If you have the reputation that you're fearless from the standpoint of making those calls, you're going to be able to dictate some things," Fisher said. "That's what we try to do."
Austin scored on a reverse last season, a play the Titans nearly clicked on under Fisher when Adam Jones was a rookie. Fisher readily recalls the play was nullified because Brad Hopkins was whistled for holding. He also scored on a 98-yard punt return against Indianapolis last year, waving everybody away and then fielding the ball at the last instant on the sideline.
That Hekker was a high school quarterback with a power arm factored into the Rams decision to sign him as an undrafted free agent out of Oregon State. He led the NFL in net punting last year, perhaps partly because teams were worried about the fake.
The Rams released Austin Pettis to clear roster space elsewhere Monday, perhaps at linebacker. They have five receivers, all brought in by Fisher.
Pettis made 11 starts in four seasons after the Rams drafted him in the third round in 2011. He's been the fifth or sixth wide receiver this year and totaled 12 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL