Seahawks clinch division, home-field advantage


SEATTLE — First, the Seahawks kept their cool.

Then, they secured their status as the champions of the NFC West, in the process grabbing home-field advantage through the playoffs with a 27-9 win over St. Louis.

Seattle will now have a bye next weekend before hosting a divisional round playoff game on either Jan. 11 or 12 against either the Packers, 49ers or Saints.

Seattle never trailed in a game dominated by its defense, which held the Rams to 13 rushing yards—tying a team record set initially in a win against Green Bay in 1990 — and which set the tone with an interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Malcolm Smith on St. Louis’ first possession.

The game against a Rams team that Seattle players said this week liked to talk as much as any they play was raucous throughout, with pushing, shoving and finger pointing after the whistle the norm from the beginning.

But it was the Seahawks who generally kept their emotions in check as the Rams were called for 10 personal fouls through the first three quarters (not all enforced).

And in one especially chaotic sequence in the third quarter, Rams defensive tackle Kendall Langford was ejected for making contact with an official while was gesturing toward Seahawk players. He them slammed his helmet to the turf as he left the field.

The penalty put Seattle at the 1-yard line and the Seahawks scored two plays later to put the game out of reach at 20-3.

Seattle, though, was happy to add on to that with 9:14 left in the game when Golden Tate outmaneuvered Janoris Jenkins for a deep pass down the sideline, and then raced into the end zone for a 47-yard touchdown that made it 27-3. The play looked pretty similar to an 80-yard Tate touchdown, also past Jenkins, in Seattle’s 14-9 win over the Rams in St. Louis on Oct. 28.

Seattle led 13-0 at the end of a first half dominated by defense and penalties.

Smith’s early touchdown, though, gave the Seahawks an early cushion in a game the Seahawks needed to win to assure the NFC West title, its first since 2010 and eighth division title in franchise history. It’s the second time the Seahawks have had home field, the other coming in 2005 when Seattle used two home playoff wins to advance to its only Super Bowl.

Smith’s touchdown came after St. Louis had moved from its own 9 to the 33 when on second down, Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens stepped up and threw wildly for tight end Lance Kendricks. The pass was high and through his hands, instead going straight to Smith, who snared it at the 37 and raced untouched into the end zone.

After the Smith touchdown, Seattle added two Steven Hauschka field goals. The first, from 27 yards out, came with 6:18 to play in the second quarter to make it 10-0.

The second, from 35 yards away, came with three seconds to go in the first half and a play after the Seahawks appeared to have scored on a Wilson pass to Tate.

The touchdown, however, was nullified by a holding penalty on Russell Okung, indicative of the struggles of the Seattle offensive line throughout the first half as the Rams had three sacks and often had Wilson under duress.

Seattle was held to 130 yards in the first half and didn’t convert on its first five third down attempts, extending a streak to 0-14 dating to the first quarter of the Arizona game.

But Seattle converted its final two third downs of the half to set up the final Hauschka field goal, signs of life for an offense stagnant early on.

Seattle had just 19 yards in the first quarter but got 111 in the second, outgaining the Rams, 130-54, in the first half.

Wilson was 8 for 14 for 77 yards in the first half.

Seattle had already begun to show its dominance in the second half when Lynch’s touchdown run broke the game open.

 

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