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Perfect at home, Seahawks primed to hit the road for playoffs
They are perfect at home, and perfectly fine with opening the playoff next weekend at either Washington or Dallas.
The Seahawks made both those points perfectly clear in the locker room at CenturyLink Field on Sunday after a 20-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams in their regular-season finale. While this one didn’t slip nicely into the blowout pattern they had been in during a three-game run that saw the Seahawks beat the Arizona Cardinals by 58, the Buffalo Bills by 35 and the San Francisco 49ers by 29 the past three weeks, the players also agreed that a pull-it-out-at-the-end victory was better preparation for what lies ahead.
“I think it was huge. I think we really needed that game,” rookie quarterback Russell Wilson said of reverting to the winning-at-the-end mode that served them so well in earlier wins over the also playoff-bound Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots, as well as a 10-point victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
“Obviously we’ve been winning by a lot, in terms of points. So to go into the playoffs with a game like that where you come down to the fourth quarter and the last drive of the game and finish the way we did, that’s great.”
The Seahawks, the No. 5 seed in the conference, will play the NFC East champion – either the Redskins or Cowboys – next Sunday afternoon. Those teams were playing Sunday night.
This Sunday’s tune-up wasn’t won until the very end. The Seahawks took their seven-point lead with one minute, 39 seconds left on a 1-yard run by Wilson – who also threw his 26th TD pass in the third quarter to fullback Michael Robinson to tie the NFL rookie record that was set by Peyton Manning in 1998.
And even that wasn’t enough, as this one wasn’t won until cornerback Richard Sherman intercepted Sam Bradford’s fourth-down pass at the Seahawks’ goal line with 33 seconds remaining – and a crowd of 67,936 revved-up fans going bonkers.
In between, Marshawn Lynch posted his 10th 100-yard rushing performance to finish with 1,590 yards, the third highest total in franchise history behind the 1,880 Shaun Alexander put up in 2005 and his 1,696 in 2004; and Golden Tate caught three passes for his first 100-yard receiving game of the season (105), not to mention the Lynch fumble he recovered on the second snap of the 10-play, 90-yard drive to Wilson’s game-winner.
On defense, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner had 10 tackles, giving him 140 to break the club rookie record that was set in 1977 by Terry Beeson (136). On special teams, Steven Hauschka kicked 49- and 43-yard field goals as the Seahawks took a 3-0 lead only to fall behind 7-3 and 10-6.
“It was a good, hard-fought win, and it was nice to finish like that in a tough situation and actually come from behind to get it done,” coach Pete Carroll said after the team had run its record to 11-5 in his third season.
“It was terrific for us to get this win, to win eight games at home. … That’s a tremendous asset to us, to move forward. To have a chance to be a championship team over the long haul, you have to dominate at home.”
On this Sunday at home, the Seahawks needed everything the offense, defense and special teams could muster late in the game, with the outcome hanging in the balance.
On the drive to the game-winning score, Lynch lost the ball and Tate was able to wedge his way among much bigger bodies to come up with the ball – and produce a first down.
“I had my hands and arms around it the whole time,” Tate said. “But with those big dudes down there and linemen pulling it away from me it was tough. I didn’t know if it was their guys pulling or our guys, but I knew that I had the ball in my hands and I was just trying to hold on until the referees saw that I had possession. I didn’t want anyone to take it from me.”
Three plays later, on thid-and-5, Tate went over cornerback Trumaine Johnson to pull down a 44-yard pass from Wilson at the Rams’ 29-yard line. Wilson then ran to the 4, and it appeared Lynch had scored on the next play. But the officials reviewed the run and the replay showed that Lynch stepped out of bounds before reaching the ball across the pylon.
Wilson then had a shot at his 27th TD pass, but decided it was more prudent to run the ball in from the 1.
“I was about to throw it to Zach (Miller) to break the record, and I realized that’s not me,” he said. “I wasn’t worried about that. The only thing was to obviously win the game.”
That’s where Sherman stepped in, with his eighth interception of the season.
“I was hunting,” said Sherman, who found out on Thursday that he had won his appeal of a league-imposed, four-game suspension. “I was waiting on that opportunity all day. I’ve been patient. I’ve been playing tight coverage. And I didn’t get many opportunities.
“So when I got an opportunity to overlap, I overlapped and got my hands on it.”
Now that he has helped lead the Seahawks this far, Wilson can’t wait to discover what lies ahead.
“I’m so excited, I’m ecstatic,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity. It’s a blessing. We’ve gotten wins so far in the regular season and now the whole season starts over. The mindset doesn’t change though – go 1-0 every week and continue to compete.
“We’re really excited about the opportunity, no matter where we go, and we’ll be ready to play.”