Seahawks claim division title and NFC’s No. 1 seed

Posted Dec 29, 2013

Needing one victory to win so much, the Seahawks took care of business on Sunday by handing the St. Louis Rams a 27-9 loss at CenturyLink Field in their regular-season finale.

The third time wasn’t only charming, it was alarming.

After failing to clinch the NFC West championship twice in their previous three games, the Seahawks left no doubt about who is the best team in the NFL’s best conference on Sunday with a convincing 27-9 victory over the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field.

The victory not only wrapped up the division, it gave the Seahawks a bye in next weekend’s opening round of the playoffs and also home-field advantage throughout the postseason as the NFC’s No. 1 seed.

Malcolm Smith returned an interception for a touchdown, Marshawn Lynch ran for one and Russell Wilson passed to Golden Tate for yet another for the Seahawks.

The victory also was the Seahawks’ 13th of the season, tying the 2005 Super Bowl team for the most in franchise history.

It also was their seventh home victory, which ties for second-best in club history with the 1984, 1986 and 2007 teams. The Seahawks were unbeaten at home in 2003, 2005 and 2012. They already had posted a franchise-best 6-2 record on the road. The Seahawks’ only home loss in the past two seasons came last week against the Arizona Cardinals.

The victory also was the 24th for Russell Wilson, increasing his record total for most wins by a quarterback in his first two seasons, and pushing his winning percentage to .750 (24-8) – second among all actives QBs to the Patriots’ Tom Brady (W, .775, 148-43; L, .769, 147-44).

The Seahawks took a 13-0 halftime lead, and can thank their No. 1-ranked defense for that.

Linebacker Malcolm Smith intercepted a Kellen Clemens pass that went through the hands of Lance Kendricks and returned it 37 yards for a score with 9:50 left in the first quarter. Smith is subbing for an injured K.J. Wright at weak-side linebacker, but his play in the opening quarter was all strong-side stuff. Just before making his pick-six, Smith was not fooled on an end around by Chris Givens and dropped the Rams’ wide-out for a 4-yard loss along the Seahawks’ sideline. The first person to give him a slap on the helmet? Wright.

The Seahawks’ offense continued to struggle in the opening quarter, as it went 0 for 3 on third downs, continuing an unnerving trend that saw them go 2 for 13 against the Cardinals last week and 3 of 13 the week before against the Giants.

The Seahawks pushed their lead to 10-0 on a 28-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka with 6:14 left in the half that capped an 11-play, 65-yard drive that consumed 6½ minutes. Marshawn Lynch carried six times for 34 yards and Russell Wilson was 2 of 3 for 24 yards. In the Seahawks’ Week 8 win in St. Louis, Lynch had 23 yards on eight carries. In the second quarter, he had eight carries for 40 yards.

Cornerback Byron Maxwell came up with his fourth interception in four games, and the Seahawks’ 11th in the past three games, with 5½ minutes left. But the offense went three-and-out. Brandon Mebane, the Seahawks’ nose tackle, was throwing his weight around the entire first half – just latest indication of why this guy needs some Pro Bowl recognition. On the pass that Maxwell intercepted, it was Mebane who was in Kellen Clemens’ face.

A 35-yard field goal by Hauschka made it 13-0 with 3 seconds left, capping a 10-play, 44-yard drive in which the Seahawks converted a pair of third-down situations. The Seahawks scored a touchdown just before Hauschka’s second field goal – on a 7-yard pass from Wilson to Golden Tate – but Russell Okung, the Seahawks’ left tackle, was penalized for holding the Rams’ Robert Quinn on the play.

The Rams got on the board when Greg Zuerlein kicked a 36-yard field goal with 10:49 left in the third quarter to cap a five-play, 13-yard drive. The Seahawks’ offense and special teams assisted the Rams, as Wilson was penalized for grounding to move the ball back to the Seahawks’ 6-yard line and the special teams then gave up a 32-yard punt return to Austin Pettis – more punt return yards than the Seahawks had allowed all season – to the Seahawks’ 31.

The Seahawks came right back, driving 80 yards in 13 plays to a 2-yard TD run by Marshawn Lynch. The drive consumed 8½ minutes included a personal foul and two unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties on the Rams. Wilson was 3 of 3 for 34 yards on the drive, while Lynch carried seven times for 22 of the toughest yards you’ll ever see on the drive this 12th rushing TD of the season and also caught a 4-yard pass.

On back-to-back snaps on the opening possession of the half, Brandon Mebane dropped Zac Stacy for a 1-yard gain on second-and-2 and the Seahawks’ nose tackle then bulled through an attempted block to pressure Kellen Clemens into an incompletion on third-and-1.

The Seahawks pushed their lead to 27-3 when Golden Tate made a nice adjustment on a sideline pass from Russell Wilson to catch the ball at the 20 and then ran it in for a 47-yard touchdown. The four-play, 61-yard drive started with three runs for 14 yards by Marshawn Lynch before Wilson went to Tate for the TD.

The Rams scored their first TD against the Seahawks this season with 4:13 left on a 2-yard pass from Kellen Clemens to Lance Kendricks. The two-point conversion failed when Bryon Maxwell punched a pass from the grasp of Jared Cook in the end zone. The Rams drove 71 yards in 13 plays.