Sunday wasn't quite the celebration it could have and should have been, not without Seahawks fans packing Lumen Field to help celebrate an NFC West-clinching win, but this was still a special day in a what has been a challenging but rewarding season for the Seahawks.
After clinching their fifth NFC West title under Pete Carroll and John Schneider, and their first since 2016, the Seahawks celebrated their 20-9 victory over the Rams in the locker room, but were unable to enjoy it with their fans due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has forced Seattle to play in an empty stadium all season long.
"This was a great Seahawks day," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "I'm really proud of what we've accomplished, just by getting to this division championship right now. Just through all of the challenges that we've faced, and all of the things on the outside that we're all dealing with and all of that, for this group to continue to hold focus and really find their best, through the process, I'm really fired up about it and proud of it. A really cool game… I wish our fans would have been here. I hope you all had a great time at home. I hope you were hooting and hollering, going crazy. We love you, we wish we could have shared it with you today, but I'm sure you had fun. You had to have fun anyways, that's the good part. We love all the 12s, and we wish we could have had you here with us today."
But unusual or not, this was a victory to savor for the Seahawks, who sported shirts that read "Division Champions" and "Won Not Done" after knocking off the Rams to improve to 11-4.
Russell Wilson, who wore a Kobe Bryant jersey before and after the game, reflected on all 2020 has thrown at the world this year, from COVID-19 to the continuing fight against racism following the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, to the shocking death of Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others in a January helicopter crash.
"It's such a huge blessing," Wilson said of winning the division. "Obviously this year has been a challenging year… There are just so many circumstances that have been running through my mind all year, and I think to be able to get to here tonight and for us to play for the NFC West Championship at the end of December here, December 27th, it feels like it's been a long year."
Safety Jamal Adams, who in three seasons with the Jets never played on team with a winning record, let alone on a team that won its division, brought a victory cigar with him to his postgame press conference, then lit it when he was finished, saying "I'm going to enjoy my cigar, God bless you guys. I hope all of you guys have a wonderful day."
A few minutes earlier, Adams couldn't contain his excitement when asked about winning a division title.
"God is good, God is good. You know, I don't want to be too happy because I don't want people to say he's dramatic or he hasn't been here before. You're damn right I haven't been here before so dammit, it feels good, it feels great! Golly we came out victorious and, man, what a hard-fought battle. A lot of respect goes out to L.A. and what they do. A lot of respect to them. But man, it feels damn good."
After the game, Carroll had linebacker K.J. Wright, the team's longest-tenured player, address the team in the locker room.
His message, Wright said, was "Cherish this moment because it doesn't come around too often. Cherish this moment because it's been a while since we have been NFC West champs. This team is special. Our brotherhood, our togetherness brought us to this moment. I'm so proud of everyone that is on this squad, from the coaching staff, to the equipment guys, and the training staff on down. A complete team effort and this feels really good."
Of course, as the commemorative shirts noted, winning the division is hardly the end goal for this team. The Seahawks have one more regular season game left when they play the 49ers in Week 17, then, depending on what happens with that game and others around the NFC, they'll either host a game in the Wild Card round or, perhaps if a lot goes their way next weekend, get a bye. But regardless of seeding, this is a team that believe it's built for a deep playoff run.
"You think about how our defense played and how they've continued to grow throughout the weeks, and how we're all kind of coming together all at one time, it's been a special year, and a lot of special guys are in that locker room," Wilson said. "… The reality for us is we can't be satisfied with where we are. We want to go somewhere, and we don't want to just go there, we want to win it. Hopefully we can get that done."
The best photos from Seattle Seahawks vs. Los Angeles Rams at Lumen Field. Fueled by Nesquik.