A recap of the Seahawks’ division-winning 16-6 victory over the St. Louis Rams at Qwest Field on Sunday night:
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
With apologies to Charlie Whitehurst, the nod goes to the defense. The Seahawks did not allow a touchdown for only the second time this season, and the first time since the opener against the 49ers. They forced three-and-outs on seven of the Rams’ 12 possessions. They held the Rams to 184 total yards, a season-low for a unit that was allowing an average of 380.9 entering the game and had yielded 400-plus six times. They sacked rookie QB Sam Bradford three times and tipped or deflected seven of his throws. They held Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson to 45 rushing yards, 35 below his average that had produced 1,196 in the first 15 games. They held the Rams to a 2-of-14 performance on third downs.
“They played a beautiful night of defense in stopping the running game and pressuring the quarterback,” coach Pete Carroll said.
End Raheem Brock had 2½ sacks. Linebacker Will Herring had a key interception at a critical juncture in the game. Linebacker David Hawthorne had a team-high seven tackles, putting him over 100 for the second consecutive season. Nickel back Jordan Babineaux had two of the seven tipped passes.
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Offense: Whitehurst passed 4 yards to Mike Williams for the game’s only touchdown on the first possession of the game. But it was Whitehurst’s 61-yard completion to wide receiver Ruvell Martin on the second play of the game that set up the score, and helped set the tempo for the evening.
“I thought it was a great start for us,” said Whitehurst, who was making only his second NFL start. “We hit the long pass and then Mike made a nice play on the touchdown. It’s great to start a game like that. You’d love to do that every game.”
Defense: Herring’s interception, which came in the fourth quarter and with the Seahawks holding a 13-6 lead. It came on a first-down pass from Bradford with the Rams on the Seahawks’ 46-yard line. Herring and middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu had intended receiver Brandon Gibson bracketed on the play, but Bradford went Gibson’s way anyway. The pick set the table for a 13-play, 47-yard drive to a field goal that consumed seven of the final 8½ minutes of the game.
“It was just a bad ball,” Bradford said. “I thought Gibby was going to sit down. He ended up going around the guy. We just weren’t on the same page right there, and I can’t throw it. I can’t put the ball there.”
But he did, and Herring made the first interception of his career.
Special teams: Rather than one, it was each of Jon Ryan’s four punts that were downed inside the Rams’ 20-yard line.
“He did an extraordinary job with field position,” Carroll said.
Pre-game: Brian Blades, the second-most productive receiver in Seahawks history behind Hall of Famer Steve Largent, raised the 12th Man flag in the south end zone just before kickoff. But even that was upstaged by cornerback and special teams captain Roy Lewis being presented the Steve Largent Award. Voted on by his teammates, the annual award goes to the player who best exemplifies the spirit, dedication and integrity of the Seahawks.
In-game: Free safety Earl Thomas didn’t get a sixth interception, which would have set the franchise record for a rookie. But he did flaunt his athletic ability with a diving, one-handed tackle of Rams kickoff returner Danny Amendola.
Post-game: Carroll stepping to the podium, cracking a smile and offering, “Was that fun or what?”
With Tyler Polumbus starting at left guard, the Seahawks used their 10th different starting combination on the offensive line this season.
The victory gave the Seahawks their fifth NFC West title, and seventh division title overall. They also won the AFC West in 1988 and 1999, to go with the NFC West titles from 2004-07 and this season.
The Seahawks rushed for 141 yards, only the fifth time this season they cracked triple digits.
The 1-2 punch of Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett combined for 1,096 rushing yards and eight rushing TDs this season. Lynch had 573 yards and six scores, while Forsett had 523 and two.
The Rams’ 2-for-14 performance on third downs marked the fifth time this season the Seahawks have held an opponent to less than 20 percent on the critical down.
Russell Okung tweaked his already sprained left ankle in the second quarter, but was able to return at the start of the second half. That’s good, because Chester Pitts got a concussion after he stepped in at left guard so Polumbus could move out to tackle to replace Okung.
Matt Hasselbeck was active for the game, despite the strained muscles in his left hip and buttock that he got last week. But he did not play, because Whitehurst’s performance allowed Carroll to keep his starting QB on the sideline.
“As much as we saw Charlie run, Matt would not have had that same mobility that was necessary in this game,” Carroll said.
By winning the NFC West, the Seahawks will face the following opponents next season:
Home – Eagles, Redskins, Ravens, Bengals, Falcons, Cardinals, 49ers, Rams.
Road – Cowboys, Giants, Browns, Steelers, Bears, Cardinals, 49ers, Rams.
YOU DON’T SAY
“It was a great feeling. Just being and playing in this atmosphere, I think today was just an appetizer of what next week’s going to feel like. And I can’t wait. It’s going to be fun.” – Babineaux, on the playoff-like win that put the Seahawks into the playoff next Saturday against the Saints at Qwest Field