SEATTLE (AP) — The celebration on the field was muted because the Seattle Seahawks don’t want winning a division title to be the apex of their season.
But there was an overwhelming sense of accomplishment in Seattle’s locker room after the Seahawks knocked off the St. Louis Rams 27-9 on Sunday to wrap up the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
“We know we had a couple shots at it earlier, and didn’t get that done, so it was frustrating,” coach Pete Carroll said. “When it came time to finish, we did it. Real proud of that and really excited about what’s coming up.”
Malcolm Smith returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter to get Seattle started, Marshawn Lynch added a 2-yard scoring run in the second half and the Seahawks (13-3) matched the franchise record for wins in a season.
By doing so, the favorites in the NFC for most of the season finally clinched the No. 1 seed after losses to San Francisco and last week to Arizona, which snapped a 14-game home winning streak.
Russell Wilson threw for 172 yards and a touchdown, and the Seahawks know they’ll be home again on Jan. 11 facing Green Bay, San Francisco or New Orleans in the divisional round of the postseason.
St. Louis (7-9) was trying to finish with a .500 record for the first time since 2006, but struggled to get going offensively and was undisciplined with penalties.
Here are five things learned from the Seahawks’ win over the Rams in their regular-season finale:
DOMINANT DEFENSE: Seattle’s dominant defense capped its season with a record performance. The Seahawks allowed only 13 yards rushing to the Rams, matching the franchise mark for a game set in 1990 against Green Bay.
Seattle finished the season leading the NFL in points allowed per game (14.4), total yards allowed (273.6), yards passing allowed (172.0), interceptions (28) and turnover margin (plus 20). Seattle is the third team since the merger to lead the league in interceptions and yards passing allowed. The previous two reached the Super Bowl.
PENALTY PROBLEMS: St. Louis lost its composure while Seattle kept its cool. The Rams were flagged for 12 penalties, including a dizzying stretch of flags in the third quarter that helped Seattle take a 20-3 lead. St. Louis was called for four personal fouls in the span of two plays late in the third quarter — two on Alec Ogletree and two on Kendall Langford.
Langford was flagged for making contact with an official, which appeared inadvertent. Langford was ejected and became incensed, slamming his helmet to the turf as he left the field. Two plays later, Lynch walked in from the 2 and Seattle led 20-3.
“I think we definitely have to reel it in — I mean as a whole — for sure,” St. Louis defensive end Chris Long said.
GREAT TATE: Golden Tate is headed into the playoffs coming off the best game of his career. Tate had eight catches for 129 yards and a 47-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. The receptions and yards were a career high for Tate, and his TD catch looked very familiar to his touchdown against the Rams in Week 8, but this time without the unsportsmanlike penalty.
Tate ended the regular season as Seattle’s leading receiver with 64 receptions.
“I think the last few weeks we kind of lacked explosive plays. I think we picked that up a little bit,” Tate said. “But with all that being said, we still have a lot of work to do. We have to continue to work, continue to get better. The best is yet to come, I feel like, and we’re just getting started.”
QUESTS DENIED: St. Louis’ Zac Stacy and Robert Quinn both fell short of milestones. Stacy was trying to reach 1,000 yards rushing for the season, an accomplishment that would have been even more impressive considering he didn’t become the starter until Week 5. Quinn was trying to become the 10th player to have 20 sacks in a regular season.
Stacy was held to 15 yards rushing on 15 carries, while Quinn had one sack in the first half but was kept away from Wilson in the second half.
“Trying to make plays while you’re out there, guess I fell a half short. I’ve got to say it’s been a great year for me,” Quinn said. “This defense, this team, to overcome what we had to overcome — we’ve got some good things going into the offseason to look forward to.”
INJURY WORRIES: Seattle was left with a pair of injury concerns heading into the postseason. Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane sustained a groin injury in the second half, although it didn’t appear serious. The bigger concern is with tight end Luke Willson, who was carted off the field with an air cast on his lower left leg. Carroll said the leg isn’t broken, but Willson’s status going forward is unknown.
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