By Cedric Williams
It’s been a topsy turvy season, marked by several big wins and even a few peculiar losses, but the Seattle Seahawks put themselves right where everyone expected them to be Thursday night. The Seahawks defeated the Los Angeles Rams 24-3 to clinch the NFC West and officially claim the playoff spot that comes with it.
Head coach Pete Carroll told the media, “I think it’s a huge significance in terms of consistency. It’s something that we really do take great pride in because of the implications for the playoffs,” in his post-game press conference, while his players celebrated winning their fourth division title during his reign as head coach, which began in 2010.
The Seahawks didn’t play their best game on Thursday night, but they were more than good enough to take care of the lowly Rams, who have now lost nine games in a row. At 9-4-1, the Seahawks know that no matter how their final two games of the regular season turn out, they will be hosting at least one NFC playoff game at CenturyLink Field when the playoffs begin next month.
On a night when the Seattle offense didn’t play its best, quarterback Russell Wilson stood out. He threw three touchdown passes, including a 1-yarder to receiver Doug Baldwin in the third quarter and a 57-yarder to Tyler Lockett that put Thursday’s game out of reach for the Rams.
Wilson finished the night with 229 passing yards, the three touchdowns and a 122.1 passer rating. Lockett led all players with seven catches for 130 yards and the score.
The Seahawks defense had a sensational night against what proved to be a listless Rams offense. Seattle held Los Angeles to just 183 total yards, with only 47 of those yards coming on the ground.
L.A. could only manage 13 first downs on Thursday, with three of those coming on defensive penalties by Seattle. The Seahawks also stymied the Rams on third downs, allowing the visitors to convert only three-of-12 third downs, while also stopping L.A. all four times it tried to convert on fourth down.
Perhaps the most encouraging stat of the night for the Seahawks was its four quarterback sacks. That number became important because, prior to Thursday, Seattle had just five sacks in its previous five games. The Seahawks have been desperately trying to find their pass rush during recent weeks and it could be an important key in the playoffs if Thursday night was the night they found it.
Special Teams: B
With the defense keeping the Rams bottled up and the offense making just enough big plays to pull away, the Seahawks didn’t really need much from their special teams. The key was not being fooled either time L.A. tried any of its funny business with fake punts or unusual alignments.
The Rams were using special teams coach John Fassel as their interim coach after firing Jeff Fisher on Monday, so it seemed a pretty good bet that they would try something on Thursday that they may have been holding back in their special teams playbook.
Seattle wasn’t fooled, and shut L.A. down in its tracks. It was a solid performance all the way around.
Nobody likes the quick turnaround of having to play a game on Thursday night, after having just played a game on Sunday, but the Seahawks didn’t seem too bothered by it. The defense even seemed inspired by the chance to stake its claim as one of the top units in the league again.
Many teams have showed up and flopped when it was their turn to be featured on Thursday Night Football, but the Seahawks seemed to handle the task about as well as any team could hope. They laid a pretty good whoopin’ on their rival Rams and now they have 10 days to get ready for a match-up against Arizona, with the playoffs set to begin two weeks after that.
The path to the Super Bowl is not completely set, but it’s beginning to take shape. And Thursday night, Seattle looked like a team that could find its way there just as it has with its division titles — for the third time in the last four years.
Next Up: The Seahawks will host their final home game of the season on Christmas Eve, December 24, against the Arizona Cardinals.