Quarterback Russell Wilson survived six sacks and multiple other hits to lead the Seahawks on a 90-yard scoring drive in the final three minutes that ended with a one-yard Wilson touchdown run for a 20-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field Sunday. It then took an end zone interception by Richard Sherman with 33 seconds left to preserve the victory, Seattle’s fifth in a row.
Winning for the seventh time in eight contests, the Seahawks did not win the NFC West title due to San Francisco’s 27-13 victory Sunday over the Arizona Cardinals. But they locked up the No. 5 conference seed and will play the No. 4 seed, the Washington Redskins and their fabulous rookie QB, Robert Griffin III, in an NFC wild card contest at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at FedEx Field.
Seattle finished the regular season 11-5 and 8-0 at home for the first time since the franchise’s Super Bowl year of 2005. Wilson became the first rookie quarterback in league history to lead his team to a perfect record at home.
“It was just a great finish for us to get this win at home,” said coach Pete Carroll. “I’m really proud of the way we finished, to put all these games in a row. You know, 11-5 is a helluva year in the NFL. Now, we’re really excited going forward.”
But the issue was in doubt until the final 30 seconds when Sherman, who avoided a four-game drug suspension last week, made his eighth interception of the season, picking off St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford on a fourth-down pass that fell short.
St. Louis mounted its final drive with 1:33 remaining after Wilson, who tied Peyton Manning’s rookie record with his 26th touchdown pass and finished the day with a 136.3 passer rating, orchestrated one of his best drives of the season.
With the score tied at 13, Seattle started its final drive on its 10-yard line. The Seahawks immediately had a huge scare when Marshawn Lynch coughed up the ball at the Seattle 20, but the Seahawks recovered, wide receiver Golden Tate emerging from the dogpile with the ball and a first down.
“That might have been my favorite play of the game,” said Carroll.
On third and five, Wilson escaped what would have been his seventh sack and threw a 44-yard completion to Tate, giving the Seahawks a first down on the St. Louis 29. Three plays later, Wilson had 15-yard scramble, setting up a first-and-goal from the four. Lynch ran for what officials initially ruled a touchdown, but the call was reversed, Lynch judged as having run out of bounds. That gave Seattle the ball at the one. Wilson broke away from a pass play that was well-covered and scrambled in for the winning points.
“Russell just found ways to get it done on the final drive,” said Carroll. “He’s an incredible kid and we’re lucky to have him on our side. We don’t want Russell to be a scrambler, and he doesn’t want to be a scrambler, but thank God he is. He’s got a style that just got us 11 wins. That 90-yard drive was awesome.”
Wilson completed 15 of 19 passes for 250 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Lynch finished with exactly 100 yards rushing and became the third Seahawk, following Chris Warren in 1994 and Shawn Alexander in both 2004 and 2005, to exceed 1,500 yards rushing in a season.
The defense allowed just 13 points and finished the season at 245, fewest in franchise history. The 1991 team allowed 261.
The Seahawks won their previous three games by a combined 150-30, but encountered an extremely competitive opponent in St. Louis, which took the steam out of the Seahawks’ offense by continually pressuring Wilson and containing him in the pocket.
Chris Long led the assault (and battery) against Wilson, collecting three of the sacks. The Rams sacked Wilson five times alone in the first half. Meanwhile, Seattle did not pressure Bradford at all.
“We just didn’t handle the pass rush well today,” Carroll admitted, although the Seahawks adjusted in the second half, permitting just one sack.
“We needed a grind-it-out game going into the playoffs,” added Sherman. “We were just playing a great, gritty football team. They presented some issues for us. The last time we played them it was a tough game.”
The Seahawks had a red zone opportunity early in the second period after Lynch ripped off a 24-yard run to the St. Louis 18-yard line. But when Wilson suffered his fourth sack, matching a season high, Seattle settled for a 43-yard field goal from Steven Hauschka and a 3-0 lead.
A 37-yard slant route from Bradford to Chris Givens gave the Rams a first down on the Seahawks 4, and Bradford hit Austin Pettis for a touchdown two plays later to boost St. Louis to a 7-3 lead. Kam Chancellor got his hand on the ball, but couldn’t knock it away.
After Long sacked Wilson – his third of the game, the Rams’ sixth — early in the third quarter, Hauschka kicked a 49-yard field goal, trimming the Rams’ lead to 7-6.
But Bradford directed an 11-play, 60-yard drive that resulted in Greg Zuerlein’s 39-yard field goal and a 10-6 St. Louis lead with 5:36 to play in the third quarter.
On a third and five, Wilson hit Golden Tate for a 31-yard gain to the St. Louis 18-yard line. Two plays later, Wilson hit fullback Michael Robinson in the flat for a 10-yard touchdown. That gave Seattle a 13-10 lead and enabled Wilson to tie Manning for most touchdown passes in a season by a rookie, 26.
The Seahawks attempted an on-side kick, but Chancellor touched the ball before it went 10 yards, giving St. Louis a first down on its 41-yard line. From there, Bradford led an 11-play drive that resulted in Zuerlein’s 25-yard field goal that tied the score 13 with 11:23 to play.
The Seahawks botched a chance to take a lead when a holding call on McCoy wiped out a 49-yard completion by Wilson to Doug Baldwin that would have provided another scoring opportunity in the red zone. But when Seattle got the ball again, Wilson commenced what turned into the game-winning drive.
NOTES: Seahawks players Sunday voted quarterback Russell Wilson the winner of the Steve Largent Award, presented annually to the player who best exemplifies the spirit, dedication and integrity of the team. The award is named after Hall of Famer Steve Largent, who won the first award in 1989.