BY Art Thiel 11:30PM 12/27/2020

Thiel: Seahawks beat Rams, virus, NFC West

Solving for the virus, the Rams and the NFC West, Seahawks party like it’s 2016, the last time they won the division. With a dominant defense. You read that right.

One of the three times Rams RB Malcolm Brown was denied during a goal line stand by the Seahawks on LA’s first possession of the second half. / Corky Trewin, Seattle Seahawks

An abundance of game developments could have inspired coach Pete Carroll to begin his post-game remarks with, “This was a great Seahawks day,” including a defensive achievement so breathtaking it might rate recognition as the biggest sports turnaround since Bruce Jenner.

But beating the nemesis Rams 20-9 (box) Sunday afternoon at the Loo to win the NFC West title, assuring them of a top-three seed and a home game in the NFC playoffs, was more a byproduct than a climax in and of itself.  More than a culmination of talent and strategy, the achievement was strict adherence to a fresh layer of the Prime Directive, of which Carroll is extremely proud.

“Rule Number One: Always protect the team,” he said of avoiding the disruptions of COVID-19. “We’ve needed it all the way, every step of the way. Our guys have been so committed to it. They had to have been. We just pulled off something getting through this football season.”

The coronavirus pandemic is, of course, everyone’s problem. But avoiding its consequences in a professional contact sport when public health rules dictate avoiding contact for months with nearly everyone, is a feat.

In chaos, disruption is avoided by clarity of purpose.

“This is not something we just rolled through,” he said of the being the only NFL team not to have  positive test for COVID-19. “It has been constant for months before we ever started at the end of February. That’s because everybody cared so much. It was so important to them to be part of this.

“That’s about conscience, because it’s all the thousands of decisions that people have to make to keep going: “No, I have to go this way, so that I can protect my team.'”

Not losing players to isolation or quarantine was vital, because they are operating on thinner margins than some of the other teams they could meet in NFC playoffs, such as Green Bay, which beat Tennessee 40-14 Sunday night, or Tampa Bay, which beat Detroit 47-7 Saturday, or New Orleans, which beat Minnesota 52-33 Friday.

Not saying the Seahawks couldn’t beat one or all. But this is the first time in eight meetings with the Rams under coach Sean McVay that the Seahawks had some control, so we’re in the first hours of looking at the Seahawks from a fresh perspective.

Until Sunday, Seattle’s two wins in the series had been by one and six points, and the Rams always seemed to have the answers. This time, the Seahawks held a lead, albeit tenuous, for the final 25 minutes, made no turnovers and drove 80 yards in nine plays for the game-clinching touchdown inside the final three minutes.

More significantly, they held the Rams without a touchdown. In the past three games, they have given up only two, both to a Washington team already down 17 points in the fourth quarter.

The humbling of the Rams comes with a caveat. Apparently, QB Jared Goff played the fourth quarter with a thumb broken upon the helmet of Seahawks DE Benson Mayowa during a pass completion.  He still managed six completions in 14 attempts, but the 74 passing yards was testament to how little he went deep while behind.

Nevertheless, the Seahawks have held each of their past five opponents under 20 points, the first time for such a run since 2014, the last time they reached the Super Bowl.

Thinking back to September and October, when the Seahawks were surrendering real estate faster than the 19th-century Oklahoma land rush, it stretches the imagination to see mostly the same crew running a shutdown operation to win a division title.

“I think it’s been awesome,” FS Quandre Diggs said. “I think this is the plan that we had at the beginning of the year when we started those Zoom meetings, and we started training camp. This is what we dreamed about — holding teams to nine points, really good offenses, division opponents on a championship day.

“We did it. This is what we dreamed about and we put it into motion. We just have to keep this thing going.”

Diggs capped a big personal week for him. After he was named to his first Pro Bowl, he had his team-high fifth interception to stop a deep Rams drive when Goff, rolling out to the far sideline, inexplicably threw to no one but him. Said Goff of the game’s only turnover: “One of the worst plays in my career.”

Diggs was grateful.

“Being able to go out there and play at a championship level, in a championship game, win a division for the first time in my career, it’s dope,” he said. “I’m eager to see that banner up in the VMAC so I can look at it every day while we’re in meetings. We got the hats and t-shirts to cap off a great week.”

The most dramatic testimony to the defensive dominance was at the end of the Rams’ first possession of the second half — trailing 13-6 with a first-and-goal from the Seattle 2-yard line, the Rams ran the ball four times and were stoned four times.

“There was never a more heroic opportunity than down there on the goal-line,” Carroll said. “You’ve seen the heart of our players in earlier times this season come through. They did it again.

“The goal line stand was a famous one, one I’ll never forget,  just because it was so hard. The ball was on the one-inch line, or whatever, and they did not let it happen.”

Another thing that was not forgotten Sunday was what happened about a year ago when the division title was up for grabs. The San Francisco 49ers took it with a 26-21 triumph when TE Jacob Hollister’s run after a reception with the potential game-winning touchdown was stopped about an inch from the goal line.

Again, Hollister found himself in the division-winning crucible. This time, QB Russell Wilson finished his 5-for-5 passing in the final drive with a perfect lob over the defense to Hollister in the same end zone where he was denied.

“That’s a little bit of poetry right there,” Carroll said. “We were right in this exact same situation, where if we cross there, we win. What I like about the analogy, is that we’ve been here before. We’ve been this close. This time we really pushed over the top and left no doubt. (Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) knew exactly what he wanted and Russ loved the thought, and they worked it out perfectly.

“At the right moment, we did right.”

Just as Wilson and WR David Moore did right on the opening drive of the second half, when they connected on a 45-yard beauty, the game’s longest play, to set up Seattle’s first touchdown.

Big plays were few, but good plays were big enough for Seattle’s first division crown since 2016, with a game left Sunday with San Francisco (in Arizona, due to the virus). To top this divisional gang was big for Carroll.

“We all knew that this division is as tough as it gets,” he said. “It does add to the accomplishment. We appreciate that.”

Almost as much as they appreciate doing right by staying the hell away from the virus.

WR David Moore hauls in a 45-yard pass from Russell Wilson that broke open the game. / Corky Trewin, Seattle Seahawks

 

 


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YourThoughts

  • Chris Alexander

    The goal-line stand was huge but the play right before the goal-line stand was THE KEY. Jamal Adams rushed from the left side of the line and chased down the running back on the right sideline, tackling him at the 2 when there was no one else who had a chance to stop him. Minus the hustle of Adams, that was an easy 6 points for the Rams.

    I texted my son after that play and simply said, “Damn, Adams is FAST.”

    Huge play! Which set up a Huge Huge goal line stand! Which helped secure a HUGE win!

    NFC West Champions!

    Go Hawks!

    • Coop

      Jamal Adams is the team’s MVP this year imo.

      • art thiel

        The case is being made well. Turning around an entire defense is a man’s work.

      • Topcatone

        Reid is right up there as well.

    • art thiel

      Adams’ rundown was large. And unfortunately for the Rams, the clean tackle sprained the ankle of Henderson, the No. 2 RB in the injury absence of top rusher Cam Akers, leaving LA to try the No. 3 RB three times from inside the 2. Lots going on in that play.

    • 1coolguy

      I agree – He ran from the opposite side, across the field and laid out to tackle Henderson. It was the epidemy of desire and skill that I have seen – it is on par with DK’s run down of Baker. That’s not something that’s taught – it’s part of a players makeup and these two have it. Definitely the play of the game.

      • art thiel

        Both plays do share the skill that’s beyond pure speed — it’s the will to sustain the effort.

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    • Howard Hart

      Motor! Gotta bring it every play just as Adams does.

    • Howard Hart

      It reminded me of the another goal line stand some years ago against the Rams. The Hawks brought in a special teamer (don’t recall his name but he was a dog on kiick coverages) as a linebacker and he stuffed the hole and the Rams RB big time!

  • Alan Harrison

    Wow, I didn’t realize that Jared Goff had fallen so far. The Seahawk defense was outstanding, mind you, which is a whole lot of the reason. But he was kinda awful (I hate to use technical jargon like that) even before he got hurt. You could see that McVay was really ticked at him for making dumb decision after dumb decision. What the hell happened to him? Or is it that unless your last name is Brady, dropback passers are a thing of the past, as the commentators suggested?

    This photo is from a Rams fan site. They’re done with him. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b8dd09df8f4f8b20b90ca2da567a844d89df763814c9d22addaa8e298a16f26c.jpg

    • Tim

      I’m not a Goff fan, but when he popped his thumb back in place, he earned some big-time respect from me. That was bad-ass!

      • art thiel

        I don’t doubt Goff has the guts for the position. But split-second judgment skills separate the good from the great.

      • 1coolguy

        I happens and that’s just what you do. I’m no jock but I’ve done it as did others I played with. It’s just a part of the game.

    • art thiel

      I’d say the photo is a tad harsh. He did help beat the Seahawks once this year. But under pressure, he’s vulnerable to more mistakes than the average NFL QB. And the days are over when Trent Dilfer can get a team to win a Super Bowl.

  • Tim

    With no real homefield advantage outside of Green Bay, we sure look primed for a deep run! That swarming d was reminiscent of the good old days! Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      If they get the No. 2 seed, that makes for a second home game if they win the first.

      • Husky73

        Sop, the 49er game has meaning?

        • art thiel

          Yes, the Seahawks still have a path, barely, for the top seed.

  • coug73

    PC football, play under control, play conservative, play correct to what’s available. I liked the D performance and the O got’er done. Perhaps it seemed old school football but I liked it. Beat the 9’ers.

    • art thiel

      What it lacks in flamboyance, the style seems to make up in substance.

  • Warchild_70

    Greatest read yet, Art! This was for all the marbles and I predicted it was to be a slobber knocker defensive ho-down and was it satisfyingly enjoyable seeing the D in control. BTW your new name for the clink, the “Loo” is perfectly describing what happened Sunday. “Come to Loo and y’all are going to have a mighty dump put on ya!” Have a happy New Year old scribe.

    • art thiel

      Thanks, although your stadium subtitle may be a bit graphic for some tastes.

  • Kevin Lynch

    The Hawks defense was admirable. They have come a long way. Carroll and team should be extremely proud. The other takeaway for me had to do with watching Wilson, Rodgers and Goff on the same afternoon and evening. Watching how Rodgers and Wilson are so in tune with their game, their downfield vision, and the calmness with which they make tight throws and big throws with the game on the line. Magnificent. And then there’s Jared Goff. He actually played better AFTER breaking his thumb but his incomprehensible loss of confidence and trust in what he can do is frightening. That does not take anything away from a very big Seattle victory, however.

    • Topcatone

      Don’t forget that Goff DID complete 24 passes. He had very good protection. When a QB has great protection, good QBs are deadly. Hawks pass defense for sure steadily improving, but still in trouble against a great QB with pass protection. Without a bumbling Goff and running back injuries (and the goal line stand), Rams could easily have won the game. Rams have a great defense though, and a win is a win. If Goff is finished for the playoffs, do the Hawks want to play the Rams? Hmmm

      • Kevin Lynch

        Yes. It’s very difficult to sack Rodgers, the way he slides and the line protects, so a Green Bay game would be the toughest test, especially in Green Bay with inclement weather.

        • art thiel

          Seahawks have never won there in the playoffs. Just getting there is brutal.

      • art thiel

        No Goff? Of course, the Seahawks would love that shot. The Rams are having the kind of late season bad health luck the Seahawks had a year ago. Purely random.

    • art thiel

      Actually, Goff’s thumb kept him from throwing deep in 4Q, in which he was 6 of 14. Let’s not forget Goff got the Rams to a SB.

      • Kevin Lynch

        I remember Jared throwing a bomb in the first minute of the Super Bowl and connecting. That brave Goff is the one who ‘disapperated’ (Harry Potter term), or vanished. He overdid the ‘careful’ tendency and lost the instinct that advises regarding aggressive risk or conservatism. It’s a delicate balance, Art. He only did two things wrong Sunday – he dinna wanna run and he dinna wanna throw. Oy!

  • 1coolguy

    Being the uncontroversial guy that I am, let me once again be very honest and offer my Mea Culpa’s to Norton, who I was not terribly kind to during the D’s horrible run earlier in the season, even suggesting PC look at Quinn.
    Apparently Norton and PC saw things no one else did, and as Adams and others have said, without preseason and with so many players coming together for the first time, there was a real lack of communication on the D.
    Now they know each other, what each can do, where to play in the scheme, etc and it is coming together – 9, 15, 3, 17,17, 21 are the points allowed in the last 6 games.
    We all know the LOB was one of the best D’s of all time, but these numbers are beginning to look like the start of a D we can call “the real deal”.
    If these guys can be kept together for a few years, it can get scary.
    So congrats to PC, KN and JS for giving us yet another championship D.

    • art thiel

      I remember your certainty that i t had to be Norton’s fault, so I commend your public supplication. That provides hope that you will someday see the president for what he is.

      • 1coolguy

        Geez Art, really? Presuming you backed Clinton and Dead Man Walking Biden, those are not choices to be proud of. Joe doesn’t take spontaneous questions now from reporters, as he is mentally shot.
        He is a BIG target and let me say this: Turnabout is fair play and I won’t miss a chance to scorch him over the next 4 years, as you did Trump.

        • art thiel

          Whataboutism is not an adequate response.

  • 1coolguy

    Ok, it may be time for some comparisons, lest I risk losing my stature here.
    The LOB was one of the greatest D’s of all time, and their 4 year run allowing the fewest PPG may never be equaled, BUT as to the 3 main players, Earl, Sherm and Kam, am I going out on a limb to say that Adams is on the same or maybe even better level than the beloved Kam?
    We may never see better position players on the Hawks than Earl and Sherm, but Adams is clearly showing he is a beast. His coverage, run stopping and sacks (he’s now the all-time DB sacks leader) skills are all at a high level. He seems to be more versatile than Kam.
    What are your thoughts?

    • Husky73

      Adams is Seattle’s first round pick in 2021. Adams is Seattle’s first round pick in 2022. Perfect. The Seahawks have better luck in the later rounds anyway, unless Schneider can find a way to pick Molden.

      • Stephen Pitell

        Yes, and because the Jets had to wait one year and two years to use those draft picks, their draft value equals a second and a third round picks. Not much real value when considering they will be late round as well.

        • art thiel

          The trade value was obviously going to work well in Seattle’s favor in 2020. It’s a win-now bid for Seahawks. Let’s revisit in 2023.

          • Stephen Pitell

            We have already reaped the reward for the trade. Without Adams it is much less likely we would be NFCW champs. However far we go in the playoffs will be in part due to Adams’ influence on our D.

            Too many decisions will be made between now and then (2023) for anyone to draw any firm conclusions as to what universe results from something that happens in 2020.

    • art thiel

      They play the SS position differently. Kam was primarily a big, strong run stopper playing underneath zone in pass coverage. Adams is faster, able to cover intermediate routes and blitz from the corner. Give Carroll/Norton credit for adjusting schemes to suit talent on hand.

  • Husky73

    Reggie Jackson, Mr. October— Derek Jeter, Mr. November—Pete Carroll, Mr. December

    • art thiel

      Didn’t Steinbrenner derisively call Dave Winfield Mr. May?

      • Husky73

        He did, and then hired a rat named Howard Spira to dig up dirt. And The Boss has a plaque in Monument Park…….

  • DJ

    Thanks Art! What FUN! Man, what a solid all around performance. It really seems like the Hawks have centered themselves after the various swings to the extremes this season. Nothing more satisfying than beating the next new thing in coaching with Carroll’s tried and true.

    What’s particularly important is that they not only believe in themselves, but each step forward just cements that for them. Great vocal leaders, and cheerleaders in Pete, Russ, Bobby & Jamal will only push them further along, upping the intensity, now that they are going the right direction and the Newbies are getting a taste of success in the NFL.

    I predict that haven’t seen their best yet, and they will only get better each game forward, barring injury.

    GO HAWKS!!!

    • art thiel

      Also getting better is the quality of the opposition.

  • B-squared

    I hope you knocked on wood when you wrote about the Hawks not having any positive cases. That’s a kudo best left for when the season is over :)

    • art thiel

      As with everything in life, we’re all day to day.

  • Husky73

    Great Bruce Jenner reference.

  • jafabian

    The defense has completely reinvented itself since the Bills loss. They’re putting pressure on the QB, getting sacks, tackles for loss, interceptions and since then teams are only averaging 15PPG against them. Don’t hear as many calls for Ken Norton to be fired by fair weather fans as before.

    If the Saints and Packers lose next Sunday I believe the Hawks would have home field advantage in the playoffs though this season that might not be as much of a thing as before.

    • Topcatone

      Well, if they can get the bye it will be big.

      • Howard Hart

        I think they have to end up in the #1 or #2 spot to get home field and bye.

  • Stephen Pitell

    I’m curious if “the Loo” is catching on as the nickname of Luden’s Field by the other reporters?

    • art thiel

      You’ll have to ask. I’m a columnist, so I sometimes color outside the lines.