Rapid Reaction: Seahawks 20, Rams 13
December, 30, 2012
By Mike Sando | ESPN.com
Thoughts on the St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks following Seattle's 20-13 victory Sunday at CenturyLink Field:
What it means: The Seahawks are heading into the playoffs as the fifth-seeded team in the NFC. They will face the winner of the Dallas-Washington game on the road in the wild-card round. This game against the Rams lost its meaning for seeding purposes when San Francisco defeated Arizona. But with Russell Wilson leading a 90-yard drive to the winning touchdown, Seattle moved into the playoffs with an 11-5 record. The 49ers won the NFC West title and will get a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
The Rams more than held their own on the coaching front in this game, not the first time Jeff Fisher and staff have come out ahead against an NFC West opponent. Their quarterback, Sam Bradford, also seemed to fare well much of the time, at least until Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman picked him off in the final minute to preserve the victory for Seattle. The Rams can feel good about going 7-8-1 for the season after posting a 15-65 record over their previous five.
What I liked: The Rams' blitzing defense was as good as advertised. Chris Long collected three sacks. He and teammate Robert Quinn both hit double digits for the season. Quinn's speed was problematic for Russell Okung, the Seahawks' Pro Bowl left tackle.
Even when Wilson bought additional time, he often couldn't find open receivers down the field. The Rams did a very good job limiting his scrambles for much of the game. Both games against the Rams were a grind for Wilson. The difference this time was that Wilson had improved enough to remain efficient and ultimately lead the winning drive. The Rams get credit for making him work. They kept the game close and had a chance until the end, which is more than recent Seattle opponents could claim.
Seattle’s Chris Clemons, left off the NFC Pro Bowl roster despite a third consecutive season with 10-plus sacks, unleashed an all-star move on Rams left tackle Rodger Saffold early in the game. Clemons’ move to the inside made Saffold lose his balance and put him to the ground. Clemons then moved directly for the quarterback and brought down Bradford.
Bradford did a good job completing passes after scrambling. He has done a better job using movement to his advantage this season.
The Seahawks know they're set at quarterback when what was often a tough game for Wilson ends with a stat line featuring 15 completions in 19 attempts for 250 yards with one touchdown passing, another touchdown rushing and a 136.3 NFL passer rating. Wilson most likely set a franchise single-season record for passer rating.
What I didn't like: Both teams suffered from sloppy play featuring penalties (including 12 men on the field for the Rams) and dropped passes. Both coaches lost replay challenges. Seattle failed to execute an onside kick for the second time in two games against the Rams. Marshawn Lynch, despite rushing for 100 yards, fumbled deep in Seattle territory when a turnover would have been disastrous. Fortunately for him, the Rams continued to have a terrible time recovering opponent fumbles. They recovered only four of 17 opponent fumbles all season.
Jackson over 1,000: Rams running back Steven Jackson moved past 1,000 yards rushing for an eighth consecutive season. He did it with an aggressive run up the middle for a 14-yard gain. Only Emmitt Smith (11), Curtis Martin (10) and Barry Sanders (10) have put together longer strings of seasons with at least 1,000 yards. LaDainian Tomlinson and Thurman Thomas also hit that milestone in eight consecutive seasons.
Wilson and the record: Wilson entered this game needing one touchdown pass to tie Peyton Manning's single-season rookie record of 26. Wilson tied the record with a 10-yard scoring pass to Michael Robinson late in the third quarter. The scoring pass gave Seattle a 13-10 lead.
Zuerlein tails off: Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein was a game-changer with his long field goals early in the season. He made all four tries from 50-plus yards through Week 5. Zuerlein hasn't been nearly as good since then, however. His miss from 51 yards late in the first half Sunday dropped him to 3-of-9 from 50-plus yards since Week 6.
Injury impact: The Rams lost linebacker Rocky McIntosh to a concussion. Defensive tackle Michael Brockers left the game with an ankle injury. McIntosh and Brockers are key players for the Rams against the run. Brockers has had ankle trouble all season. The offseason will give him a welcome opportunity to get healthy. He dominated at times this season.
What's next: The Seahawks open the playoffs on the road against the NFC East champion. The Rams are finished for the season.