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Sunday, January 2, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Seahawks 16, Rams 6

By Mike Sando

Thoughts on the St. Louis Rams-Seattle Seahawks game Sunday night:

What it means: Seattle becomes the first team with a losing record to win its division. The Seahawks (7-9) face the New Orleans Saints in a wild-card game at Qwest Field. Kickoff is 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday. The Rams also finished with a 7-9 record, but Seattle held the tiebreaker based on a superior division record (4-2 to 3-3). The Seahawks have now won five NFC West titles in the last seven seasons.

What I liked: Seattle came out aggressively and found Ruvell Martin, an ex-Ram, for a 61-yard gain from a four-receiver grouping. That was about as aggressive as it got in the first half, but at least the Seahawks made one decisive strike. Martin was wide open. The Seahawks also got their running game going, particularly in the second half, and that allowed them to control the game.

What I didn't like: The Rams seemed to forget about Steven Jackson, their only Pro Bowl player, early in the game. They looked like a team with no confidence in their ground game even though Seattle has struggled against the run. They ran an end-around that lost 9 yards. They ran Jackson up the middle from a four-receiver grouping. They got cute with a quick inside handoff to fullback Mike Karney. Seattle, meanwhile, tried to run the ball early despite the sorry state of its ground game this season. Marshawn Lynch carried for minus-4, 12, minus-3, zero, minus-5 and minus-1 yards in the first half. That comes out to six carries for minus-1 yard.

Injurie(s) of note: Seattle lost left guard Chester Pitts to a concussion. Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung returned to the game after aggravating an ankle injury.

Tomorrow's talker: We'll surely hear more about whether the NFL should adjust its playoff seeding formula.

Big revelation: Matt Hasselbeck was healthy enough to serve as the No. 2 quarterback, but the Seahawks did not start him. That surprised me. I thought Seattle would start Hasselbeck if he were healthy enough to play, or else name him the third quarterback. Hasselbeck appeared to be moving and throwing as usual during warmups.

Goat: Rams quarterback Sam Bradford threw a crushing interception in the fourth quarter as St. Louis was driving toward what could have been the tying touchdown. I'm not sure whether Bradford or receiver Brandon Gibson erred on this one, but the results were costly for St. Louis.

What's next: The Rams hold the 14th overall choice in the 2011 NFL draft. The Seahawks advance to the wild-card round.