The nook of the tip zone beckoned for Rams working again Darrell Henderson, who took a third-quarter handoff, rounded the sting and sprinted towards the pylon. Scurrying away from Seattle’s line, Henderson evaded one defender — however not the person who raced clear throughout the formation to pull him down from behind, 2 yards in need of the objective line.
“There was no method I used to be going to let him stroll into that finish zone,” mentioned Jamal Adams, a Seattle security.
By stopping a landing, Adams preserved the Seahawks’ lead and embodied a smothering defensive effort that fueled their fifth victory in six video games, 20-9, over Los Angeles, clinching their first N.F.C. West title since 2016.
Again then, Seattle’s id revolved round its protection, round a fierce move rush, formidable secondary and the colourful personalities who powered each. This group doesn’t surpass the lofty customary set by the Legion of Boom. However over the past 5 weeks, because the playoffs draw close to, no workforce has allowed fewer factors (61) than the Seahawks.
“There have been instances throughout the season the place everyone had sufficient statistics to go forward and blow us out, that we weren’t price something on protection,” Coach Pete Carroll mentioned. “This protection is sweet. They usually’ve proven it they usually’ve declared it. That is the type of protection that we’ve performed in years previous.”
Regardless that the Rams ran extra performs and held the ball six minutes longer than Seattle did, they managed solely 9 factors, on three discipline targets, stifled in moments large and small. The Seahawks (11-4) sacked Jared Goff 3 times and intercepted him as soon as, and have been at their mightiest close to their very own finish zone, stuffing the Rams on 4 probabilities contained in the Seattle 4-yard line after Adams’s deal with.
Proper earlier than that stand, the Rams (9-6), trailing by 13-6, confronted second-and-5 from the 7. Adams tore into the backfield as quickly because the ball was snapped, pursued Henderson as if powered by rocket gasoline after which yanked him down shy of what might have been the tying landing. The subsequent 4 performs went for minus-2, 3, 0 and 0 yards, and after the Seahawks knocked again Malcolm Brown on fourth down, they galloped away collectively.
“Give us a blade of grass, and we’ll defend it,” mentioned Carroll, who added that he’ll do not forget that goal-line sequence endlessly. “We have been in full-on assault mode.”
That assault mode didn’t materialize on offense to the extent it did earlier within the season, when Russell Wilson was flinging landing passes at will. However after a desultory first half, Wilson led Seattle on an 80-yard scoring drive, then secured victory with a 13-yard move to Jacob Hollister with 2 minutes, 51 seconds remaining.
In clinching the division title, Seattle assured itself of incomes a minimum of the No. 3 seed within the N.F.C. It additionally denied the Rams of a playoff berth that appeared sure eight days in the past, when they prepared to host the winless Jets.
Even on this week-to-week league, the Rams are as reliable as an e mail from a Nigerian prince. Simply as they have been approaching stability, profitable 4 of 5 in a stretch that started with a Week 10 victory in opposition to Seattle, they collapsed in opposition to Jets. Put one other method, after beating Invoice Belichick on a brief week, Sean McVay had 10 days to out-coach Adam Gase and couldn’t.
In opposition to groups with profitable information — groups just like the Seahawks — the Rams had gained their final 4 till Sunday.
The stands at Lumen Area, one of many N.F.L.’s rowdier venues, usually would have been shaking for such a crucial recreation, heaving with boisterous followers. The Seahawks yearn for that atmosphere. So does McVay, who final week mentioned how a lot he had anticipated to overlook being yelled at. “I type of prefer it in a messed-up method,” he mentioned.
Perhaps so, however McVay would have most well-liked seeing proof that final week’s defeat was an aberration as an alternative of, maybe, the beginning of an unsettling development.
The primary half unfolded as an extension of each groups’ current fortunes, all middling offense and suffocating protection with a modicum of scoring. Had the sector been shortened to 60 yards, Seattle and Los Angeles won’t have seen: Neither ran a play within the pink zone.
The Rams’ forays into Seahawks territory produced two discipline targets and an interception that defied justification. On first-and-10 from the 29-yard line, Goff, flushed proper, tottered towards the sideline, the place a sliver of open area welcomed him. As an alternative of working, he floated a move throughout his physique into an space the dimensions of a metropolis park however absent any receivers.
One of some Seattle defenders close by, Quandre Diggs swooped in for the interception, Goff’s thirteenth of the season, and Seattle transformed the turnover into the sector objective that despatched the sport sputtering into halftime at 6-6.
When requested what he noticed on the interception, Diggs mentioned: “I couldn’t inform you. I imply, my coaches at all times informed me in highschool after I was a quarterback, by no means throw the ball throughout your physique.”
With their stingy protection and wonderful teaching, the Rams needn’t brilliance from Goff, simply competence. He doesn’t must be the explanation the Rams win, simply not a purpose they lose. In a league loaded with dazzling quarterbacks, the time period recreation supervisor appears to wield a pejorative connotation, but it surely shouldn’t.
Performing elemental duties of the place, like making sensible selections shortly and never turning the ball over, is one thing Goff has accomplished earlier than. However when he fails, it makes Wilson’s functionality ever extra noticeable.
Dependable quarterback play separated Seattle from the Rams on Sunday. However so did one thing else: Its protection, as soon as maligned however now, simply when the Seahawks wanted it, was an asset.