In case the recent blowouts clouded memory, Seattle rookie Russell Wilson can still put together a fourth-quarter, game-winning drive.
That came after he put his name alongside Peyton Manning in the NFL record book.
Wilson tied Peyton Manning’s record for most touchdown passes by a rookie with 26, and his 1-yard TD run with 1:39 left gave Seattle a 20-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday and an 8-0 home mark for the Seahawks.
”To tie that record is really something special,” Wilson said. ”It’s a tribute to my faith and all God has put me through, but also to my team and what they’ve done.”
Seattle (11-5) had hopes of still winning the NFC West entering the day, but needed Arizona to pull off a stunning upset of San Francisco. For a while, it looked plausible with Arizona holding an early 6-0 lead and trailing just 7-6 at halftime. But San Francisco pulled away in the third quarter and with it went Seattle’s hopes of being any more than just the No. 5 seed and a road trip for the first round of the playoffs.
Seattle will travel to NFC East champion Washington for the first round of the playoffs next Sunday.
The Seahawks closed out the season as the only undefeated team at home. But to get another home game this season, the Seahawks would need to pull off two road victories and have the No. 6 seed in the NFC, Minnesota, reach the championship game.
Unlikely? Yes. But with how much has gone Seattle’s way the latter half of the season, anything is conceivable.
They’ve won seven of eight, including a five-game winning streak to close the year. They won at least 11 games for just the third time in franchise history.
”Let’s see if we can make that nine (straight),” Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said.
Most of the week was spent with the Seahawks receiving an inordinate amount of national attention and respect after their 42-13 rout of San Francisco and the news of Sherman winning his appeal of a four-game suspension. There was very little talk of the Rams, and that made the struggle against St. Louis (7-8-1) not very surprising.
Getting that 11th victory was far from those easy blowouts the Seahawks enjoyed the previous three weeks. St. Louis’ defensive effort was superb. Seattle’s offensive eruption of the past three weeks was gone, bogged down by St. Louis’ smart coverage in the secondary and effective pass rush. Seattle became the first team since 1950 to score 150 points in a three-week span, yet had just three points at halftime and six midway through the third quarter.
The Rams sacked Wilson six times, including three by Chris Long. Seattle got pushed around and still had a late answer to keep them rolling right into the postseason.
”It definitely gave us an example of what to expect in the playoffs,” Seattle defensive end Red Bryant said. ”I would have rather had a game like this is the regular season than to get in the playoffs and not be able to respond like we were able to respond today.”
Wilson finished 15 of 19 for 250 yards and his 10-yard touchdown pass to Michael Robinson in the third quarter pulled him even with Manning for the rookie TD record. He added another 58 yards rushing, while Marshawn Lynch finished with exactly 100 yards on 18 carries, his 10th game of the season reaching the century mark. Golden Tate had three catches for 105 yards.
Once again, Wilson found a way in the fourth quarter. Starting at his 10 with 5:11 left, Wilson took Seattle 90 yards in 10 plays. After Tate recovered a fumble by Lynch on the second play of the drive, Wilson found Tate for 44 yards, racing to the St. Louis 29, putting the Seahawks in prime position to close out a perfect home record.
Wilson was given the shot at the rookie TD record by himself on second-and-goal from the 1. All his receivers were covered, and Wilson was left to scramble in for his fourth rushing touchdown of the season and another game-winning drive.
That’s four fourth-quarter or overtime winning drives this season for Wilson.
”To go into the playoffs with a game like that when it comes down to the fourth quarter, the last drive of the game and finish like that, that’s great,” Wilson said. ”I wouldn’t call it a wakeup call, I think we were ready to play, but I think it was great for us going into the playoffs.”
St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford tried to put together a final drive, converting one fourth down and getting to the Seattle 29 with 40 seconds left. But on fourth-and-10, Bradford forced his throw and Sherman stepped in front for his eighth interception of the season.
”I was hunting. I was waiting on an (opportunity) all day. I was playing tight coverage, didn’t get very many opportunities and when I got an opportunity to overlap, I did.”
Bradford was 25 of 42 for 242 yards and a touchdown pass to Austin Pettis. Greg Zuerlein kicked field goals of 25 and 39 yards. Steven Jackson also went over 1,000 yards rushing for the eighth straight season, becoming just the sixth player in NFL history to accomplish that feat.
”I don’t think many people gave us an opportunity. I don’t think many people thought this game would be close, except us,” Rams’ coach Jeff Fisher said. ”I’m very, very proud of the professional approach that the guys took, not only all year, but this year in preparation and understanding that this is a difficult place to play, understanding what we needed to do to win the game.”
Notes: Seattle went unbeaten at home for the first time since 2005. … Wilson finished the year with a franchise record 100.0 passer rating. … St. Louis still has not finished with a winning record since 2003.