5 things learned from Seattle’s 27-9 win over Rams

The celebration on the field was muted because the Seattle

Seahawks don’t want winning a division title to be the apex of

their season.

But there was an overwhelming sense of accomplishment in

Seattle’s locker room after the Seahawks knocked off the St. Louis

Rams 27-9 on Sunday to wrap up the NFC West title and home-field

advantage throughout the playoffs.

”We know we had a couple shots at it earlier, and didn’t get

that done, so it was frustrating,” coach Pete Carroll said. ”When

it came time to finish, we did it. Real proud of that and really

excited about what’s coming up.”

Malcolm Smith returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown

in the first quarter to get Seattle started, Marshawn Lynch added a

2-yard scoring run in the second half and the Seahawks (13-3)

matched the franchise record for wins in a season.

By doing so, the favorites in the NFC for most of the season

finally clinched the No. 1 seed after losses to San Francisco and

last week to Arizona, which snapped a 14-game home winning

streak.

Russell Wilson threw for 172 yards and a touchdown, and the

Seahawks know they’ll be home again on Jan. 11 facing Green Bay,

San Francisco or New Orleans in the divisional round of the

postseason.

St. Louis (7-9) was trying to finish with a .500 record for the

first time since 2006, but struggled to get going offensively and

was undisciplined with penalties.

Here are five things learned from the Seahawks’ win over the

Rams in their regular-season finale:

DOMINANT DEFENSE: Seattle’s dominant defense capped its season

with a record performance. The Seahawks allowed only 13 yards

rushing to the Rams, matching the franchise mark for a game set in

1990 against Green Bay.

Seattle finished the season leading the NFL in points allowed

per game (14.4), total yards allowed (273.6), yards passing allowed

(172.0), interceptions (28) and turnover margin (plus 20). Seattle

is the third team since the merger to lead the league in

interceptions and yards passing allowed. The previous two reached

the Super Bowl.

PENALTY PROBLEMS: St. Louis lost its composure while Seattle

kept its cool. The Rams were flagged for 12 penalties, including a

dizzying stretch of flags in the third quarter that helped Seattle

take a 20-3 lead. St. Louis was called for four personal fouls in

the span of two plays late in the third quarter – two on Alec

Ogletree and two on Kendall Langford.

Langford was flagged for making contact with an official, which

appeared inadvertent. Langford was ejected and became incensed,

slamming his helmet to the turf as he left the field. Two plays

later, Lynch walked in from the 2 and Seattle led 20-3.

”I think we definitely have to reel it in – I mean as a whole –

for sure,” St. Louis defensive end Chris Long said.

GREAT TATE: Golden Tate is headed into the playoffs coming off

the best game of his career. Tate had eight catches for 129 yards

and a 47-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. The receptions and

yards were a career high for Tate, and his TD catch looked very

familiar to his touchdown against the Rams in Week 8, but this time

without the unsportsmanlike penalty.

Tate ended the regular season as Seattle’s leading receiver with

64 receptions.

”I think the last few weeks we kind of lacked explosive plays.

I think we picked that up a little bit,” Tate said. ”But with all

that being said, we still have a lot of work to do. We have to

continue to work, continue to get better. The best is yet to come,

I feel like, and we’re just getting started.”

QUESTS DENIED: St. Louis’ Zac Stacy and Robert Quinn both fell

short of milestones. Stacy was trying to reach 1,000 yards rushing

for the season, an accomplishment that would have been even more

impressive considering he didn’t become the starter until Week 5.

Quinn was trying to become the 10th player to have 20 sacks in a

regular season.

Neither happened.

Stacy was held to 15 yards rushing on 15 carries, while Quinn

had one sack in the first half but was kept away from Wilson in the

second half.

”Trying to make plays while you’re out there, guess I fell a

half short. I’ve got to say it’s been a great year for me,” Quinn

said. ”This defense, this team, to overcome what we had to

overcome – we’ve got some good things going into the offseason to

look forward to.”

INJURY WORRIES: Seattle was left with a pair of injury concerns

heading into the postseason. Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane

sustained a groin injury in the second half, although it didn’t

appear serious. The bigger concern is with tight end Luke Willson,

who was carted off the field with an air cast on his lower left

leg. Carroll said the leg isn’t broken, but Willson’s status going

forward is unknown.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org