By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
SEATTLE — The last time the Seattle Seahawks faced St. Louis, they were lucky to escape with a win.
It happened on Oct. 28, with Seattle getting a 14-9 Monday night road victory over the Rams. St. Louis gouged the Seahawks defense for 200 rushing yards that night (averaging 5.4 yards a carry) on the way to 339 yards of total offense. The Rams also drove the length of the field in the late minutes, with Seattle needing a gallant goal-line stand to pull out the victory.
On Sunday, the Seahawks defense was determined to be better.
And indeed they were, holding the Rams to just 158 yards of offense, including only 13 rushing yards to tie Seattle franchise record for a single-game low, in a 27-9 victory at CenturyLink Field (on Dec. 9, 1990, the Seahawks also gave up only 13 rushing yards vs. Green Bay).
Recalling this season’s earlier game against St. Louis, head coach Pete Carroll said Seattle’s defensive players “took a lot of pride in that they didn’t want that to happen again. And I thought that the running game (defensively) was about as good as you could play it. You can’t play the running game better than that.”
In the end, Carroll added, “we did a great job on defense. It was a complete day for the defense.”
Seattle not only stopped the visiting Rams time after time, forcing seven punts (six after three-and-outs), but got the Seahawks their first touchdown, courtesy of a 37-yard interception return by linebacker Malcolm Smith early in the first quarter.
“We did a great job,” said Seattle safety Earl Thomas. “I have that feeling (of dominating the opponent) every game, except sometimes it doesn’t work out like that. But we were on it from top to bottom today.”
Even Seattle’s offensive players were appreciative. “The defense did a tremendous job today,” said quarterback Russell Wilson.
Against the Rams in October, running back Zac Stacy, a 5-foot-8, 214-pound rookie from Vanderbilt, stung the Seahawks with 134 yards on 26 carries. Containing him was a primary point of emphasis for Seattle in this rematch.
“We just understood what kind of runner he is,” said linebacker Bobby Wagner. “He’s very patient (waiting for holes to open), so we knew we had to be patient ourselves. We couldn’t be (overly) aggressive.”
“The last time that we played them, we missed a lot of tackles,” added defensive end Michael Bennett. “This time we didn’t miss any tackles and that’s what it takes to play championship football.”
With Seattle’s offense starting slowly on Sunday _ the Seahawks did not score an offensive touchdown until midway through the third quarter _ the defense kept the Rams in check until the offense could finally find its stride in the second half.
“There are going to be days where our offense is not going and we’ve got to pick them up,” said safety Kam Chancellor. “So we did that and they (eventually) started clicking and it won us the game. ? It felt good to be out there running and hitting and being a part of the defense.”
The Seahawks closed their regular season by leading the NFL in points allowed per game (14.4), yards allowed per game (273.6), passing yards allowed per game (172.0), interceptions (28) and turnover margin (+20). Those statistics are a big reason Seattle finished with an NFC-best 13-3 record, a first-round playoff bye and home-field advantage for at least one and perhaps two postseason games.
“There’s not too many teams that win 13 games,” pointed out Seattle defensive end Red Bryant, sporting an NFC West Division championship cap. “We’ve had a great season this year. We’ve got great players on this team, and the sky’s the limit for us.”