Seahawks’ defense forces five turnovers in 16-10 victory

Seahawks’ defense forces five turnovers in 16-10 victory

Seattle moves into a tie for first place in the NFC West with a win over the Rams

LOS ANGELES — Richard Sherman. Earl Thomas. Sheldon Richardson. Frank Clark.

Heck, the entire, pride-packed, play-making Seahawks defense. They have a message for those across the country who have suggested they are no longer the dominating force they once were.

“People look forward to writing us off,” Sherman, Seattle’s star cornerback, said of his team’s 2-2 start. “Our demise was greatly overstated.”

The Seahawks forced five turnovers, then stopped wunderkind quarterback Jared Goff and L.A. one final time from the Seattle 20-yard line in the final seconds for a 16-10 victory Sunday over the previously rampaging Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Among the big plays made by the Seattle defense:

• Thomas chopped his arm across that of Rams’ running back Todd Gurley to force a fumble off the goal-line pylon on L.A.’s first possession. The result was a touch-back instead of an early Rams touchdown. Thomas, a three-time All-Pro, did the same thing to the Rams at the goal line in 2014, in Seattle.

“I’ve been watching some Bruce Lee movies,” Thomas said, smiling, “and it kind of carried over to the football field.”

• With the Seahawks’ lead teetering and 6 minutes remaining in the game, Thomas intercepted Goff in Seattle territory. His teammates raced off the sideline onto the field with roars, dances and high-fives.

• With 2:45 remaining and the Rams moving again, Frank Clark — a native of one of L.A.’s roughest areas, Baldwin Village — slammed into Goff from behind for a sack and forced a fumble. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who had earlier intercepted a tipped pass, scooped up the fumble. That set up Blair Walsh’s third field goal, with 1:07 remaining, giving Seattle a 16-10 lead.

Clark, getting more playing time with Pro Bowl defensive end Cliff Avril out indefinitely with neck and spine issues, said he’d been setting up veteran Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth “all day” with the outside move he made to smack Goff.

The Seahawks forced five turnovers in a game for the first time since Dec. 22, 2013, against Arizona. That season turned out pretty well for them. They won the Super Bowl.

“It’s the amount of playmakers we have,” Sherman said.

Those playmakers helped the Seahawks, division winners in three of the past four years, climb into a tie for the NFC West lead with the Rams. Both teams are 3-2.

The Rams had beaten Seattle in three of their previous four meetings, and four of the past six. That included a 9-3 slog in Los Angeles last season.

“These guys have been playing great football for a long time,” coach Pete Carroll said of Seattle’s star-packed defense, “and I think it’s just another statement that they will not relent.”

But they did bend. Almost devastatingly so, at the end.

With 69 seconds and no timeouts remaining, the Rams moved from their 25-yard line to the Seahawks’ 20. On third down, former Eastern Washington University standout Cooper Kupp had the potentially winning touchdown pass go off his hands as he dived in the end zone with 8 seconds left. He apologized after the game and said he should have caught it. On fourth down, Goff threw well short of the double-teamed Kupp near the goal line.

That was the fifth time Los Angeles drove within the Seattle 20. The Rams scored just three points on those marches.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson completed 24 of 27 passes for 198 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He got sacked three times, all in the first half, and hit 11 other times.

But Los Angeles’ defense was not as decisive as Seattle’s.

“This,” Wilson said of the win, “shows the heart of our team.”

With 10 minutes remaining, the Seahawks had just 226 yards of offense. Just 51 of those yards came from a running game they’ve vowed to revitalize this season — and just 27 of those yards came from running backs. Yet they led 13-10.

The Rams were moving late in third quarter when the Seahawks got their first “sack” of Goff. Goff tripped over Gurley’s foot as he was faking a handoff. Then on third-and-20 from the 25, Goff sent a screen pass high off Gurley’s hands. Richardson, a defensive tackle who was a multi-sport star in high school in St. Louis, made an exquisitely athletic play, diving and securing the ball with soft hands for the interception. It was just Goff’s second interception this season.

“Look at my plays in high school,” Richardson said. “They are pretty nice.”

His play Sunday kept Seattle ahead 13-10 entering the final quarter.

The Rams drove down the field with three third-down conversions to begin the second half. But Greg Zuerlein shanked a 36-yard field goal wide right to keep the game tied. It was Zuerlein’s first miss of the season. He had been 76-for-81 in his career from inside 40 yards before that miss.

After it, catches by J.D. McKissic and Eddie Lacy, who started at running back over Thomas Rawls with rookie Chris Carson on injured reserve, set up Walsh’s 49-yard field goal. Seattle led 13-10.

The Seahawks erased an early 10-0 hole to be tied at halftime on Jimmy Graham’s first touchdown catch of the season. It was a jump-ball on Wilson’s one-step throw from the 4 with 1:55 remaining in the second quarter over a defender seven inches shorter — the play all in the Northwest have clamored for over the past three seasons. Then Seattle got going again in a hurry-up, 2-minute drill. Doug Baldwin’s 15-yard catch got Seattle in position for Walsh’s 48-yard field goal as time expired in the half.

It would have been worse for Seattle if not for Thomas.

He raced from the middle of the field to the left sideline and chopped the arm of Gurley just as the Rams’ running back was reaching the ball toward the goal line at the end of a first-quarter run. Thomas’ chop knocked the ball from Gurley’s hand off the goal-line pylon into the end zone for a touch-back.

Gurley, the NFL’s second-leading rusher and Rams receiving leader coming into the game, finished with 43 yards on 14 carries plus two catches for 7 yards. It was the fourth time in four games Seattle’s defense throttled the back who’s been shredding almost everyone else.

Goff was 22-for -47 passing for 288 yards, two interceptions and a passer rating of 48.9. He was at 112.2, higher than Tom Brady, before playing the Seahawks.

The Rams dominated the opening quarter, with 124 yards to the Seahawks’ 28, but because of Thomas’ play the game stayed scoreless. In the second quarter the Rams turned an interception thrown by wide receiver and former college quarterback Tanner McEvoy into a touchdown by Tavon Austin, 27 yards on a third-down run. Then Wilson threw late and floated a pass outside in the red zone toward Luke Willson. Rookie John Johnson intercepted and ran 69 yards.

“Crappy play by me,” Wilson said.

But what happened next was not: Wilson sprinted 70 yards to tackle Johnson with a swipe at his foot. That saved four points, because Seattle’s defense held the Rams to 2 yards over the next three plays. Zurlein kicked a 35-yard field goal.

“Took me back to high school,” a grinning Wilson said of his days as a prep defensive back.

“We appreciated it,” Sherman said of Wilson’s hustle.

Sherman was speaking for the entire defense.

As if it hadn’t spoken loudly enough already.

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