SEATTLE — Fueled by their ear-ringing fans, Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks were the only perfect home team in the NFL.
Now comes the challenge of being just as good on the road in the playoffs.
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.
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 the NFC East champion — either Washington or Dallas — for the first round of the playoffs next weekend.
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 possible.
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 cornerback Richard Sherman winning his appeal of a four-game suspension after testing positive for banned substances. There was very little talk of the Rams, and that made the struggle against St. Louis (7-8-1) not very surprising.
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, but couldn’t do enough offensively to finish with their first winning record since 2003.
Once again, Wilson put together an impressive drive to close out his first regular season. Starting at his 10 with 5:11 left, Wilson took Seattle 90 yards in 10 plays, but no throw was bigger than a third-down pass early in the drive. Facing third-and-5 at its 27, Wilson found Golden Tate open along the sideline in front of the Rams bench. Tate danced free from two defenders and raced for 44 yards to the St. Louis 29, putting the Seahawks in prime position to close out a perfect home record.
Seattle appeared to score when Marshawn Lynch bulled over the pylon from the 4, but he stepped out before crossing the goal line. With the ball spotted at the 1, Seattle tried to get Wilson the rookie TD record, but all his options were covered. So Wilson pulled it down and ran untouched into the corner of the end zone for his fourth rushing touchdown of the season.
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 Lynch finished with exactly 100 yards on 18 carries, his 10th game of the season reaching the century mark. Tate had three catches for 105 yards.
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. Wilson took a knee and Seattle headed for the playoffs winners of five straight and seven of eight the second-half of the season.
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.