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The Seattle Seahawks clinched the NFC West division and earned home-field advantage in the playoffs on Sunday night in Seattle, after beating the St. Louis Rams 20 to 6.
While the Seahawks were heavily favored for the win, the Rams gave the 12th Man a scare at CenturyLink in the first half. The St. Louis offense scored a pair of field goals, one in each quarter, while the defense kept the Hawks off the score board altogether.
Seattle evened up the score in the third quarter, at sixes, before pulling away spectacularly in the fourth.
It began with an unlikely interception, after Seattle defensive tackle Jordan Hill scooped up a failed Rams screen pass early in the fourth. The play set up a 6-play, 54-yard drive that ended with Marshawn Lynch in the end zone. The star running back scored on a 9-yard run with 12 minutes and change left in the game to put the team up 13-6.
Only five plays later, on the subsequent Rams possession, Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin wound up returning an interception of his own all the way to the end zone, extending the lead 20-6. Irvin had fellow linebacker Bobby Wagner to thank for the tip (or whatever exactly it was), after Wagner managed to knock the ball loose from Rams receiver Lance Kendricks.
The back to back scores effectively knocked out St. Louis, though the team threatened to narrow the lead late in the game. The effort was thwarted by Seattle’s Earl Thomas in an unusual play that resulted in Thomas dislodging the ball from the Rams receiver, where it bounced into the end zone and forced a touchback.
Seattle has been on a six-game winning streak, dominating rival San Francisco (twice), the former division-leading Arizona Cardinals (also twice), Philly’s Eagles, and now the Rams. The Hawks held their opponents to under 10 points in five of the six games, further allowing only three touchdowns. The performance helped usher Seattle into the top spot in the NFL for fewest points allowed for the third consecutive season.
It is a pleasant reversal of fortune for the Hawks, who earlier in the year were fighting to be part of the playoffs at all, let alone the top seed in the NFC.
Sunday’s victory leaves Seattle with a 12 and 4 record in regular season play, tied with Dallas and Green Bay for the winningest record in the NFC. Tiebreakers for the NFC top seed broke in Seattle’s favor, granting the team a post-season bye-week and home-field advantage.
Depending on how next Sunday’s wildcard games shake out, Seattle will face off against the Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions, or Carolina Panthers at home on Saturday, January 10.