Richard Sherman says he yelled at coaches for passing from 1-yard line
Russell Wilson threw it like Green Bay never happened.
Tyler Lockett returned to zoom.
Michael Bennett returned from knee surgery to sacking, three-hip-thrust form for a hilarious unsportsmanlike penalty. Then he got nailed in the side of the neck and went to the locker room after Rams running back Todd Gurley slammed unknowingly into the side of the Pro Bowl defensive end’s helmet.
Oh, and Richard Sherman screamed at Darrell Bevell and Pete Carroll on the sideline while the play caller and head coach were working a drive that ended with Seattle’s third touchdown. The offensive coordinator barked back. Defensive coordinator Kris Richard and teammates had to pull Sherman away from Bevell.
All that and more was how the Seahawks clinched their third NFC West division title in four seasons with a 24-3 victory over Los Angeles on Thursday night at CenturyLink Field.
“That was a night for defense,” said Carroll, Seattle’s head coach. “A championship night.”
It was a night of redemption for Wilson.
The $86 million franchise cornerstone responded from a career-worst five interceptions in last weekend’s 28-point loss at Green Bay by completing 19 of 26 throws for 229 yards and his third three-touchdown passing game this season.
“It’s a big deal,” Wilson said of the division title. “Any time you get to the playoffs. ... There are people who never get to the playoffs.
“To be able to go to the playoffs five years in a row, I’m grateful for it. You are telling me, ‘I’ve got a chance’ (to go to the Super Bowl).”
Of his horrid night at Lambeau Field, which resulted in Seattle’s largest margin of defeat in six years, Wilson said: “You’ve got to have amnesia. I didn’t hang over it too long or anything like that. I know and I believe who I am. I know and believe who our football team is.”
Lockett, slowed for more than 2 ½ months by a sprained knee, had 130 yards receiving — the most in his two-year career. He blew past the Rams secondary down the right sideline 11 seconds into the fourth quarter for a 57-yard touchdown on a rainbow pass from Wilson. Lockett’s longest scoring catch in the NFL made it 24-3.
Bennett had his first sack since knee surgery cost him five games from October into last month. Cliff Avril and Frank Clark each had 1 1/2 sacks of Los Angeles rookie Jared Goff before Sherman knocked the league’s No. 1 overall draft choice out of the game with a flying shoulder hit near the quarterback’s head at the end of a scramble down the sideline in a wild fourth quarter.
And the Seahawks (9-4-1) kept their chances intact to get a first-round bye in next month’s playoffs. The fifth consecutive playoff berth matches a franchise record, which happened under Mike Holmgren from 2003-07.
The Seahawks will await the result of Detroit’s game at the New York Giants on Sunday to see if they move past the Lions (9-4) and back into the No. 2 spot in the conference. The top two playoff seeds get first-round byes and a home game in the second round of next month’s postseason.
Wilson and the Seahawks offense truly took off after the first target of Jimmy Graham — which didn’t come until seven minutes were left in the third quarter. Wilson’s pass to the tight end down the left seam gained 31 yards, with Graham blowing through two Rams defenders to the L.A. 14.
That set up Wilson’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin, who juked Troy Hill out of his white shoes with a start-and-stop move just inside the goal line. Seattle led 17-3.
That touchdown came while Sherman, Seattle’s three-time All-Pro cornerback, was steaming at Bevell and, he said, Carroll during a bizarre, remarkable sideshow along Seattle’s sideline.
Sherman said he actually was yelling at Carroll over the offense calling a pass to Graham from the 1-yard line. Rams linebacker Bryan Hager intercepted it, but officials ruled him out of bounds, so the result was a harrowing, incomplete pass.
“We’ve already seen how that goes,” Sherman said.
He was reminding all of Super Bowl 49 in February 2015. The Seahawks infamously threw from the 1-yard line and New England intercepted Wilson’s pass to Ricardo Lockette. That kept Seattle from a second consecutive league title.
“I’d rather do what most teams would do: Make a contentious decision to run the ball straight up the middle,” Sherman said.
Asked about his reaction when Bevell came right back at him, Sherman said: “It was no different than it was when (his outburst) started.”
Sherman said he didn’t care what the perception is of him yelling at his coaches during games. He did it to defensive coordinator Kris Richard earlier this season against Atlanta after a blown coverage resulted in a Falcons touchdown.
“No,” Sherman said. “I could care less. People think I’m a villain already.”
“That’s not going to kill my perception.”
The second half included Bennett and punter Jon Ryan leaving to be evaluated for possible concussions — Ryan after he took off on a long run out of punt formation in the fourth quarter.
The first half was as ugly as the second was wild. It was a startling reminder that this Seahawks team isn’t fully playoff ready.
Carroll said afterward he hopes that’s what the Seahawks will achieve over the final regular-season games, on Dec. 24 at home against Arizona and New Year’s Day at San Francisco.
The Seahawks had 15 yards rushing on 11 carries in Thursday’s first half. They had eight penalties. They got gifted a field goal when Los Angeles punter Johnny Hekker threw a fake-punt pass well short of a wide-open receiver for a Rams turnover on downs in their own end.
Yet the Seahawks led 10-3 at halftime.
That touchdown lead was from a gift, too: On fourth-and-1 from the Rams 13 early in the second quarter, linebacker Alec Ogletree was flagged for holding Seattle tight end Luke Willson away from the ball.
That was while Wilson turfed a pass short of the feet of in-the-clear fullback Marcel Reece at the goal line. Instead of giving the ball back to the Rams, Seattle got a first down by penalty. Wilson’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Willson in the left flat came on the next play.
The Rams had two chances to equal that TD. Michael Thomas got far behind safety Steven Terrell, Seattle’s fill-in for injured three-time All-Pro Earl Thomas, but dropped a long pass from Goff deep in Seahawks territory in the first quarter.
Later in that quarter, the Seahawks left Rams wide receiver Brian Quick alone in the end zone, but Goff’s throw was well wide left of Quick.
That drive ended with Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner stopping Rams 2015 NFL rookie of the year Gurley short of the line to gain on a fourth-down run.
Ultimately, the Seahawks rebounded from Green Bay to win the West. Again. No matter how weak the division is, that is each season’s Job One.
“It’s a great feeling, a great accomplishment,” Seahawks cornerback DeShawn Shead said. “One of our goals is to win the NFC West.
“And we came back from last week.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle