Unsightly as it was for a while, the Seahawks’ 20-6 win over St. Louis will be the game that gets Seattle back to the Super Bowl.
Some formalities remain, of course. A couple playoff opponents will show up, confident they can overcome the futility of playing against a Seattle defense that has allowed only three touchdowns in the past six games.
And, of course, the games will be at home, where the Seahawks have won their past seven postseason games.
The visitors might challenge for a while in these games, but safety Earl Thomas will come up with a spectacularly athletic play to force a fumble at the goal line to save a touchdown, and a linebacker or maybe even a defensive tackle will intercept a pass, and maybe run it in for a touchdown.
That’s how these guys operate.
The win over the Rams made all this possible. No, it was more than that. It’s now all very likely.
“We know how hard it is for opponents to come in here, right in our comfort zone, where we’re at our best,” said linebacker K.J. Wright. “We’ve got the fans ... everything is right. I don’t expect us to lose these next two games.”
I don’t either.
Going on the road would have brought some variables into the equation. That’s unlikely now.
How far they end up progressing remains “to be determined,” said cornerback Richard Sherman. But winning the NFC West was the team’s first goal at the start of the season. “That at least gets you one home game in the playoffs, and we’re thankful we worked hard and we accomplished that goal.”
The Rams’ talented front four and physical defense always gives the Seahawks problems, and they made the first half ugly. The Hawks lost a fumble and threw an interception, which helped the Rams take a 6-0 halftime lead.
In the fourth quarter, though, defensive tackle Jordan Hill intercepted a pass that Rams quarterback Shaun Hill was trying to spike. Quarterbacks will make that play successfully thousands of times without a defender coming up with an interception.
But Jordan Hill did it and it set up the go-ahead touchdown.
On the next possession, linebacker Bobby Wagner tipped a pass and Bruce Irvin grabbed it and ran it in for a touchdown.
“It shows our resiliency, causing turnovers in the second half and scoring,” Wagner said. “I felt the Rams were going to come out fighting, which they did, but I thought we’d be able to do what we had to do.”
The Rams were driving to close the gap, though, and were on the threshold of a touchdown when Thomas sprinted to the sidelines to nail back Benny Cunningham at the goal line and force a fumble that went out the side of the end zone.
That meant Seahawks’ ball on the 20. Threat quelled.
“It was like an inch away from scoring, and he punched the ball and causes a touchback,” Wagner marveled at the Thomas play. “That shows how great our defense is.”
The Seahawks have been making their own breaks like that since about midseason, when Carroll had a meeting with some of the team leaders and there was “an emotional shift,” he said. It was about reaching their potential, Carroll said after the game. The defense, particularly, could be better … much better.
It makes this NFC West title sweeter to some.
“Everybody counted us out, but we always stayed true to what we believed,” defensive tackle Michael Bennett said. “It’s easy to win games when you’re playing for each other. That’s how you win.”
Quarterback Russell Wilson agreed that this season’s division title was even better than last year’s because “we were 3-3 and people were doubting us.”
There’s no doubts at this point.
As is the custom when a team wins a title, somebody passes out commemorative ball caps. In this case, the hats touted the Seahawks as the 2014 NFC West champs.
Here’s the thing this time around: Only a few of the Seahawks were wearing them.
They’ve been here before. They’ve experienced this. They know what it means to get the home field advantage. Last season, it meant a trip to the Super Bowl.
It should once again. So, at this point, it’s all old hat.