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Seahawks 24, Rams 3: Wilson’s 3 TD passes, swarming defense clinch NFC West title

Richard Sherman says he yelled at coaches for passing from 1-yard line

"We've already seen how that goes"
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"We've already seen how that goes"

Tyler Lockett returned to zoom.

Russell Wilson returned to top passing form.

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 head 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 Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell on the sideline while the playcaller was working a drive that ended in 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 Thursday night at CenturyLink Field.

“That was a night for defense,” Carroll said. “A championship night.”

It was also a night of redemption for Wilson.

The Seahawks clinched their third NFC West division title in four seasons with a 24-3 victory over Los Angeles Thursday night at CenturyLink Field.

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 for days earlier, which resulted in Seattle’s largest margin of defeat in six years, Wilson said: “You’ve got to have amnesia. ... I know and I believe who I am. I know and I believe in our team.”

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 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.

Seattle will wait for Detroit’s game at the New York Giants on Sunday to see if they move past the Lions (9-4) back into the No. 2 spot in the conference. The top two playoff seeds gets first-round byes and a home game in the second round of next month’s postseason.

Wilson and the Seahawks’ offense took off after the first target of tight end Jimmy Graham — which didn’t come until 7 minutes were left in the third quarter. Wilson’s pass to him 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 to the back left of the end zone. Seattle led 17-3.

That touchdown that put the game out of reach came while Sherman, Seattle’s three-time All-Pro cornerback, was steaming at Carroll and Bevell during a bizarre, remarkable sideshow along Seattle’s sideline while the offense was driving to the touchdown.

Sherman said he was yelling at Carroll for throwing a pass to Graham from the 1-yard line that Rams linebacker Bryan Hager intercepted 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 when the Seahawks infamously threw from the 1 and New England intercepted Wilson’s pass to Ricardo Lockette to keep Seattle from a second consecutive league title.

“I don’t like it when we throw the ball at the 1. We threw an interception at the 1, and luckily it went incomplete, and I wasn't going to let them continue to do that.

“I was letting Pete know.”

Has Sherman earned the right to call out a coach?

“One-hundred percent,” he said. “We go out there. We sacrifice. We battle.”

Sherman added he didn’t care what the perception is of him yelling at his coaches during games. He did it to his coordinator, Richard, earlier this season after a blown coverage resulted in a touchdown for Atlanta.

“People think I’m a villain already,” Sherman said, with a wink.

Sherman said his thinking and justification didn’t change Thursday when Bevell yelled back at him.

The second half included Bennett and punter Jon Ryan leaving for to be evaluated for concussions, Ryan after he took off on a long run out of punt formation in the fourth quarter.

Bennett said after the game he was OK. Carroll said the same thing, that Bennett actually got “wrenched” in the neck and not the head and should be fine.

Ryan was at a hospital late Thursday night.

The first half was as ugly as the second was wild. It was a startling reminder this team isn’t fully playoff ready, not consistent enough to advance far.

Not yet.

Carroll said afterward he hopes that consistency is what the Seahawks will achieve over the final regular-season games, next weekend at home against Arizona and New Year’s Day at San Francisco.

The Seahawks had 15 yards rushing on 11 carries, eight penalties and 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 they still 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, L.A. 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 on the next play was the ugly half’s only touchdown.

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 period the Seahawks left Rams wide receiver Brian Quick alone in the end zone, but Goff’s throw was wide left of Quick while he lunged in vain at the incomplete pass.

That drive ended with Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner stopping Rams 2015 NFL rookie of the year Todd Gurley short of the line to gain on a fourth-down run.

For the opening half, anway, the Rams’ defensive front controlled the Seahawks’ offensive line for the fourth consecutive meeting. Seattle’s blockers also committed three false-start penalties in the first half.

But 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," cornerback DeShawn Shead said. "One of our goals is to win the NFC West.

"And we came back from last week."

"I definitely feel like we took a step forward."

Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle

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