|National Football League|
Seattle gets tested, holds off Rams 20-13
By TIM BOOTH
SEATTLE (AP) Fueled by their frenzied fans, the Seattle Seahawks closed out a perfect run at home.
Hope they enjoyed it. Unless the NFC playoffs get thrown for a loop, the Seahawks won't be back until next season. Then again, with the roll the Seahawks are on, it's not inconceivable that somehow the breaks fall in their favor and they get one more home game.
"I'm really proud. I'm proud of the organization, I'm proud of the fans, I'm proud to be part of the movement that we made in the three years that we've been here," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "Eleven-and-5 is a good season, that's a big season when you're coaching in the NFL and playing in the NFL."
Russell 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 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 with a road trip for the first round of the playoffs.
Seattle will travel to Washington for the first round of the playoffs next Sunday.
"I'm so excited, I'm ecstatic. It's a great opportunity," Wilson said. "We've got 11 wins so far in the regular season, and now the whole season starts over. The mindset doesn't change, though. Go 1 and 0 every week. Continue to compete throughout the week."
Wilson capped his remarkable first regular season by joining Manning in the NFL record books. And that was before he led the Seahawks on a fourth game-winning drive in the final minutes of regulation or overtime this 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 Marshawn Lynch finished with 100 yards on 18 carries, his 10th game of the season reaching the century mark. Golden Tate had three catches for 105 yards.
Once again, Wilson found a way in the fourth quarter. Starting at his 10 with 5:11 left, Wilson took Seattle 90 yards in 10 plays. After Tate recovered a fumble by Lynch on the second play of the drive, Wilson found Tate for 44 yards, racing to the St. Louis 29, putting the Seahawks in prime position to close out a perfect home record.
Wilson was given the shot at the rookie TD record by himself on second-and-goal from the 1. All his receivers were covered, and Wilson was left to scramble in for his fourth rushing touchdown of the season and another game-winning drive.
"He deserved a chance to try to get it. We needed to get in the end zone one way or another," Carroll said. "We thought it would be an easy way to get in, but they covered it, they did a nice job. So, he scrambled his way in."
Wilson's numbers when compared with Manning's record-setting 1998 season are startling. Manning had 182 more pass attempts than Wilson and threw 28 interceptions compared to Wilson's 10. Still, Manning didn't have the complement of players around him that Wilson does in Seattle.
"The football team has really sparked throughout the whole entire season, the coaching staff has done a really great job of preparing me and it's a whole team effort," Wilson said.
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 Richard 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.
The interception capped a perfect week for Sherman, who won his appeal of a four-game suspension for using banned substances and will be available in the playoffs.
"I think we needed this test heading into the playoffs to help us know how it's going to feel in the playoffs, to know it's going to be a grind every week, it's going to be tough opponents every week, and it's only going to get tougher," Sherman said.
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.
The Rams were trying to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2003. Still it was a noteworthy turnaround Jeff Fisher put together in his first season with the Rams, going from 2-14 to the verge of a winning season.
"I'm very, very proud of the professional approach that the guys took, not only all year, but this year in preparation and understanding that this is a difficult place to play, understanding what we needed to do to win the game," Fisher said. "I'm disappointed that we fell short, but it was a tremendous effort by our guys and they have nothing to be disappointed about."
NOTES: Lynch finished with 1,590 yards rushing, the third-highest total in Seahawks history. ... Seattle led the NFL in scoring defense at 15.3 per game. ... St. Louis tied a franchise record with 52 sacks, including six on Sunday. Chris Long had three sacks.
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Updated December 31, 2012