Seattle finally shakes off pesky Rams, uses pair of late TDs for 20-6 win over St. Louis



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SEATTLE — For a half, the St. Louis Rams were on the verge of throwing the NFC playoff picture into turmoil.

When the Seattle Seahawks started forcing turnovers in the fourth quarter, the gap that remains for the Rams to join the NFC West elite became obvious.

Marshawn Lynch gave Seattle the lead on a 9-yard run with 12:07 remaining, Bruce Irvin returned an interception 49 yards for a TD less than three minutes later, and the Seahawks wrapped up home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs with a 20-6 win over the Rams on Sunday.

"If you're watching the game, we're not that far off. It depends on what you're looking at or what you're trying to take away from it," St. Louis defensive end Chris Long said. "I'm not discouraged by the guys we have in the locker room. We're not that far off, but that's not good enough, to be, 'not that far off.'"

The two fourth-quarter touchdowns by Seattle (12-4) capped a six-game win streak to end the regular season. That earned the Seahawks the No. 1 seed in the NFC, a second straight NFC West title and the ninth division title in franchise history.

"I definitely feel like we're peaking at the right time," Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner. "A lot of teams won a lot of games early and fell off toward the end. When everybody doubted us, we came back these last six games and showed them that we're not going nowhere."

The Rams (6-10) were hoping to close the season with a sweep of the Seahawks and finish 7-9 for the third straight season under coach Jeff Fisher.

St. Louis knocked off Seattle at home in October with the help of some trick plays. There were none on Sunday, just a defensive line that overpowered Seattle's offensive front in the first half and consistently harassed Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Seattle was held scoreless in the first half for the first time since the middle of the 2011 season.

The Rams forced a pair of turnovers, but could only convert those into a pair of Greg Zuerlein field goals.

"We didn't capitalize on the opportunities the defense gave us," St. Louis tight end Jared Cook said. "We were in it in the first half. We knew we had them. We knew it was a game."

Because the Rams didn't score TDs, the game was tied 6-6 going to the fourth quarter, when Seattle forced three key turnovers. Jordan Hill and Irvin had interceptions and Earl Thomas knocked the ball from Benny Cunningham at the 1-yard line as the Rams looked to score with 6 minutes left. The ball went out of the end zone for a touchback and Seattle took over.

The biggest turnover was Jordan Hill's interception.

St. Louis was in field-goal range when Stedman Bailey was flagged for holding. On the first play of the fourth quarter, St. Louis tried to set up a screen pass to Tre Mason. Shaun Hill attempted to throw the ball away, but Jordan Hill got his hands down quick enough to intercept the pass.

"You've got to get it in the vicinity of the running back, and he just made a great play on it," Shaun Hill said.

Seattle needed just six plays to take the lead. Wilson found Kevin Norwood uncovered for 31 yards to the Rams 9. Lynch then went untouched for his 17th touchdown of the season.

The capper came less than three minutes later. St. Louis was driving near midfield and Hill attempted to find Lance Kendricks. Wagner knocked the ball from Kendricks' and it ricocheted to Irvin. He ran untouched for his second TD this season.

Lynch finished with 64 yards on 15 carries. Russell Wilson was 17 of 25 for 239 yards and an interception in the first half. Paul Richardson led Seattle with five receptions for 60 yards.

Shaun Hill was 26 of 37 for 243 yards for St. Louis. The Rams finished with just 42 yards rushing and no play longer than 20 yards.

"I think we are better than a 6-10 team," Fisher said. "I think we are moving in the right direction. Take all the work we put in on the offseason. It is all going to contribute to the success we have in future. You don't like 6-10 seasons, but I think we are building."

NOTES: St. Louis had three sacks and 39 over the final 11 games. ... Seattle was shut out in the first half for the first time since Oct. 23, 2011 at Cleveland. ... The 42 yards rushing for St. Louis was a season low.


AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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