As a perfectly-thrown deep pass landed in Tyler Lockett’s arms for a 57-yard touchdown, it was abundantly clear—if it hadn’t already been prior to that play—that Russell Wilson had responded well to one of the worst games of his five-year career.
And as Seattle’s defense came up with stop after stop, putting a physical beating on the Rams offense, it was equally obvious that what has long been one of the NFL’s best defense is still a force to be reckoned with, even after a rough outing against Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay Packers.
The Seahawks will wake up Friday morning as NFC West champs because of the work they have done over the entire season on their way to a 9-4-1 record, but they were able to roll to a 24-3 victory over the Rams Thursday night because of the way they bounced back in a short week from their worst loss since 2010.
“We played this game hoping that the defense was going to play like they did,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “They had a great night, did everything we expected they could do. Rushed the passer, kept the running game down, played really well on third down and made it hard on the young quarterback. We wanted to play off of that, and it worked out really well for us.
“It was a nice bounce-back night for Russ. He came back and had a really good night. It’s too bad the one throw was nuts, the last one, but other than that he played a really good football game. I know everybody was wondering what happened last week, but he showed you who he is and what he’s all about once again.”
In a 28-point loss at Green Bay last weekend, Wilson threw a career-high five interceptions, leading to Seattle’s first loss by more than 10 points in more than five years. But of all of the traits that have turned Wilson into a Pro-Bowl quarterback, one of his best is the way he is able to fix a problem when one arises. It’s something he has done dating back to his rookie season, and it’s why the Seahawks were confident they’d see a much better version of their quarterback this week. And sure enough, Wilson responded with what would have been a nearly perfect performance if not for an ill-advised throw under pressure late in the game that resulted in an interception.
“We really were counting on it,” Carroll said of Wilson coming back strong to complete 19 of 26 attempts for 229 yards, three touchdowns and a 122.1 passer rating.
Lockett, who had a career-high 130 receiving yards on seven catches, was equally confident that the offense and Wilson would come back strong this week.
“Russell is a phenomenal dude, and a great quarterback at that,” Lockett said. “He does a tremendous job mentally, he mentally prepares himself, especially in the offseason. I was around him in the offseason to be able to see that. He trains himself that if he throws an interception, it was as if it didn’t even happen; it was as if it happened three years ago. He does a great job continuing to lead us, continuing to talk to us, to motivate us, to get us right for the next drive. Even if we’re losing by 20, he’s still talking to us, telling us there’s a way to come back. And that’s exactly what you want in a leader, you want somebody who’s going to go out there and lead us through this battle. He has done a fantastic job.”
Yet as good as Wilson and Lockett were, the defense might have been even more impressive.
“This was a night about defense, a championship night, and they rose to the occasion and played great,” Carroll said. “The offense found the yardage we needed, Russ threw three touchdowns, and it was really just a fun night at the stadium.”
The Rams gained only 183 yards and averaged 3.3 yards per play, both season lows for a Seahawks opponent, and managed just a single field goal on nine possessions. Of the other eight possessions, five saw the Rams gain 1 or fewer yards, including minus-5 on one and minus-11 on another. The Seahawks pass rush that had recorded only one sack in the past three games had four in this game and seven quarterback hits, and the defense recorded a total of eight tackles for loss, all of which contributed to the Rams going 3 for 12 on third down.
“It was really important,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “We didn’t like the way we played last week and we wanted to come out and really just set the tone for the rest of the season.”
Yet for all that went well on Thursday in beating the Rams by three touchdowns and clinching the NFC West, the Seahawks know there is better, more consistent play out there for them in a season that has seen them win a division title despite what Carroll acknowledged has been a “strange” year for his team.
“The good part about it is that here we have a couple more games left and we can continue to work at it and see if we can really develop some momentum and some better play and already know that you’re going (to the playoffs),” Carroll said. “I’m anxious to see how we do that. Do you get a little complacent or something because you won? That’s something that is the challenge that I like taking on, and I like to see if our guys can handle it. It’s really important that we continue to push to get better, and we’ll find out how we do that when we play the Cardinals a week from now.”
John Boyle | seahawks.com | December 16, 2016