Seahawks defense rises for occasion in spotlight
In a 16-6 win against division rival St. Louis, Seattle matched the fewest points it has allowed this season — tying the low set in a Week 1 win against San Francisco.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Seahawks' defensive production this season has read almost like a punch line, especially for a playoff contender. In front of a national television audience Sunday night, however, they punched back.
In a 16-6 win against division rival St. Louis, Seattle matched the fewest points it has allowed this season — tying the total in a Week 1 win against San Francisco.
"This defense has blown me away with how we've stuck together this year," said linebacker Will Herring, who had a critical fourth-quarter interception. "We've had a few injuries early in the year. We've had to change a few things up front, but through the adversity we've stuck together. The guys came to play tonight. I'm happy for them and I'm proud of them."
Along with carrying the Seahawks in a playoff-clinching win, the defense slammed the door shut on the Rams in the fourth quarter. Defensive end Raheem Brock sealed it with two sacks on the final series.
"We were excited to go out there and put them away — to finish them off," Brock said.
The Seahawks came into the game ranked 30th in total defense (380.9 yards per game) and 29th in scoring defense (26.7 points per game). In the biggest game of the year, those earlier challenges seemed like a distant memory.
On Sunday the Rams managed only 184 total yards and 10 first downs, converting only two of their 14 third-down attempts.
"Everyone was running around making plays, flying to the ball and having fun," said Brock.
Martin stands out
Seattle receiver Ruvell Martin looked forward to playing against his former team. The Seahawks' midseason signing played eight games — not nearly as many as he would have liked — last season for the 1-15 Rams.
"I was there for just about the entire season last year and I didn't really get an opportunity," he said.
That opportunity for Martin, albeit in a different uniform, came early Sunday. On Seattle's first drive, Martin got open for a 61-yard reception that helped set up a touchdown. He finished with three catches and a team-high 85 yards receiving. Since joining the team in November, Martin had only one catch in one game this season when he had four receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown in a 40-21 loss to the 49ers on Dec. 12.
"To get out there and play against those guys and do well, it felt great," Martin said.
A foot away
Rams fans probably wondered why coach Steve Spagnuolo didn't challenge a call early in the second quarter that receiver Laurent Robinson did not get both feet inbounds on a catch near the sideline for what would have been a first down. Instead, the Rams were left with a fourth down and had to kick a field goal.
Spagnuolo said he and his assistants debated it briefly before deciding not to challenge.
"The guys did get that one in the box and it didn't appear to us it would get overturned," Spagnuolo said.
Not enough action for Jackson?
Rams running back Steven Jackson got just 11 carries for 45 yards, his fewest yards of the season and tied for his second-fewest carries of the season.
Spagnuolo said there was no specific reason why, noting the Rams were trying to do what was needed to move the ball.
Quarterback Sam Bradford said the Seahawks often had eight defenders in the box and that he checked out of a few runs to pass plays to try to take advantage, though that didn't yield much, either.
• With 75 rushing yards on 20 carries, Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch helped the Seahawks avoid their worst rushing season ever. However, his fumble in the third quarter was his third giveaway in 12 games with Seattle. In his 35 games in Buffalo, he fumbled four times.
• Russell Okung limped off the field in the second quarter and it appeared his regular season might end the same way it began: on the sidelines.
Okung did not finish the first half, Seattle's line adjusted with Chester Pitts coming in at left guard while Tyler Polumbus — who began the game at left guard — moved to left tackle. But when the second half began, Okung was back at tackle. Pitts did not play in the second half because of a head injury.
Bob Condotta and Danny O'Neil contributed to this report.