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(Sunday, January 2nd)
Final Score: Seattle 16, St. Louis 6
Seattle, WA (Sports Network) - The 7-9 Seattle Seahawks are in.
Charlie Whitehurst threw for 192 yards and a touchdown, helping Seattle clinch the NFC West title with a 16-6 victory over division rival St. Louis.
The Rams (7-9) led the Seahawks by a game entering Sunday's contest and could have spared the NFL a sub-.500 team in the playoffs. But because Seattle holds the better division mark, the Seahawks became the first team in league history with a losing record to reach the postseason.
Seattle not only made the postseason after winning just three of its final 10 games, but it secured a home playoff game as the division winner and No. 4 seed.
The Seahawks will host New Orleans, the NFC's fifth seed, on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. (et).
"It's just the first step to us," said Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll. "We're a work in progress and all that, but the guys answered the call tonight. We got a great win."
Whitehurst, playing in place of the injured Matt Hasselbeck, completed 22- of-36 passes in his second start of the season and his career.
Olindo Mare kicked three second-half field goals for Seattle, which dominated the game in most aspects. The Seahawks held a 333-184 advantage in total yards, including a 141-47 edge on the ground. They held the ball for nearly 35 minutes, gained nine more first downs than the Rams, and thwarted St. Louis both times it reached the red zone.
Seattle got all the points it needed on the opening drive, traveling 87 yards in six plays for the game's only touchdown. The biggest play was Whitehurst's 61-yard pass to Ruvell Martin, bringing the ball to the St. Louis 13.
Despite the huge gain, the Seahawks faced a 3rd-and-10 and looked like they would have to settle for a field goal when Whitehurst was sacked. But Rams cornerback Ron Bartell was called for holding, leading to a first down at the seven.
Two plays later, Whitehurst found Mike Williams for a four-yard score.
Seattle didn't make it to the end zone again, but had chances, reaching the red zone four times.
By contrast, the Rams went three-and-out seven times and reached Seattle's side of the field just three times. The first occurrence resulted in Josh Brown's 32-yard field goal with under nine minutes left in the second quarter, making it a 7-3 game at halftime.
"Seemed like we were always coming out of our own end zone, inside the 20," said Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo. "Even the drive we had for a field goal was an [83-yard] drive."
Then, shortly into the third quarter, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch fumbled after a catch and Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis recovered at the Seattle 21.
However, the Rams gained only 12 yards before Brown kicked a 27-yarder.
Mare was successful from 31 yards out on Seattle's next possession, and the Seahawks carried a 10-6 edge into the fourth quarter. Mare's 38-yarder with just under 11 minutes to play put Seattle up by a touchdown.
St. Louis went three-and-out on its next touch, but got the ball back with 9:23 left. Sam Bradford completed a 14-yard pass to Brandon Gibson to get the ball to the Seattle 46, but was intercepted on the next play. He intended the pass to go to Gibson, but linebacker Will Herring was in the way and grabbed the ball.
The Seahawks drained more than seven minutes off the clock before Mare booted a 34-yard kick through the uprights, securing the victory.
Seattle made the playoffs for the first time since the 2007 season...Bradford finished 19-of-36 for 155 yards, while Steven Jackson carried the ball 11 times for 45 yards for the Rams...Lynch finished with a game-high 75 yards on the ground...The Seahawks finished the regular season with a 5-3 home record and 4-2 divisional mark...The Rams went 3-3 within the division and 2-6 on the road.
01/03 02:31:21 ET