The backhanded smack of the referee might have been inadvertent. The slamming of the helmet in the direction of the officials certainly wasn’t.
An animated second-half outburst from St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Kendall Langford, which led to a crowd-pleasing ejection, typified Sunday’s season-ending 27-9 loss for the visitors.
A lack of discipline. Too many self-inflicted mistakes. It was far from enough to stop the Seahawks from clinching the NFC West title and home-field advantage leading up to the Super Bowl.
The Rams, who have lost nine straight regular-season games at CenturyLink Field, finished with 12 penalties for 87 yards, compared to Seattle’s seven for 65. It marked the first time since Week 9 that the Seahawks had less penalty yardage than their opponent.
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“The penalty thing got out of hand,” said Rams coach Jeff Fisher, whose team finished a division-worst 7-9.
Added tight end Lance Kendricks: “We have to be able to control ourselves.”
Never was that more the case than in a bizarre sequence in the third quarter as the Seahawks were driving deep in St. Louis territory.
Emotions spiked when Marshawn Lynch was hit after stepping out of bounds by two Rams defenders, resulting in a fracas along the sideline and an unnecessary roughness call against Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree.
After the next play, a Robert Turbin run up the middle, Langford was talking to the officials after another round of on-field chirping when he swung his arm and made contract with a referee behind him, knocking the referee’s hat off. Langford was penalized and ejected, unbeknown to him.
When the call was announced and Langford was sent to the locker room, he launched his helmet to the turf with two hands — which led to another penalty.
“I thought it was a bad call,” Langford said after the game. “I don’t agree with it, and after seeing it over and over, I still don’t agree with it.”
Langford insisted the contact was accidental, adding that he felt the game’s overall chippiness led to a quick ejection.
“At the end of the day, we can’t hurt ourselves as a team with all these penalties,” he said. “But I’m not going to say that all the penalties were good calls.”
Fisher added: “I understand it’s emotional. Still, you don’t need to take your helmet off.”
When things settled, the Seahawks faced first and goal at the Rams’ 1-yard line and scored two plays later on a 2-yard run from Lynch to go up 20-3.
“I thought we’ve shown signs of improvement over the last year,” said Fisher, “but we still have a lot of work to do to be able to come up here in Week 17 and beat the Seahawks.”