ST. LOUIS — For most of the night, the Seahawks could barely move an inch, let alone a yard.
When it mattered most, though, neither could the St. Louis Rams.
And a valiant goal-line stand by the Seattle defense allowed the Seahawks to escape with a 14-9 victory over the Rams on Monday night in a game they entered as two-touchdown favorites.
“This one was something else,’’ said cornerback Richard Sherman of a game that in many ways defied belief.
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Seattle was outgained 339-135 and allowed as many sacks as it got first downs — seven of each.
Yet when it was over, Seattle had the most important seven of all — its seventh victory of the season, improving to 7-1 for the first time in team history.
“Very fortunate to get out of here (with a win),’’ said Seattle coach Pete Carroll. “I think everyone who watched that one could see we were very fortunate.’’
Indeed, Seattle might have suffered one of its most excruciating defeats of the four-year Carroll era if not for the final stand.
St. Louis took over at its own 3 with 5:42 to play and drove to the Seattle 1-yard line with less than a minute left.
But on third-and-goal from the 1 with 27 seconds left, backup middle linebacker Heath Farwell — a regular member of the Seattle’s goal-line units — led a charge to stop Daryl Richardson for no gain.
Then as time ran out, a corner blitz helped lead to a hurried pass by St. Louis quarterback Kellen Clemens to Brian Quick that fell incomplete under heavy coverage from Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner.
“Man up, stand up,’’ Sherman said of the last play, saying the Seahawks were in “Cover Zero,’’ which means there is man coverage with no safety help. “We wanted to bring pressure on the quarterback and we knew it would be up to us in the back end to cover them down.’’
The third-down play might have been even more critical, coming after an offsides penalty on Seattle’s Chris Clemens moved St. Louis to a couple feet of the goal line.
Farwell, a special teams demon who hadn’t been on the field for a defensive snap until that point, said he had a good idea what the Rams might do.
“I saw the offensive linemen in a four-point stance so I knew it was going to be a downhill run, they had a near back to me that was coming right at me so I had a feeling,’’ he said. “So I kind of cheated up expecting the power and ran through the gap and was fortunate enough to be able to get a decent hit (on Richardson).’’
Safety Earl Thomas said that made the final play easier to defend, saying he knew at that point it would be a pass.
“You expect that because we did a great job stopping the run (on third down),’’ Thomas said. “Heath did a great job putting his nose in there and getting a hat on the running back and slowing him up.’’
When it was over, Thomas felt like collapsing, not so much in disbelief but in utter exhaustion.
“I never get tired but today was my most physical game I think I have ever played,’’ he said. “I’m mentally tired, I’m mentally drained. I’m physically tired. But I’d rather be on E with a win than a loss.’’
The game felt odd from the start with the Edward Jones Dome maybe half full (despite a listed attendance of 55,966) with Game 5 of the World Series being played a mile away.
St. Louis, though, seemed inspired despite the flood of empty seats, dominating the Seahawks from the beginning.
Seattle was outgained 75 to minus-1 in the first quarter and could never get its running game going, finishing with a season-low 44 yards on the ground.
The Seahawks, however, led 7-3 at halftime thanks to a Sherman interception returned to the Rams’ 29-yard-line that led to a 2-yard scoring pass from Russell Wilson to Golden Tate — which was the only time in the first half the Seahawks crossed midfield.
The Seahawks were no more offensive in the second half except for one play — an 80-yard Wilson-to-Tate hookup with 3:45 to play in the third quarter.
Even that score, though, hardly came bathed in glory.
On the play, Tate leapt over cornerback Janoris Jenkins to grab the pass and then had a free path into the end zone. Tate, though, took his time getting there, holding the ball with one hand and waving with the other to taunt Jenkins and safety Rodney McLeod as he ran the final 30 yards or so. That drew a 15-yard personal foul for taunting but didn’t negate the touchdown.
“My emotions got the best of me,’’ said Tate, who said that the Seattle receivers and Rams defensive backs had been “chirping’’ all game. “I let them get in my head.’’
But while Carroll said it’s obvious the Seahawks have a lot of work to do, the Seahawks also noted that they have played five of eight on the road and won four, and remain in first place in the NFC West.
Even if the margin Monday night felt as thin as could be.
“If there’s a blade of grass to defend we are going to defend it,’’ Farwell said. “We didn’t expect them to score. We expected to stop them. It didn’t matter if they had 1 yard or 1 inch.’’
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com.