In front of the same end zone 363 days earlier, Seattle tight end Jacob Hollister caught a pass from Russell Wilson that almost won the NFC West title for the Seahawks.
On Dec. 29, 2019, in a chaotic and controversial 26-21 loss to San Francisco, Hollister was tackled inside the 1-yard line — only an inch or two short of the goal line — on the game’s final play. The 49ers won the game and won the division title, and then went on three weeks later to claim the NFC crown.
Fast forward to Sunday afternoon at Lumen Field, and there was Hollister again, in the same north end zone, catching another pass from Wilson. This time, chaos quickly turned to celebration for the Seahawks, as Hollister’s 13-yard touchdown reception with 2:51 remaining clinched a 20-9 victory over the Los Angeles Rams and secured Seattle’s first division title since 2016.
“That’s got a little bit of poetry right there,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “I don’t even think it was a yard last year. I mean, we’re at this exact same situation. What I like about you bringing that up is that we’ve been here before — we’ve been this close. This time we really pushed it over the top and finished and left no doubt.”
The Seahawks (11-4) have won three in a row and are guaranteed no worse than the NFC’s No. 3 seed for the playoffs. Seattle’s offense, as explosive and dynamic as any offense in the NFL in the first half of the season, has rediscovered a winning formula after a shaky stretch in November and early December.
“Last year was last year,” Wilson said, “but to win this year with … everything that’s going on, it’s been exciting; it’s really exciting to win it. But, like I said, we’ve got to remain neutral and you stay focused on what we’ve got to do and where we want to go. There’s a lot more ahead of us.”
Wilson played his worst game of the season in the Seahawks’ Week 10 loss in Los Angeles, with three turnovers and no touchdowns. Seattle’s offensive philosophy has shifted since then — and, no doubt, largely because of that game.
The Seahawks didn’t have their top three running backs for that first meeting with the Rams, and while Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde and Rashaad Penny didn’t put up gaudy numbers Sunday, the Seahawks’ renewed commitment to the run game, they believe, makes them battle-tested for the playoffs.
“This is what we want to do each and every week — we want to run the ball,” said Carson, who had 16 carries for 69 yards. “We got me, Carlos, Penny — we’re stacked up at running back. So we’ve got the guys to do it. … It’s big to have everyone healthy at this time of the year.”
The Seahawks finished with 95 yards on 24 carries against a Rams defense that came into the game ranked No. 1 in the NFL in yards allowed and No. 2 in efficiency. Wilson was 20 of 32 for 225 yards with the one touchdown pass to Hollister. Most important to Carroll, Wilson didn’t turn the ball over.
The score was tied 6-6 at halftime, and the Seahawks had their offensive breakthrough to start the third quarter. On third-and-eight, in a vintage improvisational moment from the quarterback, Wilson scrambled away from pressure and found receiver David Moore in front of the Seattle sideline for a 45-yard gain, the signature play of the game for the offense — and a signature play of the season.
“There’s no doubt, that was the play,” Carroll said. “Because we hadn’t had a bust-out play that changed field position. And it was a special play by Russ and the throw, and then the catch by David staying in bounds — every part of that was great.”
Three plays later, on another third-and-long, Wilson again escaped the pocket and flipped the ball to Hyde for an 18-yard gain, down to the Rams’ 4-yard line. On the play after that, Wilson ran in for the game’s first touchdown.
On the game’s only other touchdown drive, Wilson was at his best late in the fourth quarter, going 5 for 5 for 59 yards, including the 13-yard TD to Hollister.
“Hollister, he’s been so efficient and so effective,” Wilson said. “He keeps making plays.”
The Seahawks tried to get creative to find ways to get the ball to star receiver DK Metcalf, who was largely shut down by Jalen Ramsey in their Nov. 15 meeting. The Seahawks put Metcalf in motion a handful of times pre-snap, getting him away from Ramsey, and three of his six catches converted third-down plays.
Metcalf finished with six catches for 59 yards, giving him 80 catches for 1,282 yards this season — just 6 yards shy of breaking Steve Largent’s franchise record for receiving yards in a season, with one regular-season game remaining.
“DK played really tough today,” Carroll said. “I really liked the way he played.”