The Rams earned a 23-17 victory over the Seahawks in front of a record CenturyLink crowd Sunday. Seattle's loss broke a streak of 62 consecutive games in which the Seahawks held a lead, the longest such run in NFL history.
Twice, the slick ball squirted free onto the CenturyLink Field turf, a potential turnover the Seahawks badly needed bouncing between bodies. Teammates leapt over teammates and hands clawed at air, both teams fighting for possession.
And twice, St. Louis Rams center Tim Barnes ended up on top of the loose ball.
St. Louis maintained possession, running back Todd Gurley punched in a fourth-quarter touchdown from close range and the Rams held onto a 23-17 victory over the Seahawks in front of a CenturyLink-record announced attendance of 69,080 on Sunday afternoon.
The loss broke a streak of 62 consecutive games in which Seattle held a lead, the longest such run in NFL history.
What the result means for the NFC playoff picture will become clearer after the Sunday night game between the Vikings and the Giants. Seattle (9-6) entered Sunday in the first wild card spot — and with it, a potential first-round date with 8-7 Washington — but will be leapfrogged by a Minnesota victory.
The first half set the tone for the rest of the afternoon, a battle of attrition between a pair of aggressive, swarming defenses.
Shortly after the Rams opened the scoring courtesy of Greg Zuerlein’s 42-yard field goal midway through the first quarter, St. Louis’ defensive unit widened the gap.
On 3rd-and-1 at midfield, Seattle fullback Will Tukuafu was met in the hole by Rams defender Mark Barron, a violent collision jarring the ball loose. St. Louis linebacker Akeem Akers scooped the loose ball into his arms and sprinted 45 yards to paydirt.
St. Louis’ lead would extend all the way to 16-0 in the next frame. Receiver Kenny Britt sprinted past cornerback Richard Sherman down the right sideline, and quarterback Case Keenum hit him in stride for a 28-yard score. Though Zuerlein missed the extra point, the Rams were in control.
Seattle’s offense belatedly stirred to life, pushing deep into St. Louis territory via Russell Wilson’s third-down heroics but only managing a 26-yard Steven Hauschka field goal to cut the deficit to 16-3 at the half.
The momentum began to tilt in the hosts’ favor after the break.
Doug Baldwin set a Seahawks season record with his 14th touchdown catch of the season, breaking free behind a trio of Rams defenders on third and long to give the Seahawks a lifeline.
The fourth quarter began with those pair of fumbles. Barnes’ first recovery ensured a vital first down, while the second set up 1st-and-goal inside the Seahawks five and Gurley’s resulting touchdown.
Seattle pushed into St. Louis territory in each of its next two drives, but the first was deflated by a bad snap on third down and the second came to an end when Wilson fumbled at the Rams 11. The Seahawks finished with three turnovers: two fumbles and Wilson’s first interception in five weeks.
Seattle gave itself one last shot with just 17 second remaining, when Wilson found Jermaine Kearse for an 18-yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone. But the onside kick bounced directly out of bounds, and the Rams took a knee to clinch their first win at CenturyLink since 2012.
Seattle – which has already clinched its fourth-straight postseason berth – travels to Arizona next Sunday for its regular-season finale. The Cardinals are still alive for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs by virtue of Atlanta’s upset of Carolina earlier on Sunday.