Updated Dec 29, 2013 - 6:39 pm
Seahawks clinch top seed with 27-9 win over Rams
SEATTLE (AP) - Once the doors to the Seattle Seahawks' locker room opened, the music came blaring out. Players danced while still in uniform and donned hats reading "NFC West Champions."
On their third try, the Seahawks finally got to celebrate after wrapping up the division title and home-field advantage in the playoffs with a 27-9 win over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
Having failed two times previously, Seattle ensured the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through the Pacific Northwest.
"We can check the NFC West off our list," quarterback Russell Wilson said, "but we still have a lot more to do."
Malcolm Smith returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter to get Seattle started, Marshawn Lynch added a 2-yard scoring run in the second half and the Seahawks (13-3) matched the franchise record for wins in a season.
By doing so, the favorites in the NFC for most of the season finally wrapped up the No. 1 seed after losses to San Francisco and last week to Arizona, which snapped a 14-game home winning streak.
Seattle won the toughest division in the NFL behind the league's best defense. The Seahawks' home field is still feared, and they will host Green Bay, New Orleans or San Francisco in the divisional round in two weeks.
Seattle's combined record at home the past two seasons against those three teams: 4-0.
"It's more of a sense of accomplishment," Smith said. "It would have been really sad if we didn't get that done, but we're happy to be in the position that we're in."
Wilson finished 15 of 23 for 172 yards. Lynch finished with 97 yards on 23 carries, his best game since running for a season-best 145 yards against Atlanta in Week 10
Seattle capped the victory with a 47-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Golden Tate early in the fourth quarter that lacked the unsportsmanlike wave that got Tate flagged on a similar TD reception in St. Louis earlier this season. Tate finished with eight catches for 129 yards, both career highs in his final regular-season game before he becomes a free agent.
But with home-field advantage wrapped up, there might be a few postseason games still to come for Tate and the Seahawks.
"It's an awesome feeling. It's a great feeling to feel like you really helped in this game," Tate said.
The only other time Seattle had home-field advantage was 2005, the only time the Seahawks have reached the Super Bowl. They'll get a week of rest before hosting in the divisional round, and they might need the time off after a pair of key injuries Sunday to defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (groin) and tight end Luke Willson (leg).
Willson was taken off the field on a cart in the fourth quarter with an air cast on his leg. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the team believes it's not broken. Still, the upcoming week off is needed.
"I definitely need it. I was getting smacked today," Tate said.
Seattle's defense closed the season with one of its finest performances. It started with Smith's interception return for a touchdown a week after he was tackled at the 3-yard line trying to score on an interception return.
But it went beyond just the two interceptions Seattle grabbed to finish the season with a league-leading 28. Led by Mebane, Seattle's defensive line flustered Kellen Clemens. Zac Stacy, who needed 42 yards rushing to reach 1,000 on the season, was held to 15 yards on 15 carries. The Rams had 13 yards rushing, tied for the fewest allowed in Seattle history.
"They had about nine guys down there in the box," Clemens said. "You only have about seven or eight to block and they did a good job."
Seattle also kept its cool while St. Louis was losing its composure.
The Rams (7-9) were penalized 12 times for 87 yards. St. Louis was flagged for four personal foul penalties in the span of two plays late in the third quarter _ two on Alec Ogletree and two on Kendall Langford.
Langford was flagged for making contact with an official, which appeared inadvertent. Langford was ejected and became incensed, slamming his helmet to the turf as he left the field.
Two plays later Lynch walked in from the 2, Seattle led 20-3 and the celebration was just getting started.
"This whole thing just feels like a dream to me," Seattle safety Kam Chancellor said. "It feels good right now just to see my brothers happy."
NOTES: Tate became the first Seattle player with at least eight receptions in a game since Doug Baldwin in 2011. ... Rams P Johnny Hekker set an NFL record for net yards punting for a season. Hekker had a 44.2 net average. The previous record was 44.0 by San Francisco's Andy Lee in 2011. ... St. Louis DE Robert Quinn had one sack and finished with 19 for the season.
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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