The Jeff Fisher-led Rams had plenty to play for, including their first winning season since 2003. He had his team ready to play and there was loads of motivation to not only finish out the year undefeated in the NFC West, but also to capture the momentum created by beating the hottest team in the NFL heading into the offseason.
We did not witness a letdown last Sunday. We saw the Hawks take care of a team that was ready to play and a simulation of what a win in the playoffs might look like.
Particularly impressive was the way they finished the game. The game-winning touchdown drive was a 10-play, 90-yard masterpiece ending with a Russell Wilson running score. The drive included some clutch plays by Golden Tate and equal parts Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. The nail in the coffin was a Richard Sherman interception in the end zone.
Long scoring drives and big-play turnovers are the recipe for a win in the playoffs. There will be very few blowouts, so thanks for the tune-up, St. Louis.
Speaking of turnovers, if you look at the top 12 teams in the NFL in turnover ratio (takeaways vs. giveaways), nine of those teams are in the playoffs, including the Seahawks and the Redskins. It brings home the message Pete Carroll preaches constantly – it's all about the ball.
The Redskins rank third with a turnover ratio of plus-17 and the Hawks rank sixth with plus-13. Both defenses have the same number of takeaways but the Redskins' offense has four fewer giveaways. You can attribute that to quarterback Robert Griffin III and the phenomenally low number of interceptions he has thrown this year. RG III has thrown just five picks, an incredible number for any quarterback let alone a rookie.
But the Hawks are on a tear right now in that category. During their five-game winning streak that began in Chicago, the Seahawks are plus-11. They'll need to keep that streak alive to advance in the playoffs.
The past two Super Bowl champions won mostly on the road, a path the Hawks will most likely have to take. Both the Giants and the Packers got big road wins on their way to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy due to that all-important statistic. Each team went plus-6 during the postseason.
Meet the Redskins
Quick ... name any player on the Redskins not named Robert Griffin III. Excluding you fantasy footballers, the Redskins' roster is a bit of a mystery to most of us. Like the Hawks, they're identified by their quarterback. That's too bad for two players on opposite ends of the age spectrum because running back Alfred Morris and linebacker London Fletcher are having spectacular seasons.
Fletcher is an extraordinary story in that he plays one of the most physical positions in football (middle linebacker) and has managed to stay healthy his entire career in spite of his small stature. Fletcher is in his 15th season and at 5-foot-10 and under 240 pounds, he was given very little chance to make any teams his rookie year in 1998.
The free agent out of football powerhouse John Carroll College (The Blue Streaks!) has not slowed down in the least and may have been the biggest snub in this year's Pro Bowl voting. He had two sacks against the Cowboys last Sunday and an eye-popping five interceptions for the season. That's more than any other linebacker in the league and he also ranks seventh in tackles (139). How in the world do you not get into the Pro Bowl with those numbers?
The most remarkable thing about Fletcher, he's 37 years old and will be appearing in his 241st consecutive game against the Seahawks on Sunday. Sorry, Brett Favre. Appearing in 297 straight games is impressive, but when you're hitting 300-pound linemen nearly every play, it makes standing in the pocket look like a day at the beach.
Pro Bowl center Max Unger will have his hands full with Fletcher. Those old guys tend to be crafty.
Morris is the Redskins' version of Marshawn Lynch, except Morris is a rookie. He also has more rushing yards than Beast Mode and finished second only to Minnesota's Adrian Peterson with 1,613 yards. He ran for twice his average last Sunday, finishing the night with 200 yards against the Cowboys.
Morris was a sixth-round pick out of another football powerhouse, Florida Atlantic University (Owls!), and like a lot of the Seahawks' roster, a relative unknown who has become a very pleasant surprise.
Morris will definitely put the Seahawks' run defense to the test.
It should be an exciting one, folks. The Hawks excel in three areas that get you wins in the playoffs: the running game, defense and turnovers.