By Brady Henderson
Golden Tate wore an NFC West champions hat on his head and a smile on his face as he told reporters about the 43-yard touchdown catch that capped the finest game of his professional career.
"I was just being me," he said from his locker after Seattle's 27-9 win over St. Louis.
Indeed, not only was it the type of explosive and athletic play Tate has become known for, it was nearly identical to the 80-yard touchdown catch he made when these teams met earlier this season. On each play he was lined up wide to the left and across from Janoris Jenkins, and on each play he ran a go route, cut back inside before outleaping the Rams' cornerback for the ball and then racing to the end zone.
"That was very similar," quarterback Russell Wilson said when asked about Tate's touchdown catch on Sunday compared to the one he made back in Week 8 when Seattle beat St. Louis on "Monday Night Football."
You remember that play, the one in which Tate drew a taunting penalty, a fine from the league and all sorts of flak because of a premature celebration that cost his team nothing more than 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff. That play was the difference in that game, giving the Seahawks a lead they wouldn't lose. This one was merely the icing on the cake for Seattle's big win and Tate's big day.
The Seahawks needed more from Tate with Jermaine Kearse sidelined due to an ankle injury. They got it, Tate finishing with eight catches for 129 yards, both career highs.
"He played a great football game today," coach Pete Carroll said. "... It was really an exciting day for us to see him come up like that and play so well."
Luke Willson injured his ankle in the fourth quarter. (AP)
The Seahawks are hopeful that Luke Willson's ankle injury is not as serious as it initially appeared when the rookie tight end was carted off the field with his left leg in an air cast.
"What we heard is that he did not break his ankle," Carroll said. "That's really good news. We didn't know. So he's got a high-ankle sprain is what we think we know right now."
Willson was injured while being tackled during a reception in the fourth quarter.
Sustaining a high-ankle sprain as opposed to a break at least gives Willson an outside chance of returning sometime in the postseason. His loss would be a blow for Seattle's offense given the frequency with which it uses multiple tight ends at once.
Cooler heads prevail
Nine of the Rams' 12 assessed penalties were for either unsportsmanlike conduct, unnecessary roughness or taunting.
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"We wanted to make sure we played with championship poise today," Carroll said.
They did with the exception of one play in which backup linebacker Mike Morgan was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct while covering a punt in the first quarter. That offset three penalties the Rams committed on the play.
"There were times where we could've got in some trouble with those guys," said fullback Michael Robinson, "but we kind of let them do their thing and they messed up, not us."
Seattle finished with seven penalties for 65 yards.
• DT Brandon Mebane left the game and did not return due to what Carroll characterized as a minor groin strain. "It wasn't bad," Carroll said. "He'll be able to use this (bye) week to get back."
• Sunday's crowd of 68,264 at CenturyLink Field pushed the Seahawks' season attendance to 545,577, a new franchise record.
• The Seahawks allowed 57 yards on five punt returns Sunday, which was more than double what they had allowed over the first 15 games combined. Seattle had a chance to break the Falcons' record for fewest punt-return yards allowed in a 16-game season – which was 49 in 2008 – but instead the Seahawks finish with a season total of 82.
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.