LOS ANGELES – Richard Sherman. Earl Thomas. Sheldon Richardson. Frank Clark.
Heck, the entire, pride-packed, play-making Seahawks defense. They all have a message for many across the country who love to loathe them.
“People look forward to writing us off,” Sherman said Sunday of Seattle’s 2-2 start entering Sunday, with far less glitz than the new division darlings in Los Angeles had been showing.
“Our demise was greatly overstated.”
The Seahawks forced five turnovers, then stopped wunderkind quarterback Jared Goff and L.A. one final time from the Seattle 20 in the final seconds for a sizeable, 16-10 victory over the previously rampaging Rams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Thomas chopped his arm across that of Rams’ running back Todd Gurley to force a fumble off the goal-line pylon for a fumble, touchback and Seattle ball instead of an early Rams touchdown. The three-time All-Pro had done the same thing to the Rams at the goal line in 2014 in Seattle.
“I’ve been watching some Bruce Lee movies,” Thomas said, smiling, “and it kind of carried over to the football field.”
All-Pro teammate Bobby Wagner also laughed over Thomas’ trick.
“He’s pretty good at the karate chop,” Wagner said.
With the Seahawks’ lead teetering and 6 minutes to go, Thomas intercepted Goff in Seattle territory. His teammates raced off the sideline onto the field with roars, dances and high-fives.
“We always say, ‘Just give us an inch,’” Thomas said of his defense.
“Just locked in. Just unrelenting focus.”
With 2:45 remaining and the Rams moving again, Frank Clark—a native of one of this city’s roughest areas, Baldwin Village—slammed into Goff from behind for a sack and forced fumble. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who had earlier intercepted a tipped pass, scooped up the fumble. That set up Blair Walsh’s third field goal with 1:07 left.
Clark, playing more with Pro Bowl defensive end Cliff Avril out indefinitely with neck and spine issues, said he’d been setting up veteran Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth “all day” with the outside move he made to smack Goff.
The Seahawks forced five turnovers in a game for the first time since Dec. 22, 2013, against Arizona. That season turned out pretty well for them. They won the Super Bowl.
“It’s the amount of playmakers we have,” Sherman said.
They showed out in time for the division winners in three of the last four years to reassert their presence atop the NFC West before 60,745 at the Coliseum. The old house was roaring with Seattle fans that made up at least half the crowd.
The Rams had beaten Seattle in three of their previous four meetings, and four of the last six. That including a 9-3 slog in Los Angeles last season.
“These guys have been playing great football for a long time,” coach Pete Carroll said of Seattle’s star-packed defense, “And I think it’s just another statement that they will not relent.”
But they did bend. Almost devastating so, at the end.
With 69 seconds and no time outs remaining, the Rams moved from their 25-yard line to the Seahawks 20. On third down Eastern Washington University’s Cooper Kupp had the potentially winning touchdown pass go off his hands as he dived in the end zone open with 8 seconds left; he apologized after the game and said he should have caught it. On fourth down, Goff threw well short of the well-covered Kupp near the goal line.
That was the fifth time Los Angeles drove within the Seattle 20. The Rams scored just three points on those marches.
The Seahawks (3-2) ran off the sideline to roar at their defense for doing it. Again.
Russell Wilson completed 24 of 27 passes for 198 yards, a touchdown and interception—and a battering. He got sacked three times, all in the first half, and hit 11 other times by the Rams (3-2).
But Los Angeles’ defense was not as decisive as Seattle’s.
“This,” Wilson said of the win, “shows the heart of our team.”
With 10 minutes left, the Seahawks had just 226 yards of offense. Only 51 of those yards came from a running game they’ve vowed to renew and revitalize this season—and only 27 of those yards on the ground came from running backs. Yet they led 13-10.
The Rams were moving late in third quarter when the Seahawks got their first “sack” of Goff. Goff tripped over the foot of his tailback Todd Gurley as he was faking a handoff to him and beginning to roll the other way to pass. Then on third and 20 from the 25, Goff sent a screen pass high off Gurley’s hands. Richardson, a defensive tackle who was a multi-sport star in high school in St. Louis, made an exquisitely athletic play, diving and securing the ball with soft hands for the interception. It was just Goff’s second this season.
“Look at my plays in high school. They are pretty nice,” Richardson said. “That’s it. They speak for itself.”
His play Sunday kept Seattle ahead 13-10 entering the final quarter.
The Rams drove down the field with three third-down conversions to begin the second half. But Greg Zuerlein shanked a 36-yard field goal wide right to keep the game tied. It was Zuerlein’s first miss of the season. He had been 76 for 81 in his career from under 40 yards before that miss.
After it, catches by J.D. McKissic and Eddie Lacy, who started at running back over Thomas Rawls with rookie Chris Carson on injured reserve, set up Walsh’s 49-yard field goal. Seattle led 13-10.
The Seahawks erased an early, 10-0 hole to be tied at halftime on Jimmy Graham’s first touchdown catch of the season. It was a jump-ball on Wilson’s one-step throw from the 4 with 1:55 left in the second quarter over a defender seven inches shorter, the play all in the Northwest have clamored for over the last three seasons. Then Seattle got going again in a hurry-up, 2-minute drill. Doug Baldwin’s 15-yard catch got Seattle in position for Walsh’s 48-yard field goal as time expired in the half.
It would have been worse for Seattle if not for Thomas.
He raced across from the middle of the field to the left sideline and chopped the arm of Gurley just as the Rams’ running back was reaching with it to the goal line at the end of a first-quarter run. Thomas’ chop knocked the ball from Gurley’s hand off the goal-line pylon into the end zone for a touchback and Seattle ball instead of a 7-0 lead for Los Angeles.
Gurley, the NFL’s second-leading rusher and Rams receiving leader coming in, finished with 43 yards on 14 carries plus two catches for 7 yards. It was the fourth time in four games Seattle’s defense throttled the back that’s been shredding almost everyone else.
Goff was 22 for 47 passing for 288 yards, two interceptions and a passer rating of 48.9. He was at 112.2, higher than Tom Brady, before playing the Seahawks.
The Rams dominated the opening quarter, with 124 yards to the Seahawks’ 28, but because of Thomas’ play the game stayed scoreless. In the second quarter the Rams turned an interception thrown by wide receiver and former college quarterback Tanner McEvoy late on a mistimed double-pass trick play into a touchdown by Tavon Austin, 27 yards on a third-down run. Then Wilson threw late and floated a pass outside in the red zone toward Luke Willson. Rookie John Johnson intercepted that and ran 69 yards.
“Crappy play by me,” Wilson said.
But what happened next was not: Wilson sprinted 70 yards to tackle Johnson with a swipe at his foot. That saved four points, because Seattle’s defense held the Rams to 2 yards over the next three plays. Zurlein kicked a 35-yard field goal.
“Took me back to high school,” in Richmond, Virginia, Wilson said with a grin of his days as a prep defensive back and quarterback.
“We appreciated it,” Sherman said. “He has a lot of pride, too.”
Sherman was speaking for his entire defense. As if it hadn’t spoken loudly enough on Sunday.
“We don’t think about other teams,” Sherman said, “when we’re going about our business.”
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