SEATTLE — As he finished talking about winning a division title for the first time in his career, Jamal Adams grabbed the cigar lying on the edge of the podium and flicked the lighter in his hand.
It was celebration time for Adams and the Seattle Seahawks.
“Damn right, I haven’t been here before,” Adams said, his voice rising. “So damn it, it feels good. It feels great!”
The Seahawks claimed the NFC West title on Sunday with a 20-9 victory over the Los Angeles Rams, carried by a revitalized defence and some clutch play from Russell Wilson.
Wilson scored on a 4-yard run on the opening drive of the second half and clinched the division crown with a 13-yard TD pass to Jacob Hollister with 2:51 remaining.
It's the first division title since 2016 for Seattle (11-4) and the fifth since Pete Carroll arrived in 2010. Carroll had linebacker K.J. Wright — the longest-tenured Seahawks player — speak in the locker room after the game.
“Cherish these moments,” Wright said. “It’s been a while since we’ve been NFC West champs. And this team, especially our brotherhood, our togetherness, brought us to this moment.”
The final drive was Wilson at his best: He was 5 of 5 for 59 yards, hitting four different receivers.
Wilson connecting with Hollister was a bit of redemption for the tight end who was stopped inches short of the same end zone on the final play a year ago in Week 17 against San Francisco. That gave the division title to the 49ers.
Wilson finished 20 of 32 for 225 yards. But unlike earlier in the season when it was Wilson who staked Seattle to a 5-0 start, this victory was carried by the defence . Seattle flustered Jared Goff, shut down the Rams’ run game, and held Los Angeles (9-6) to a season low in points.
The Rams became the fifth straight opponent held under 20 points by Seattle, something accomplished four other times in franchise history and not since 2014 — the last time the Seahawks reached the Super Bowl.
It's a staggering turnaround for Seattle, which was on pace to be among the worst defences , statistically, in league history earlier in the season. The unit is now a strength going into the playoffs.
“For everybody out there, they got to start putting respect on this defence's name, because this defence is playing lights out,” Adams said.
Goff was 23 of 42 for 224 yards and a baffling first-half interception that cost Los Angeles points. There's also concern about whether Goff will be able to play in Week 17 against Arizona. Goff dislocated his right thumb after hitting it on a helmet in the third quarter, but put it back into place and didn't miss a play.
“It’s OK right now. It’s not terrible. We’ll see tomorrow,” Goff said.
LA also lost running back Darrell Henderson to an ankle injury in the third quarter. Henderson rushed for 62 yards but was hurt being tripped from behind.
The Rams can still reach the playoffs with a win over Arizona or a loss by Chicago next week, but the past two weeks have changed the tenor of their season. Last week’s shocking loss to the then-winless New York Jets cost the Rams control of the division. Now, Los Angeles is at risk of missing the playoffs altogether.
“This has been a humbling, tough, up-and-down year,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “A lot of good, a lot of frustrating things. As a head coach you feel very responsible, especially with my involvement in the offence .”
One of the biggest plays of the game came when Henderson injured his ankle midway through the third quarter. It looked as if the big running back could have scored before he was tripped up from behind by Adams.
The Rams were already without Cam Akers because of an ankle injury. Henderson's absence left Malcolm Brown as the primary running back.
Adams' hustle on the play proved critical. Goff was stuffed on a third-and-goal sneak from the 1, and Brown was stopped short of the goal line on fourth down.
“The goal-line stand was a famous one and one I will never forget,” Carroll said.
Jason Myers hit field goals of 45 and 49 yards in the first half for Seattle. Myers has made 33 straight attempts dating to last season.
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald sacked Wilson once, giving him 85 1/2 for his career. That’s the third most in the first seven seasons of a career, behind DeMarcus Ware (99 1/2) and Reggie White (95).
Rams: Host Arizona in Week 17.
Seahawks: Close the regular season facing San Francisco next Sunday in Glendale, Arizona.
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Tim Booth, The Associated Press