Seattle Seahawks clinch first NFC West title since 2016

SEATTLE -- Seahawks safety Jamal Adams lit a victory cigar at the end of his postgame videoconference, reveling in his new team's first NFC West championship since 2016.

Quarterback Russell Wilson called the Seahawks' accomplishment a blessing and got emotional while recalling how challenging of a year it has been.

Coach Pete Carroll said the team's resurgent defense has proved that it's for real.

That group's turnaround from its historically bad start to the season continued Sunday as the Seahawks (11-4) held the Los Angeles Rams (9-6) to three field goals in a 20-9 win at Lumen Field. Wilson & Co. closed out the victory after a sluggish first half to secure the division title and keep alive the Seahawks' hopes of finishing with one of the NFC's top two seeds.

"There were times during the season where everybody had enough statistics to go ahead and blow us out, and like we weren't worth anything on defense," Carroll said. "But this defense is good, and they've shown it and they've declared it. This is the kind of defense that we've played in years past when we really had good teams down ... the stretch."

Seattle sacked Jared Goff three times and pressured him on 24 dropbacks. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, that was the most pressure faced by Goff in his career.

One of those pressures came on a second-quarter play in which Goff -- who later injured his right thumb -- was intercepted by Pro Bowl safety Quandre Diggs on an inexplicable throw across his body.

Carroll was most proud of how the Seahawks stopped the Rams on consecutive plays from the 1-yard line in the third quarter, when L.A. ran four plays from inside the 5 and came away with no points.

"The goal-line stand was a famous one, and one I'll never forget," Carroll said. "Just because it was so hard; the ball was on the 1-inch line or whatever and they did not let it happen."

Wilson entered Sunday having not been sacked over the previous two games. That was in part due to game plans that emphasized shorter throws to get the ball out of his hands quickly. The Seahawks went away from that strategy Sunday without much early success, as Wilson was sacked three times in the first half and couldn't connect on any of his deep throws en route to a 6-6 tie after two quarters.

But Wilson found wide receiver David Moore for a 45-yard gain down the sideline on Seattle's opening drive of the third quarter, then ran it in himself four plays later for the game's first touchdown.

Leading 13-9 midway through the fourth quarter, Wilson took the Seahawks 80 yards -- on a drive that ate up nearly 4 minutes, 30 seconds -- and hit tight end Jacob Hollister in the end zone from 13 yards out to put away the game.

The score snapped a streak of 11 straight quarters without Wilson throwing a touchdown pass against the Rams, according to ESPN Stats & Info research. After three interceptions in his two previous games against Los Angeles, Wilson on Sunday finished 20-of-32 for 225 yards with no turnovers. He was sacked five times.

Carroll called it a "good little bit of poetry" that Hollister scored the game-sealing touchdown after he was stopped inches from the goal line against the San Francisco 49ers last season, a potential TD that would have given the Seahawks the NFC West title.

Adams, acquired in a blockbuster summer trade with the New York Jets, saved a touchdown Sunday when he chased down running back Darrell Henderson and stopped him at the 2-yard line.

That play set up Seattle's goal-line stand. The Pro Bowl strong safety then stopped running back Malcolm Brown shy of the end zone two plays later for another one of his eight tackles, which tied for the team lead. He also broke up a pass.

"I don't want to be too happy because I don't want people to say he's dramatic or he hasn't been here before," a jubilant Adams said to begin his postgame videoconference, with his cigar placed on the podium in front of him. "You're damn right I haven't been here before, so, damn it, it feels good! It feels great!"

The Seahawks' defense allowed 28.8 points per game over the first 10 weeks, the NFL's third most in that span. They've allowed a league-low 13.7 points since.

"For everybody out there, they need to start putting respect on this defense's name," Adams said. "Because this defense is playing lights out. And to me, we're the best defense in the league. You can quote that. You can do what you want to do with it."

The Seahawks will head into their regular-season finale against the 49ers in Glendale, Arizona, as the conference's third seed behind the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints. The only way the Seahawks could end up with the No. 1 seed is if they beat the 49ers and if the Saints (at Carolina) and Packers (at Chicago) both lose next week. They'll remain the No. 3 seed with a loss to the 49ers or if the Packers and Saints both win. Any other combination would result in Seattle remaining the No. 3 seed.

The normally stoic Wilson got choked up after the game while discussing the Seahawks' NFC West title in the context of a challenging year that began with the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna in January.

Wilson wore Bryant's black Lakers jersey to the stadium Sunday and had it on after the game.

"Big championship matchup, everything that's going on in 2020, to honor him, have that Mamba mentality," Wilson said. "... He's one of the first things that come to mind and just what he represented, how he inspired people."