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SEATTLE (AP) — There was something extra to the Seattle Seahawks celebration on Sunday because at midseason it appeared they were on the verge of not even being in the postseason picture.
That turnaround made Seattle's celebration of its NFC West title and home-field advantage through the playoffs meaningful in a different way after beating St. Louis 20-6.
The Seahawks were 3-3 and 6-4 at key points of this season. And they finished on top of the NFC, riding a six-game win streak and knowing they don't have to leave Seattle again until a potential Super Bowl trip.
"To finish the season, and be really strong here in December again, that's something we take great pride in," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "Finishing is a big deal to us. Now we have a chance to get into the playoffs and see if we can do something with that as well."
Seattle (12-4) took the lead on Marshawn Lynch's 9-yard touchdown run with 12:07 remaining — his 17th TD of the season — and got the capper from Bruce Irvin and his 49-yard interception return for a score less than 3 minutes later. The Seahawks forced three turnovers in the fourth quarter, including Earl Thomas causing St. Louis' Benny Cunningham to fumble at the 1 on his way in for a potential TD.
"I have no doubt. I had no doubt, and this team believes in each other, believes that we'll find a way to pull it out," Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin said.
St. Louis (6-10) wrapped up an injury filled season that didn't match expectations the Rams would join the conversation in the NFC West. St. Louis was on the verge of disrupting the NFC playoff picture holding a 6-0 lead, but couldn't capitalize on a pair of Seattle turnovers in the first half and made too many mistakes late.
Here are other things that stood out from Seattle beating St. Louis at home in Week 17 for the fourth time in five seasons:
BEST DEFENSE: Seattle continued to make the argument its defense could be considered among the best of this era. Seattle finished the season as the NFL leader in yards allowed and points allowed, becoming just the fourth team to accomplish that feat in consecutive seasons.
It was the third straight season Seattle led the league in fewest points allowed, only the third time in NFL history that had been accomplished. The last time was the 1969-71 Minnesota Vikings. Seattle allowed 15.9 points this season.
SLOW RUN: Seattle has leaned so heavily on its run game that when the Seahawks don't post significant run numbers it's notable. The Seahawks finished with 132 yards rushing against the Rams, the fewest in their final five games. It was just the second time in the final nine games the Seahawks were held under 149 yards rushing.
Lynch finished with 60 yards on just 14 carries and Robert Turbin had 53 yards on 11 carries, but Russell Wilson's running was shut down by the Rams.
BETTER THAN 6-10: St. Louis believes it was better than its 6-10 record. The Rams had home victories over Seattle and Denver, but were unable to break through on the road. The Rams did not beat a road team with a winning record this season and closed the year with three straight losses.
"Our expectations are high so some people might not be surprised that we come in here and lose a close one, we expect to win," Rams defensive end Chris Long said. "It just takes the growth of this team, young guys getting more experience and we'll be real good next year."
FIERCE RUSH: Through five games, the Rams had just one sack. That changed for the Rams when Seattle visited St. Louis in October and continued for the rest of the season. St. Louis finished with 39 sacks in its final 11 games and added three more on Sunday.
HAUSCH MONEY: Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka had some unusual struggles last week at Arizona missing three field goal attempts. It was the first time in his career missing three kicks in a single game.
Hauschka thanked his teammates last week after a walkthrough for covering for his misses.
"I feel like I'm ready to help this team out. I'm sure there is going to be plays where some guys on our team needs help from other players and that's just how it works," Hauschka said.
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