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.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
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Browns (12-5) at Chiefs (14-2)
LINE: KANSAS CITY by 10
Suddenly, the Browns are a hot ticket for bettors. According to sources that track betting information, it is Cleveland receiving the majority of wagers placed on this contest. It seems that a lot of weight is being put on last week’s 48-37 win over Pittsburgh. While it is a huge monkey off of Cleveland’s back, having won a playoff game for the first time in a quarter-century, it was against a team that was reeling in the final quarter of the season and one that offered up five turnovers to their division rival. The same won’t happen here. Kansas City is well-rested after sitting a bunch of front liners in a meaningless Week 17 of the regular season and then having last week off as the AFC’s top seed. Now, the defending Super Bowl champs return to the field with added time to study the 22nd ranked pass defence in the NFL. Somewhat surprisingly, Cleveland ranked even lower with its passing game when placing 24th overall. Should the Browns fall behind, as most expect they will, their strong running tandem of Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb is suddenly negated. We also can’t ignore that the Browns were -11 in point differential this season while the Chiefs were +111. Reigning MVP, Patrick Mahomes threw for 4,740 yards, 38 touchdowns and just six interceptions this season when guiding the league’s top offence in both yardage and passing yards. The Chiefs also expected elusive rookie RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire back in action after missing a couple of weeks with an ankle injury. A big number, yes. But a big discrepancy in capability as well.
TAKING: CHIEFS –10
KOSHAN: Maple Leafs fall with ugly effort against Senators – Toronto Sun
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Morgan Rielly was on the ice for all three of those Ottawa goals. Auston Matthews, Joe Thornton and Brodie were on for two.
“I just sensed that we stopped playing,” Keefe said. “Scoring that (Kerfoot) goal, for us, if we want to be a team that’s going to accomplish anything, the game should be over from there.”
Some 11 months ago, Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas used the words “Jekyll and Hyde” to describe the team’s inconsistencies. The term continues to ring true, even after the off-season additions and belief that the core would grow.
Oh, two games is a small sample size, sure. Still, it shouldn’t be happening.
“Being hard on pucks,” was Zach Hyman’s answer to a question about the strides the team can make defensively.
“We have all the tools. We just need to do it every shift. I don’t think that we’re good enough to take shifts off and that goes for all lines. I think everyone can be better defensively.”
The first period featured a goal from both sides, and the Leafs were bitten after taking a bench minor for the second time in as many games.
Ottawa’s young stud defenceman, Thomas Chabot, tied the game in the final minute of the opening period on a two-man Sens advantage, the second Toronto penalty coming for too many men.
Hyman, whose wife Alannah recently gave birth to the couple’s first child, son Theo, got the Leafs on the board at 9:59. Hyman’s goal came on a Toronto power play and resulted when Hyman bunted the puck out of the air and past Murray. After a review for a possible high stick, the goal stood.
Keefe indicated on Friday morning that Jack Campbell will be in goal on Saturday.
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