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Seattle gets 3rd chance at NFC West title vs. Rams

Seattle gets 3rd chance at NFC West title vs. Rams

December 28th, 2013 by TIM BOOTH, AP Sports Writer in News

SEATTLE (AP) - After failing twice already to wrap up the NFC West and home-field advantage in the playoffs, Sunday's season finale means everything for Seattle.

With a win over St. Louis, the Seahawks (12-3) losing twice over the final month of the season to San Francisco and Arizona will simply be remembered as blips. But a third loss in four games might send Seattle on the road to start the postseason with mounting concerns about a late-season collapse.

"We're not a team that's going to go ahead and sit down and take a knee and just hopefully just get through the game. We don't do that," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "So the fact that there's something at stake, legitimately, is good for us and we'll try to make the most of it."

Last week's loss to the Cardinals ended Seattle's 14-game home winning streak and chipped away at the Seahawks' home invincibility built during the nearly two-year long win streak. Now the Seahawks are in a precarious position with no more room to falter. A Seattle loss and a win by the 49ers would give San Francisco the division and No. 1 seed, drop the Seahawks to the No. 5 seed and drastically change playoff expectations.

Seattle knows how much of a challenge St. Louis (7-8) will be. The Rams have won two straight and pushed the Seahawks to the final yard and final play in Seattle's 14-9 win in Week 8.

"Just because we've played them tough and played them close doesn't mean that we're going to play them close, that's no guarantee here," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said.

Here are five more things to watch as the Rams and Seahawks close out the regular season:

RUSSELL REBOUND: It's been rare this season to see Russell Wilson confused and indecisive. That's what Arizona was able to accomplish, disguising coverages and getting enough pass rush to disrupt timing. Wilson threw for a career-low 108 yards and his passer rating of 49.6 was a season low. Wilson also struggled in third-down situations against Arizona. The Seahawks were 2 of 13 overall and 1 of 8 on third downs of 5 yards or longer.

"I just have to be better. That's what it really comes down to. I'll take the blame for it," Wilson said.

QUINN'S QUEST: St. Louis' Robert Quinn is having a spectacular season. The third-year defensive end leads the NFL with 18 sacks and broke Kevin Carter's franchise record last week against Tampa Bay when he dropped Mike Glennon for a third time. With two more sacks, he can become the 10th player to finish the regular season with 20 or more sacks.

The Seahawks are well aware of Quinn's ability to be disruptive. Quinn had three of St. Louis' seven sacks in the first meeting.

"He's a rare athlete for this position. This is the kind of guy, exactly what you're looking for in the Leo position," Carroll said. "He's got that speed, he's got the athleticism. He can do whatever you need him to do."

RUNNING RAMS: Rookie Zac Stacy is coming off his second straight 100-yard game and needs 42 yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark for the season. If he can get there, Stacy would continue the Rams' lineage of 1,000-yard rushers after Steven Jackson had eight in a row before leaving in free agency to Atlanta.

What makes Stacy's accomplishment more impressive is the fifth-round pick out of Vanderbilt didn't become the starter until Week 5. He ran for a season-high 134 yards in the first meeting.

"It's very difficult to run against the Seahawks, but we're going to hand it off to him, so we'll see what happens," Fisher said.

DON'T PASS GO: Seattle's secondary is trying to finish the season with a rare accomplishment that could be a precursor for the Seahawks' postseason hopes. Seattle leads the NFL in yards passing allowed (173.8 per game) and interceptions (26).

Why is that important? The Seahawks would become the third team since the merger to lead the league in those two categories and the previous two - the 2002 Buccaneers and 1982 Dolphins - both reached the Super Bowl.

.500 OR BUST: The Rams will finish off a decade without a winning season but have a chance at reaching the .500 mark with a victory on Sunday. It would be the first time for St. Louis getting to 8-8 since 2006 and while it wouldn't be considered that significant over a 7-8-1 in Fisher's first season last year, the Rams have done it for most of this year without starting quarterback Sam Bradford.

A win would also make the NFC West the only division to have all four teams with a .500 or better record. The last divisions to accomplish that were the NFC East and NFC South in 2008.

"It'd be great. Coming off so many losing seasons, it would be great," Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers said. "It would mean a lot to this team, this state and this city. For most part, it feels good now."

AP Sports Writer R.B. Fallstrom contributed to this report.