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Seahawks-Rams Quick Hits: No more excuses — defense’s turnaround is legit

Jamal Adams and the Seahawks' defense held the Rams to just 9 points in Week 16. (AP)

The Seahawks entered Week 16 knowing it was a championship game with the NFC West crown on the line, and they answered by beating the Los Angeles Rams 20-9 to give Seattle its first division title since 2016.

Recap: Seahawks beat Rams | 710 reacts | O’Neil: Defense leads the way

The offense had a nice turnaround in the second half, the defense was dominant, and the Seahawks are a division winner for the fifth time under head coach Pete Carroll.

Let’s take a look at how Seattle was able to clinch that title and get to 11 wins.

No more excuses: The defense is legit

For much of the 2020 season, the Seahawks were on fire offensively and horrendous on defense. We’re talking record-setting bad. Boy, how that has changed.

Carroll stayed optimistic in interviews and press conferences that the defense would turn things around after the poor start, and, well, he was right.

The turnaround started in the second half of Week 10 against, funny enough, the Rams. In the first half of that game, the Rams dominated. In the second half, they scored a touchdown on their first drive and did nothing the rest of the way. The Seahawks have carried that over ever since.

In Week 11, Seattle held the Arizona Cardinals to 21 points. The next week, the Philadelphia Eagles scored 17. Then, the New York Giants scored 17. In Week 14, the New York Jets scored just 3, followed by the Seahawks holding the Washington Football Team to 15. And, as we saw Sunday, the Rams scored just 9.

Add it all up and the Seahawks have allowed an average of 13.7 points per game over their last six games. For context’s sake, the Miami Dolphins have the No. 1 scoring defense for the season at 18.8 points per game. But Seattle’s recent hot stretch was seen with questions, mainly about the quality of opponent. Starting quarterbacks were poor or hurt, the team was bad in general and things like that.

Well, Jared Goff may have injured his thumb during Week 16, but he and the Rams – who entered the game eighth in total offense – had 334 yards and failed to find the end zone. The Seahawks also had three sacks, two fourth-down stops and recorded another interception.

The Rams are a playoff-caliber team. A win Sunday would have given them a chance at the NFC West crown next week, but they’ll likely still be a postseason team.

It’s time to admit it: The Seahawks’ defense has turned things around and its success is not due just to the quality of opponent. That argument went out the window in Week 16.

Which offense are we going to see going forward?

The Seahawks’ first half on offense can be summed up with this: Not great!

It looked like, yet again, Russell Wilson was missing throws, was under pressure and the passing attack was out of sorts. And yes, a lot of credit goes to the Rams, who entered Week 16 with the No. 1 defense in the NFL.

Seattle didn’t totally flip the switch in the second half, but Wilson did lead two really impressive touchdown drives that makes you wonder how the offense will operate next week and into the playoffs.

On that first touchdown drive, Wilson was at his best. He was eluding defenders, keeping plays alive and it resulted in his second rushing touchdown of the season.

The best play of the drive, though, was vintage Wilson. He evaded defenders and, right before he was set to take off for a rushing attempt, he found David Moore for a big gain down the sideline.

The drive lasted seven plays, went 70 yards and took 4:28 off the clock.

On the second touchdown drive, Wilson was superb. He completed all five of his passes for 59 yards, including this dime to tight end Jacob Hollister for the score.

That touchdown drive lasted nine plays, went 80 yards and took 4:29 off the clock. It also effectively ended the game. It was an absolute championship drive.

After starting the season as the MVP favorite, Wilson has not been nearly as sharp of late. It’s unclear if he’ll need to play like he did in the first five games of the year for the Seahawks to have a deep playoff run, but Wilson has to be closer to how he was in the second half Sunday than the first, even if the running game is doing well and the defense continues this torrid pace.

Gold stars for Brooks and the defense

Some may still be questioning why rookie linebacker Jordyn Brooks was the Seahawks’ first-round pick in 2020. Well, to those who think that, did you watch this game?

Brooks tied for the team lead in tackles with eight, and he had a tackle for loss and assisted on a key fourth-down stop.

What makes his play, which is explosive and fast as can be, all the more impressive is he is the first linebacker off the field when the Seahawks add defensive backs for nickel or dime packages. That he can play like a defensive MVP in limited opportunities is great, and he looked like a long-term staple of this defense against the Rams.

Brooks’ fellow linebacker K.J. Wright might be the most underrated player of his generation. No, seriously. Wright continues to play at a very high level and because he’s an outside linebacker, he gets glossed over for accolades in favor of 3-4 outside linebackers who mostly rush the passer. But Wright does it all for the Seahawks and he did it all against the Rams, destroying a blocker on a goal-line stop, deflecting an early Goff pass, and, as usual, being around the ball all game long.

Wright finished the game with seven tackles and two pass breakups, and in his 10th NFL season, he may be playing his best ball. He’s been that good this season.

And finally, the entire secondary played well against the Rams, but the safety duo needs to get some recognition.

Quandre Diggs had six tackles and broke up a pass, but he also stopped a promising Los Angeles drive by picking off a questionable Goff pass. He also returned that pick 25 yards, and Seattle would get a field goal on the ensuing drive. He played like the Pro Bowler that he is, and he now has five interceptions on the season, which leads the Seahawks.

I’ve mentioned the fourth-down stop at the goal line a few times, and that wouldn’t have happened if not for Jamal Adams.

Adams lined up on the defense’s right side on second-and-5 from the 7-yard line, and though Darrell Henderson got five yards and a first down by running away from Adams, the star safety chased him down and saved a touchdown.

Four plays later, Seattle got the stop and got the ball back.

Diggs and Adams may not be Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, but they’ve been huge in Seattle’s defensive turnaround.

Follow Brandon Gustafson on Twitter.

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