Rams defense dominant in wild-card win over Seahawks

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If defense still wins championships, then the NFL probably should take note of the Rams in these playoffs.

The Rams, the sixth seed in the NFC, suffocated their West divison rival Seahawks in Saturday’s wild-card playoff game, winning 30-20 in Seattle to advance to next weekend’s divisional round.

The Seahawks, who won the NFC West title and were the No. 3 seed in the conference, had their 10-game home playoff winning streak snapped, and coach Pete Carroll lost for the first time in seven home playoff games.

The Rams’ defense held the Seattle offense to 11 first downs and 284 yards of offense. Los Angeles’ defensive dominance included Darious Williams’ pick-six interception of Russell Wilson, who also was sacked five times.

The Rams also forced a turnover on special teams.

Despite the victory, there were negatives for the Rams, who had three key players knocked out of the game with injuries.

Quarterback John Wolford — who started in place of Jared Goff — was knocked out of the game with a neck injury on a hit by former Jets safety Jamal Adams on the second series of the game. Wolford was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital for observation.

Goff, who was still recovering from Dec. 28 surgery on his right thumb, which he fractured and dislocated during the Rams’ loss to the Seahawks in Week 16, was active for the game and replaced Wolford.

The Rams also lost defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the best defensive player in the NFL, who was forced out in the fourth quarter with a rib injury and didn’t return.

To make matters worse, Cooper Kupp, who caught four passes for 78 yards, limped off the field and into the tunnel late in the game and didn’t return.

Nevertheless, the Rams overcame those issues, thanks to a dominant defensive effort and sensational rookie running back Cam Akers, who rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries and caught two passes for 45 yards.

As for Wolford, he was hit in the helmet by Adams’ shoulder pad on a quarterback scramble gone wrong.

Enter Goff, who was limited in practice during the week while Rams coach Sean McVay was intentionally vague all week about who would start.

Goff finished 9-of-19 for 155 yards and a TD pass.

“For him to even be able to throw the ball was pretty impressive,’’ McVay said “There were some limitations.’’

Mat Gay kicked three field goals for the Rams — a 40-yarder for a 3-0 lead, a 39-yarder for a 6-3 lead and a 36-yarder for a 23-13 lead.

The biggest play of the game wass the pick-six by Williams, who stepped in front of Seahawks star receiver DK Metcalf, picked off Wilson’s pass and returned it 42 yards for a TD, giving Seattle a 13-3 lead with 6:40 remaining in the first half.

“That was a huge momentum shift for us,’’ McVay said.

It was Williams’ third interception of Wilson in three games this season. And it was the Rams’ fifth defensive TD this season.

The Seahawks answered quickly, though, when Wilson connected with Metcalf on a 51-yard scoring pass to cut the Rams’ lead to 13-10 with 3:43 remaining in the half.

Metcalf — who was visibly frustrated on the Seattle sideline earlier in the half and had to be calmed by teammates — had gone the final five games of the regular season without caching a TD pass.

The Rams took a 20-10 lead on a 5-yard scoring run by Akers with 1:57 remaining in the first half.

At that point, the Rams had a total of 196 offensive yards in the game and Akers had 122 of them (77 rushing and 45 receiving).

“Cam Akers is a stud,’’ McVay said.

The Seahawks cut the lead to 20-13 with a 52-yard Jason Myers field goal that capped the opening possession of the second half.

The Rams took a 23-13 lead on a Gay’s third field goal of the game, with 11:33 remaining in the game.

They sealed it on a forced fumble by Samson Ebukam on Seattle punt returner D.J. Reed. Rams linebacker Micah Kiser recovered the fumble with 7:02 remaining in the game.

Moments later, Goff threw a 15-yard TD pass to Robert Woods for a 30-13 Rams lead with 4:46 remaining in the game.

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