SEATTLE - The third time was the charm for the Seattle Seahawks, who finally put a stranglehold on the NFC's top seed Sunday afternoon with a 27-9 win over the St. Louis Rams.
The NFC West champions secured homefield advantage throughout the postseason.
Seattle's top-ranked defense stymied the Rams' offense to the tune of 158 yards and kept St. Louis (7-9) out of the end zone until the game was well in hand during a hard-hitting affair that featured 19 penalties and one ejection. Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch gained 97 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, while quarterback Russell Wilson completed 15 of 23 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown.
The Seahawks (13-3) had come up short in two previous opportunities to win the division and lock up homefield. Sunday's win not only means Seattle, which matched its franchise-high total for wins in a season, will host the lowest remaining seed in the NFC's divisional round on Jan. 11 or 12.
The Seahawks jumped out to a 13-0 halftime lead on linebacker Malcolm Smith's 37-yard interception return touchdown and a pair of Steven Hauschka field goals. Seattle held the Rams to just 54 yards of total offense - the St. Louis ground game had minus-2 -- during the first 30 minutes.
The penalty-filled game nearly spiraled out of control on several occasions, the most notable of which came with 3:10 remaining in the third quarter. One play after a near brawl broke out between the teams on the Seattle sideline, the Rams were flagged for three consecutive unsportsmanlike penalties before the snap.
Linebacker Alec Ogletree was assessed a penalty for jawing with the Seahawks as the teams came to the line of scrimmage, then Rams teammate Kendall Langford received a 15-yard penalty and game ejection for making contact with an official. Langford inadvertently knocked the hat off back judge Steve Freeman while motioning with his arm, then he received a second flag a few seconds later for throwing his helmet upon learning of his ejection.
Langford jawed with several Seattle fans as he was led into the visiting locker room. The Seahawks, who moved from the Rams' 11-yard line to the 1 after the three penalties were assessed, scored two plays later on a Marshawn Lynch 2-yard run to take a 20-3 lead.
During a span of just over a minute, the Rams ended up receiving six personal-foul or unsportsmanlike penalties. For the game, the two teams combined for 19 penalties - 12 of them were of the personal foul or unsportsmanlike variety - for 152 total yards.
Wilson's 47-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate with 9:14 remaining gave Seattle a 27-3 lead.
The Rams' only points when the game was still within reach came on a Greg Zuerlein 36-yard field goal with 10:49 remaining in the third quarter. That was set up by a 32-yard punt return - the longest against Seattle this season - by the Rams' Austin Pettis, who was handling punts because of injuries to Tavon Austin (ankle) and Justin Veltung (concussion).
St. Louis finally got into the end zone with 4:13 remaining, when tight end Jared Cook caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Kellen Clemens to cap off a 13-play, 71-yard drive. It marked the first time in two meetings this season that the Rams have gotten into the end zone against the Seattle defense.
Clemens completed 21 of 30 passes for 157 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, while the Rams finished with just 13 rushing yards. St. Louis didn't convert a third down until midway through the fourth quarter and was 2 for 11 on third downs for the game.
NOTES: Rams WR Tavon Austin, the eighth overall pick in the April draft, missed his third straight game with an ankle injury. He finished his rookie season with 40 receptions for 418 yards and six touchdowns - including a 65-yard run and a 98-yard punt return. ... A thigh injury kept Rams RB Daryl Richardson out of action for the second consecutive week. ... Seahawks CB Walter Thurmond returned from a four-game suspension Sunday but did not start. Byron Maxwell was back in a starting role for the fifth consecutive game. ... Seattle DT Brandon Mebane (hip) sat out the entire fourth quarter. ... Seahawks tTE Luke Willson was taken off the field on a cart after suffering an apparent left ankle injury early in the fourth quarter. ... Rams OT Rodger Saffold was helped off the field with 11:39 remaining in the fourth quarter. He was being evaluated for a possible head injury.