Updated 10:30 p.m. PT
SEATTLE — It’s never easy to beat the Seahawks at home. The Rams know that as well as any team in the league, having won just one game at CenturyLink Field since 2005.
But Los Angeles certainly made defeating Seattle look easy on Sunday, blowing out the division rival 42-7 to take a commanding two-game lead in the NFC West heading into Week 16.
“I think our guys understood that it was a big opportunity to be able to come in here and try to take a two-game lead in our division with two games left,” head coach Sean McVay said postgame. “We know that the mission isn’t accomplished yet — we have a great game next week. I think the guys understood, after coming off a tough loss, what it was going to take to come in here to get a win. They were ready to go.”
Neither the Rams nor Seahawks had lost two games in a row this season entering Sunday’s matchup. But the Rams dominated the first half and were up 40-0 in the third quarter before Seattle finally got on the board. L.A. ended the first half with a 34-0 lead, having scored on all but one of its offensive possessions.
Running back Todd Gurley led the offensive charge, racking up 144 yards rushing and three rushing touchdowns in the first 30 minutes. The running back finished with 180 yards from scrimmage and added a 14-yard receiving touchdown in the second half to give him four total TDs on the day.
“Todd is a special back, he has been consistent all year,” McVay said. “It was really a great performance by him but it was a credit to his other teammates as well, being able to get things done to get the run game going like that.”
“This was just one of those wins where everything was just clicking for us,” Gurley said. “Everybody was doing their job, everybody was doing their job, out there competing and we didn’t want to let up, you know? These guys have been kicking our [butt] for the last 10-15 years so, you know you have to enjoy it. You have to take advantage of a situation like this.”
Punt returner Pharoh Cooper helped set up those touchdowns, taking three John Ryan punts back for at least 25 yards. His longest of the game was a 53-yard return, where he was tackled just short of the goal line.
“Our special teams unit did a hell of a job blocking,” Cooper said. “I give credit to all of those guys, they work their tails off week in and week out to set me up.”
“That unit has been outstanding all year,” McVay said, crediting special teams coordinator John Fassel and assistant special teams coach Tyrone McKenzie.
And Los Angeles’ defense sacked Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson seven times and forced a pair of takeaways, both of which led to points. The Seahawks finished with just 149 yards and 11 first downs in the entire game.
“Our defense continues to do such a great job. I want to say that’s seven games now on the first possession of the game that they’ve forced a turnover and what that does for the momentum of the game, especially if offense is able to capitalize and come away with points — those things end up being huge plays and turning points in the game,” McVay said. “Our defense did such a great job against a great quarterback and offensive system.”
With the takeaways and punt returns, Los Angeles’ starting field position was the Seattle 42 in the first half. That was a clear factor in building the 34-point advantage — which was the largest road halftime lead in franchise history.
The Rams started the game on defense and wasted little time in recording their seventh opening-possession takeaway of the season — and their third in a row. This time safety Lamarcus Joyner jarred the ball loose from wide receiver Tanner McEvoy’s grasp, and middle linebacker Alec Ogletree was there to recover the fumble at the Seattle 40. Kicker Greg Zuerlein nailed a 36-yard field goal to give L.A. a 3-0 lead.
“The defense came out and flustered them early, we just kind of kept applying the pressure,” said outside linebacker Robert Quinn, who recorded a pair of sacks on Sunday. “I can go through everyone’s name that played defense who made plays, and again, this is a division opponent, so we just keep them flustered.”
With a strong defensive stand capped by defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s first of three sacks on the day, Seattle’s punt put the Rams at midfield to start their second drive. A false start penalty took Los Angeles out of its groove in the red zone, but Zuerlein hit a 31-yard field goal to give the Rams another three points.
Los Angeles’ defense fired another punt, and that’s when Cooper broke loose. John Ryan’s punt went 44 yards to the L.A. 46, and Cooper was tackled inside the one-yard line for a 53-yard punt return.
“I think my knee hit the ground and the ball kind of bounced off, I thought I was in for a second but I think I was just short,” Cooper said. “I’m still a little upset with myself.”
But the Rams needed only three more seconds of game time to score, as Gurley took in his first touchdown of the day from a yard out.
Then in the second quarter, Cooper returned a punt 26 yards, setting up Los Angeles’ offense at the Seattle 36. A 15-yard pass from Goff to rookie wideout Cooper Kupp put L.A. in the red zone. And Gurley finished the drive with another one-yard touchdown, giving the visitors a 20-0 lead.
The hits kept coming as Quinn recorded a strip sack — his 12th career sack of Wilson — that defensive lineman Morgan Fox recovered at the Seattle 39. L.A. capitalized on that opportunity with a one-yard touchdown pass from Goff to wide receiver Robert Woods, who was back after missing the last three games with a shoulder injury. That scoring strike put the Rams up by 27.
The visitors got one more score late in the first half, as Gurley broke through on 3rd-and-20 for a 57 yard run to pay dirt. The running back went untouched for his third touchdown of the first half, using his speed to dart away from any potential tacklers.
“Coach called an outside zone play. Seeing those guys, at least like 15 yards back I am like, ‘I am at least getting 15 yards,’” Gurley said. Clearly, he got a lot more.
“When I handed it off I was like, ‘This could go for maybe 15-20,’” Goff said. “And I turn around and sure enough he put it into that extra gear he’s got and ran it by everybody and it was a good way to end the half.”
Gurley added his fourth touchdown in the third quarter, taking in a 14-yard pass to the end zone. Zuerlein missed the extra point — a rare L.A. mistake on Sunday — and the score was 40-0.
Seattle finally got on the board later in the third quarter, when Wilson hit tight end Luke Willson with a 26-yard touchdown pass over the middle.
But that was all the Seahawks could muster against the Rams’ starting unit. L.A. inserted Sean Mannion at quarterback with 12:39 left in the fourth quarter. And then the Rams earned two more points when Wilson committed intentional grounding from the end zone for a safety, capping the game’s scoring.
While the victory was lopsided and put the Rams in strong position to claim an NFC West title, the team wasn’t making too much of it postgame.
“I am not going to say it doesn’t feel good to win in Seattle — it always does,” Goff said. “They are such a good team, they have been such a good team for so long. Anytime you come up here and it is loud and you are able to quiet those fans and win the game its big but, like I said, it is one of 16 and they all count the same. It is the one that we wanted and needed but we are not going to hang out hat on it, we have got a lot of work to do still.”
“I think for everyone who probably expected [the Seahawks] to win it outside of this building, I think it is a statement win for them,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “But I really think for us, we set our goals to win this division and that is still ahead of us and what our goals are to still do.”
While the Titans lost to the 49ers on Sunday, they’re still in position to make a run for the playoffs. The Rams will head to Tennessee next week to take on the AFC South team for the penultimate regular-season game of 2017. And with a win, they’ll clinch the NFC West.
Check out in-game photos of the Rams' Week 15 matchup against the Seahawks in Seattle.