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St. Louis Rams shock Seattle Seahawks

By Scott Johnson, The Sports Xchange
St. Louis Rams quarterback Case Keenum (17) looks to pass against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington on December 27, 2015. The Rams beat the Seahawks 23-17. Photo by Jim Bryant/UPI
1 of 3 | St. Louis Rams quarterback Case Keenum (17) looks to pass against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington on December 27, 2015. The Rams beat the Seahawks 23-17. Photo by Jim Bryant/UPI | License Photo

SEATTLE -- St. Louis defensive end Chris Long has been involved in plenty of close battles with the rival Seattle Seahawks over his eight NFL seasons, but every time he walked into the visiting locker room at CenturyLink Field, his Rams had little to show for it.

That finally changed Sunday, when the Rams shocked Seattle with a 23-17 win, the first road win for St. Louis against the Seahawks since 2004.

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"Better late than never," Long said in the celebratory locker room late Sunday afternoon. "It was awesome. A great team win."

St. Louis linebacker Akeem Ayers had two key fumble recoveries, one of which he returned for a first-quarter touchdown, sparking the Rams to a 16-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Ayers finished off the day with another fumble recovery, at the St. Louis 8-yard line, to clinch the win.

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"It's just running to the ball," Ayers said of his two fumble recoveries. "(Defensive coordinator) Gregg (Williams) preached getting to the ball. The more people getting to the ball, the more likely you'll make something happen."

The Rams (7-8) have won three in a row after falling into a five-game funk that knocked them out of playoff contention.

"They're not giving out participation trophies for us not quitting," Long said. "But that's not something we're going to do. These guys aren't going to quit, and it's nice to see that we didn't."

The Seahawks (9-6) saw their five-game winning streak end. They had already clinched a playoff berth and were out of contention for the NFC West title before the game started, so the defeat had very little bearing on Seattle's postseason outlook.

"This game showed there were a lot of weaknesses we have to fix," said wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who caught eight passes for 118 yards and caught a touchdown pass for the fifth week in a row, giving him a franchise record of 14 for the season.

It marked only the second time, and the first since 2004, that St. Louis swept Seattle in two divisional games in the same season.

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Ayers returned a fumble 45 yards for a touchdown to help propel the Rams (7-8) to a 16-0 lead.

St. Louis defensive end William Hayes had three of the Rams' four sacks. The Rams held the Seahawks to 60 rushing yards on 22 carries, with Wilson accounting for 39 yards on six attempts.

"When you become one-dimensional," Baldwin said of the Seahawks' rushing woes, "it becomes easy for a defense to focus on that one dimension."

Wilson completed 25 of 41 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. He connected with wide receiver Jermaine Kearse on a meaningless 18-yard score with 17 seconds remaining.

Wilson's first-half interception was the first he threw since Nov. 15, ending a streak of 168 consecutive passes without a pick. He also fumbled away the ball on a key possession late in the game, and twice center Patrick Lewis was unable to get the ball to him out of shotgun formation.

"I'm not going to take anything away from (the Rams); they had a nice win," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "However, we snapped the ball crazy, and we turned it over three times, and we had (10) penalties. Those were our penalties. I think it was very much our doing it to ourselves."

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St. Louis rookie running back Todd Gurley had 85 rushing yards and a touchdown on 19 carries on a day when the Rams had just 103 passing yards. Gurley's 2-yard touchdown with 10:34 remaining put St. Louis ahead 23-10.

After St. Louis went into halftime with a 16-3 lead, the Seahawks got back into the game by opening the second half with a 16-play, 67-yard drive that culminated with Baldwin's 25-yard touchdown catch.

Center Tim Barnes saved St. Louis twice on the opening possession of the fourth quarter, recovering a pair of fumbles before the Rams extended their lead to 13 points.

St. Louis running back Benny Cunningham fumbled on a third-and-1 carry near midfield with 13:20 remaining, and Seattle safety Earl Thomas came out of the pile with the ball, but officials ruled that Barnes was the first to gain possession.

Two plays later, after Gurley broke free and leaped over would-be tackler Richard Sherman, the ball came loose again when Seattle cornerback DeShawn Shead forced a fumble. Barnes again came up with the ball, this time at the 2-yard line.

Three plays after that, Gurley followed a Barnes block up the middle for a 2-yard touchdown run and a 23-10 lead.

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"Tim was huge," Long said. "Tim was like the MVP."

The Seahawks still had a chance to come back, but their next possession stalled out in St. Louis territory when the snap to Wilson got away from him and resulted in a 12-yard loss on third down with seven minutes remaining.

Four-and-a-half minutes later, with the Seahawks threatening to score again, Wilson fumbled at the end of a scramble, resulting in another Ayers recovery at the St. Louis 8-yard line to clinch the win with 2:38 remaining.

The Rams benefitted from good field position and a pair of first-half turnovers on their way to a 16-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Ayers turned one of the turnovers into a 45-yard touchdown when he returned a fumble for his first career score.

The Rams' other two scoring drives in the first half covered just 53 yards over six plays.

This time, St. Louis was able to hold on.

"We came up here the last four years and battled three quarters straight, but this time we played four quarters," Johnson said. "I'm just glad we got the W."

NOTES: Seahawks S Kam Chancellor (pelvis) was inactive for the second week in a row. Kelcie McCray started at strong safety. ... Seattle LT Russell Okung (calf) did not suit up. Alvin Bailey stepped in for his second start of the season. ... Three players -- Seattle TE Luke Willson and St. Louis S Mark Barron and DT Nick Fairley -- sat out the second half with concussions. ... Sunday may have marked the final time that the St. Louis Rams play in Seattle. Since moving from Los Angeles in 1995, the Rams have gone 3-12 at Seattle and 10-19 against the Seahawks overall. The Rams are rumored to be one of the teams considering a move to Los Angeles, possibly as soon as next season.

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