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How the West Was Won: Seahawks reign supreme for third time in last four years

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin catches a pass in the end zone for a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams in the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

It’s over.

The Seattle Seahawks clinched the NFC West for the third time since 2013 with their thorough beatdown of the Los Angeles Rams Thursday night.

With the Arizona Cardinals losing at home to New Orleans, ending their own postseason hopes, it’s now official — the NFC West will have only one playoff representative for the first time since 2011.

Here’s a closer look back at what transpired in Week 15 in the NFC West.

Seattle Seahawks 24, Los Angeles Rams 3

Russell WilsonWe really have no way of knowing, but we have to figure that Seattle’s neon green Color Rush uniforms had a lot to do with their win over the Rams on Thursday Night Football. Seriously, how distracting were those things?

Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes and the Seahawks defense did what just about every other defense has done this season — completely shut down the Rams’ offense. Los Angeles managed only 183 total yards in their 21-point loss. It was the third time the Rams’ ‘O’ has been held under 200 yards in a game and the eighth time they’ve scored 10 or fewer points.

The Seahawks opened the scoring in the second quarter when Wilson found tight end Luke Willson on an 8-yard touchdown strike. Wilson also hooked up with Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett on second-half touchdown tosses to give Seattle the win, which broke a three-game losing streak to the Rams.

The “highlight” of the game may have been the postgame comments of cornerback Richard Sherman, who argued with offensive coaches on the sideline about a play call — a pass from the 1-yard line — which conjured memories of the closing moments of Seattle’s Super Bowl loss to New England.

Quotable: “I don’t like when we throw the ball at the 1.” — Richard Sherman

Stat of the Game: Rams RB Todd Gurley finished with 38 yards on 14 carries. Gurley has had at least 11 carries in every game this season and has yet to reach the 90-yard mark in any single contest. He had five 100-yard games last season as a rookie.

New Orleans Saints 48, Arizona Cardinals 41

Saints Cardinals FootballDefense optional.

And neither team really opted to play any of it either in what was the highest-scoring game in the NFL this season.

Tim Hightower’s second touchdown run of the fourth quarter proved to be the difference; it put New Orleans up two touchdowns with under three-and-a-half minutes to play. Arizona made it interesting when Carson Palmer hit John Brown on a 30-yard touchdown pass with 2:19 left, but the Cardinals couldn’t recover an onside kick, and fell for the eighth time on the season.

Drew Brees broke out of a mini, two-game slump by throwing for 389 yards and four touchdowns, including two to Brandin Cooks during a 4:20 span of the second quarter. Following a defensive touchdown by Arizona’s Calais Campbell that gave the Cardinals a 13-10 lead, Cooks ran right through zone coverage and caught a strike from Brees in-stride for a 65-yard touchdown. The second score came on a third down moments later — Cooks ran a shallow crossing route, beating Tyrann Mathieu on the play, and outraced the Arizona defense down the sideline for a 45-yard score.

The Cardinals would tie the game on two occasions, but never again held the lead.

Quotable: “I don’t know what’s in the air. We can’t fall on fumbles, we drop wide-open touchdown passes, tipped balls in the air we can’t seem to come down with interceptions. We have two games left so we just have to try and find a way to make this thing work and win those two games. The way we’ve been losing this year, it’s been heartbreaking.” — Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu

Stat of the Game: Brees became the first quarterback to throw for 300 yards on the Cardinals’ defense this season. Cam Newton (335) yards was the last QB to eclipse the 300-yard mark vs. Arizona. That performance came in last year’s NFC Championship Game.

Atlanta Falcons 41, San Francisco 49ers 13

49ers Falcons FootballThere was a four-year stretch in the glory days of the 49ers in which the team won two Super Bowls and lost a total of 12 games under head coaches Bill Walsh and George Seifert from 1987 to 1990.

This year’s 49ers of head coach Chip Kelly lost their 13th straight game Sunday in a contest that was never close.

Atlanta jumped out to a 21-0 lead after one quarter and cruised to a 28-point win at the Georgia Dome.

Matt Ryan threw for 286 yards and two touchdowns and Devonta Freeman riddled the 49ers’ defense for 139 yards and three touchdowns for the Falcons. In the last two weeks, Atlanta has defeated two members of the NFC West — the Rams and 49ers — by a combined score of 83-27.

Quotable: “We can’t start in a hole like that, against this good a football team, and expect that we’re going to be able to come back against them.” — 49ers head coach Chip Kelly

Stat of the Game: Freeman became the 11th different running back to have a 100-yard day against the 49ers this season.



Week 15 Award Winners

Offense: David Johnson, Arizona – This is more of a season achievement award, but Johnson scored twice and had 108 yards from scrimmage. It was the 14th straight game he’s topped the 100-yard mark, setting a new NFL record. Johnson also tied the Cardinals’ franchise record by scoring his 17th touchdown

Defense: Calais Campbell, Arizona – If that was indeed Campbell’s last home game at UOP Stadium as has been speculated, he went out in a blaze of glory. Campbell became the first Arizona Cardinals player ever, and only the fourth NFL player this year, to have two sacks and a touchdown in the same game.

Special Teams: Jon Ryan, Seattle – We’ll give it to the Seahawks punter, who planted two of three punts inside the Los Angeles 20-yard line and uncorked a 26-yard run on a fake in the fourth quarter which was completely unnecessary, but wildly entertaining.

What’s On Tap

• Arizona Cardinals (5-8-1) at Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1) – Saturday, Dec. 24 @ CenturyLink Field – 2:25 p.m.

• San Francisco 49ers (1-13) at Los Angeles Rams (4-10) – Saturday, Dec. 24 @ Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – 2:25 p.m.

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