Seahawks pull away from Rams, 30-13
SEATTLE — The Skittles came flying out of the stands, close enough that Marshawn Lynch was regretting not catching his favorite candy in midair and taking it back to the sideline.
Too bad. He could have shared his reward with Doug Baldwin.
"I could have caught them, that's how close they got to me," Lynch said.
Baldwin, an undrafted rookie out of Stanford, showed the rest of the NFL what it missed Monday night. He blocked a first-quarter punt that was returned by Michael Robinson 17 yards for a touchdown, then caught a 29-yard TD pass from Tarvaris Jackson in the third period as the Seattle Seahawks pulled away for a 30-13 win over the staggering St. Louis Rams.
Seattle (6-7) won for the fourth time in five games and kept alive its slim hopes for reaching the postseason. The Seahawks likely would need to win out to potentially make the playoffs a reality, but they're at least back in the conversation after a 2-6 start.
Much of this late-season rally has been on the back of Lynch, who is making a push for a reward beyond sweets this offseason — a big contract as a free agent.
Lynch topped 100 yards rushing for the fifth time in the last six games, finishing with 115 on 23 carries. He scored a touchdown in his ninth straight game on a 16-yard run with 2:57 left to put away Seattle's 13th win in its last 14 games against the Rams.
Seahawks fans threw bags of Skittles into the end zone as Lynch celebrated his ninth rushing touchdown this season, and he tied a franchise record with nine consecutive games with a TD.
"I think it's more of a team accomplishment," Lynch said. "It's great to have, but that win was a lot better."
Baldwin, who is Seattle's leading receiver and has become the main option for Jackson, finished with seven receptions for 93 yards and his third TD catch of the season.
As a receiver, he disappeared until the third quarter when he snagged a 22-yard reception across the middle to convert a third-and-11 near midfield. On the next play, Baldwin faked going inside and broke to the sideline, losing Darian Stewart in coverage. Tarvaris Jackson found Baldwin and he got just inside the pylon to give the Seahawks a 14-point lead.
Baldwin had six of his seven catches in the second half.
"We just expect that out of him now," Tarvaris Jackson said. "We expect him to go out and make plays every week."
His catches seemed secondary to his contribution on special teams.
Baldwin's influence on the game was evident from the start, when he took a pitch from Leon Washington on a kickoff reverse and returned it beyond the 40. Seattle was later forced to punt, but it was Baldwin racing from the outside to down the punt at the Rams 6.
Then he made the biggest of his three fine special teams plays in the first 5 minutes of the game.
Coming almost entirely unblocked off the right end, Baldwin took a punt off the foot of Donnie Jones. The bounding ball hopped up into the arms of Robinson, who went the final 17 yards for an early 7-0 Seahawks lead.
"As far as my expectations go, I expected to be successful. I didn't know how successful, but I expected to be able to come in here and win a job in some capacity, because if you don't have that confidence in yourself you're not going to win a job," Baldwin said. "To be where I am now, no I didn't expect this. But at the same time I'm not satisfied."
Tarvaris Jackson wasn't his best, but didn't need to be against the Rams. He went 21 of 32 for 224 yards and connected with nine receivers.
Seattle topped 100 yards rushing for the sixth straight game, accomplishing that feat for the first time in the same regular season since 1996. It came behind an offensive line that lost its third starter for the season a week ago when Russell Okung went down with a torn pectoral muscle.
And kicker Steven Hauschka hit field goals of 23, 42 and 48 yards. Seattle's only flub was a fumbled exchange late in the first half deep in the Rams' end.
Sam Bradford started for St. Louis (2-11) despite a high left ankle sprain that's bothered him for nearly two months and forced him to miss last week's game at San Francisco. Bradford barely practiced this week and it showed as he was rusty and made poor decisions. Bradford was 12 of 29 for 193 yards, was intercepted by Brandon Browner on the first play of the second half and nearly picked off on a handful of other throws.
Steven Jackson had 50 yards rushing on 11 carries by halftime, including dashes of 11 yards twice and 10 yards once. He was limited to just 42 yards on 15 carries when the teams met a few weeks ago and the Rams were trying to exploit the Seahawks' secondary. Jackson finished with 63 yards on 20 carries, but was ignored for five plays from the Seattle 1 in the fourth quarter before finally scoring on a third-and-goal plunge.
That was the extent of the highlights for the Rams.
"I feel like we've just lacked consistency all year," Bradford said. "It's just really hard to get a rhythm going when you don't establish the path on a run."