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No joke: Seattle (7-9) reaches the playoffs

Seahawks beat St. Louis, 16-6, to win the NFC West title and become the first team to go into a postseason with a losing record.

January 02, 2011|By Sam Farmer
  • Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll joins quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (6) and other players to celebrate a 16-6 victory over the Rams on Sunday.
Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll joins quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (6)… (Elaine Thompson / Associated…)

Reporting from Seattle — Pete Carroll intended to put his unique stamp on the Seattle Seahawks, but no one could have predicted this.

His team won the NFC West title Sunday with a 7-9 record, marking the first time in the modern era a team has reached the postseason with a losing record.

"I hear that's never happened before, and I think that's kind of cool," Carroll said after the Seahawks beat St. Louis, 16-6, in front of a shivering, raucous crowd at Qwest Field. "Wasn't it TCU that won for all the little guys? That was the talk back there at the [Rose Bowl] game the other day. I guess for all those teams that have a losing record and don't think they can be champions, it can get done."

Not only that, but the Seahawks did it with their second-string quarterback, using Charlie Whitehurst over the injured Matt Hasselbeck (hip).

Hasselbeck warmed up, however, and was even pushing to start when the team gathered in the tunnel before the game. That raises the possibility he will be ready to go Saturday when the Seahawks play host to New Orleans in a wild-card game.

The Saints posted a 34-19 win over the Seahawks in New Orleans on Nov. 12, when Drew Brees threw for 382 yards and four touchdowns and the Saints converted 11 of 15 third downs.

Asked Sunday about that game, Carroll lavished praise on Brees and Saints Coach Sean Payton, then added, "But they're coming here. It's a short week and they've got to fly across the country and figure that stuff out. They've got a lot of stuff to get organized, and we're going to have a really cool week of preparation. … This week will be huge."

Whitehurst, acquired in a trade with San Diego in the off-season, made only his second career start. He completed 22 of 36 passes for 192 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

Carroll said that during the week leading up to the game he had to reassure Whitehurst several times that he would be starting. He said the fifth-year quarterback wasn't sure whether the team would make a last-minute decision to switch back to Hasselbeck.

"Early in the week, they told me to prepare like I was going to start the game, and that's what I did," said Whitehurst, who directed the game's only touchdown drive on the opening possession. That included a deep pass down the sideline to little-known reserve Ruvell Martin for a 61-yard gain, a defensive holding call on third down that kept the drive alive, and a four-yard touchdown pass to former USC standout Mike Williams.

Rams rookie quarterback Sam Bradford connected on 19 of 36 passes for 155 yards — his second-lowest yardage total — with an interception and no touchdowns.

The Rams couldn't run the ball, either, gaining only 47 yards in 15 carries, less than half their already modest rushing average of 98.6 yards per game.

"The fact that our defense played, in my opinion, pretty great tonight, the fact that we let the team down, that we couldn't get anything going, that's what really hurts," Bradford said. "To come in here and only score six – that's just not the way you want to end the year."

So now Seattle, which has lost seven of its last 10 games, will play host to a postseason game.

"This may never happen again," Carroll said. "It's never happened before. We played our way in, and we're thrilled to be coming back."

sam.farmer@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesfarmer

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