SEATTLE — Golden Tate knew it was coming.
After spending Week 8 verbally and physically battling the the St. Louis Rams’ secondary, he expected the Rams to be focused on him Sunday.
They were. They “smacked” Tate repeatedly, to use his word, yet the talkative wide receiver composed himself.
Even after scoring a 47-yard touchdown that was similar to his 80-yard touchdown in St. Louis, Tate didn’t taunt the Rams. During his Week 8 touchdown against St. Louis, Tate waved goodbye to the Rams’ secondary and was flagged for taunting 20 yards from the end zone.
On Sunday, Tate had a career-high eight receptions and 129 yards. Plus, zero penalties.
“They definitely put me on my tail a few times early in the game,” Tate said. “I just had to keep getting back up and don’t let them get in my head enough where it changes my game. Just stay even-keel, make the plays that come to you and at the end of the day, a big win and a big game is way more valuable than any chirping or any cheap shots.”
The Seahawks countered the Rams' potent pass rush with quick passes to Tate. He banged and bounced his way to strong gains following the short passes.
“Last game they got after us and this game they got after us,” Tate said. “We had to stay with it, stay with it. We had some very basic routes that turned into explosive plays.”
In the fourth quarter, he struck for a deep score. The overall scheme was different, but it was the same route Tate ran in St. Louis that led to an 80-yard score. He adjusted back to snag Russell Wilson’s throw before heading upfield. He was caught just before the goalline, though he was able to spin in.
Tate finished the regular season with a team-leading 64 catches for 898 yards.
“We’re back to where we want to be,” Tate said. “I think it’s a great way to start the new year, as NFC champs.”
Pregame, free safety Earl Thomas was going through his regular routine before being interrupted.
Warmups were over and Thomas was told he had to head out to the field. When he walked out of the home tunnel, Steve Largent and a trophy were waiting for him at an on-field podium.
Thomas was the recipient of the Steve Largent Award, given annually to the team contributor best exemplifying the spirit, dedication, and integrity of Largent.
Thomas had no idea the award, which is voted on by teammates, was going to be presented to him. Suddenly, he’s standing next to Largent, his face is on the largest screen in the stadium and the whole place is standing.
That got to him. He blinked back tears.
“Just the moment, I guess,” Thomas said. “I’m very emotional, especially around gameday, because I love this game already so much. It was just a humbling experience to see Steve Largent right here giving the award. It was like my little moment. You dream of stuff like that. It was just a great experience.”
Thomas, 24, was named to his third consecutive Pro Bowl on Friday. He’s a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year who continues to ride an uptick on and off the field.
“When guys believe in you, it makes you just elevate even more,” Thomas said.
The Seahawks allowed 13 rushing yards Sunday, tying the fewest allowed in the team’s history. The last time the Seahawks allowed just 13 rushing yards was Dec. 9, 1990, against Green Bay.
Seattle’s defense finished the regular season leading the NFL in fewest points allowed per game (14.4), fewest yards allowed per game (273.6), fewest passing yards allowed per game (172), most interceptions (28) and turnover margin (plus-20).
WILLSON CARTED OFF
Backup tight end Luke Willson was driven off the field on a cart with his lower left leg in an air cast in the fourth quarter.
Pete Carroll said Willson had a high ankle sprain and did not break his ankle.
The Seahawks had a scare when Thomas and Richard Sherman collided in the end zone going after a wobbling Kellen Clemens pass. Sherman took most of the blow and was briefly down in the end zone. He jogged off in pain and crumpled onto the bench. After being looked at by trainers, he didn’t miss any plays.
“He got hit in the hip, but he came back and played, so he’s OK,” Carroll said.
Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane strained his groin and did not return to the game. Carroll said Mebane should be healed following the bye week.
Cornerback and special teams gunner Jeremy Lane hurt his shoulder, but Carroll said Lane was fine.
There were 68,264 tickets distributed Sunday. The 2014 total of 545,577 is a CenturyLink record for attendance in a season. ... Mariners legend Jay Buhner raised the 12th Man flag. ... Rams kick returner Justin Veltung, who was in camp this year with the Seahawks and is a Puyallup High graduate, left the game after being hit by the Seahawks Ricardo Lockette and sustaining a head injury.