SEATTLE — Doug Baldwin picked a national stage to remind the rest of the NFL what they passed up in last April’s draft.
Baldwin, an undrafted rookie out of Stanford, blocked a first-quarter punt that was returned by Michael Robinson 17 yards for a touchdown, then caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Tarvaris Jackson in the third quarter as the Seattle Seahawks pulled away for a 30-13 win over the staggering St. Louis Rams on Monday night.
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 are at least back in the conversation after a 2-6 start.
“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.”
Marshawn 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 game in a row 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 — Lynch’s favorite treat after scoring — 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 touchdown.
“I could have caught them, that’s how close they got to me,” Lynch said of the flying candies.
Baldwin finished with seven catches for 93 yards, and Steven Hauschka was 3 of 4 on field goal attempts.
Sam Bradford started for St. Louis (2-11) despite a high left ankle sprain which has 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.
This time, Jackson disappeared in the second half — aside from a 50-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass — and finished with 63 yards rushing on 20 carries. He stood on the sidelines with his legs crossed during a goal-line possession in the fourth quarter while Cadillac Williams got the first crack at scoring
The Rams eventually ran five plays from the 1 — thanks to a taunting penalty on Seattle’s Richard Sherman — without Jackson touching the ball. Jackson finally got a carry on a second third-and-goal and scored, but only after screaming on the sideline. The Rams were within 23-13, but the outcome was already decided.
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 plays on special teams.
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.
Aside from a few receptions, Baldwin was mostly quiet until late in the third quarter. 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.
“We just expect that out of him now,” Jackson said. “We expect him to go out and make plays every week.”
Jackson was not his best, but did not need to be against the Rams. He went 21 of 32 for 224 yards and connected with nine receivers. Lynch, the focus of most of the attention after his 148-yard, two-touchdown performance against Philadelphia, never broke off a big run, but grinded his way to another 100-yard performance. He capped his night with his ninth rushing touchdown of the season, breaking tackles on his way to the end zone.