SEATTLE (Reuters) - The Seattle Seahawks clinched the NFC West Division crown with a gritty 16-6 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday in the season's final game to become the first team to reach the playoffs with a losing record.
In a game to decide the final playoff spot for the winner, the Seahawks shut down rookie quarterback Sam Bradford to set up a daunting trip to Super Bowl champions New Orleans Saints.
"I always like doing things that have never been done and this is one of them," Seattle coach Pete Carroll told reporters.
"We didn't quite get here the way we dreamed of getting here, but we got here."
The Seahawks and Rams finished the season with identical 7-9 records in the NFC West, but Seattle won the tie-breaker based on a better divisional record.
Seattle quarterback Charlie Whitehurst made his second career start in place of injured Matt Hasselbeck and threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams on the game's first drive.
Whitehurst finished with 192 yards passing and did not commit a turnover. Having spent four previous seasons in San Diego where he rarely played, Whitehurst stepped up to lead the home team.
"We had to persevere all season and it culminated tonight. It just feels great," Whitehurst said. "I'm so happy for this team and the city that we're going to the playoffs."
Hasselbeck warmed up before the game and could be ready to face the Saints next Saturday.
In cool temperatures, Seattle's defense limited St Louis to 184 total yards and two field goals.
Bradford, who set an NFL record for pass completions by a rookie this season, tossed for just 155 yards and threw a late interception with the team trailing 13-6.
St Louis' receivers dropped some key passes in the second half to prevent the team's offense from gaining momentum.
The Rams pulled within 7-6 with 8:59 left in the third, but could get no closer as Seattle kicker Olindo Mare booted three straight field goals to end the game.
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien)