So you beat the Rams. Big deal, right? Everybody does that.
And a berth in the post-season still feels a little like a mathematical mirage.
So maybe the real meaning of the 30-13 defeat of visiting St. Louis at CenturyLink Field on Monday night was that the Seahawks continued to accomplish what they needed most this season: Show improvement.
With its fourth win in five games, this team is picking up speed and positioning itself to finish with a flourish. Had they not fallen asleep in the fourth quarter of the Washington game on Nov. 27, they’d be on a five-game streak and considered a fully legitimate wild-card contender.
Yes, it was just the Rams. But the Seahawks also were without three starting offensive linemen and their big-ticket free-agent receiver – all out for the season with injuries.
Yes, it was just the Rams. But Marshawn Lynch put together his fifth 100-yard rushing effort (23 for 115 yards) in the past six games. He unleashed another “Beast Mode” run in the third quarter when he pounded out a 12-yard gain despite being hit by a half-dozen defenders. He’s scored touchdowns in nine straight games.
Yes, it was just the Rams. But the Seahawks’ young players had another impressive outing.
Rookie receiver Doug Baldwin put in an incredibly versatile performance. He blocked a punt that led to the Seahawks’ first score, returned a kickoff 37 yards, came up with a tackle on punt coverage. And, oh yeah, he also scored on a 29-yard reception – one of his seven catches for 93 yards.
The Seahawks unearthed a hidden gem in Baldwin, and, improbably, it seems as if he’s just getting better. Not a bad pickup for a $17,500 signing bonus.
“What a great night for the kid,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He just continues to answer the call.”
Rookie linebacker K.J. Wright continued to display his increasing value, too. A fourth-round pick, he learned his job quickly enough to allow the Seahawks to dump Aaron Curry. Monday, he sacked Sam Bradford, made eight tackles (three for losses), and showed his instinct and toughness when he not only sniffed out a screen pass to bruising back Steven Jackson, but managed to bring him down on his own for a 3-yard loss.
Yes, it was just the Rams. But no back in the league runs tougher than Jackson. The Seahawks countered with strong safety Kam Chancellor. Chancellor showed his range of abilities in the second quarter, making a diving pass deflection on one play, and then filling a gap on the next and shutting down Jackson with a big hit.
Yes, it was just the Rams. But the guys the Seahawks had to plug in on the offensive line did a solid job. Paul McQuistan was moved to left tackle after the loss of Russell Okung in the last game, and Lemuel Jeanpierre started at right guard.
On Lynch’s first run of the game, McQuistan threw a block that sealed off the left side and set Lynch free for a 13-yard gain.
Especially early, the Rams’ defense tested the makeshift line with a number of blitzes from different looks. For the most part, the line held up, serving as a testament to the depth they’ve built up there.
Some old issues resurfaced – tough and aggressive corners Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman were once again a little too tough and aggressive, drawing four penalties between them.
The Seahawks (6-7) travel to Chicago, return home against San Francisco on Christmas Eve, and then finish at Arizona.
Anything can happen.
“You can see what we’re trying to get done here,” Carroll said of the performance.
He’s right, you can see the plan coming together.
And as long as they’re improving, it feels as if they’re closing the gap.
So, yes, it was just the Rams, but it was another step in the right direction.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 firstname.lastname@example.org