ST. LOUIS – The Seattle Sea-hawks knew St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher would have a few tricks up his sleeve Sunday.
Fisher was the coach at Tennessee when the Titans engineered the Music City Miracle to defeat the Buffalo Bills in an AFC wild-card game, Jan. 8, 2000.
Well, Fisher created some more magic against Seattle.
With a little over a minute remaining in the first half, and his offense stalled 2 yards from the Seattle goal, Fisher called for his field goal unit to take the field.
But instead of rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein booting the chip-shot field goal, holder Johnny Hekker stood up and passed to a wide-open Danny Amendola as the stunned Seattle defense looked on.
Even worse, Seattle defensive end Red Bryant said his team had prepared for something like that to happen.
“Jeff Fisher’s teams are known for that type of stuff,” Bryant said. “We worked on it all week, so it was very frustrating,”
Seattle coach Pete Carroll said his coaching staff saw Amendola from upstairs and alerted him, but Carroll couldn’t get out on the field in time for the officials to see him so he could call a timeout.
“I was out in the field, I don’t know how far,” Carroll said. “But I was out there running out at them. We saw it from upstairs, but I didn’t do a good enough job of getting in their view.”
So was that the turning point of the game?
“Of course it was, because that was their touchdown for the day,” Carroll said. “That was a huge play.”
Buffalo ran a similar play against Seattle in a season-opening loss against the Bills in 2008 when holder Brian Moorman hit Ryan Denney for a 19-yard touchdown in Buffalo’s 34-10 victory.
The critical blunder was part of an uneven performance by Seattle’s special teams on Sunday. Carroll ordered an onside kick to open the second half, but the Sea-hawks didn’t recover the ball. St. Louis linebacker Josh Hull corralled the loose ball.
“We saw something that we wanted to take advantage of. Unfortunately, we had our chance at it, but they came up with it and we didn’t,” Carroll said. “It’s giving them a 50-yard kick return. So it’s a risk, of course. But we liked our chances, and we’ll look for that opportunity again.”
Zuerlein converted the short field into a 60-yard field goal.
Seattle punter Jon Ryan also shanked a 31-yard punt at the end of the first half that Zuerlein turned into a 48-yard field goal.
The lone bright spot for Seattle was Leon Washington’s 69-yard kick return early in the third quarter, but Seattle failed to turn the big play into points when Russell Wilson was hit by blitzing cornerback Janoris Jenkins and intercepted by linebacker Rocky McIntosh.
Carroll wants his team to play hard, tough and aggressively until the whistle.
But the Seahawks are walking a fine line between aggressive and foolish.
Seattle was flagged for three personal foul calls Sunday, which makes five of those penalties this season, along with one each for roughing the passer, unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct.
Offensive tackle Breno Giacomini was flagged for two of the personal fouls, and both thwarted promising drives. Giacomini also was called for a false start.
While penalties are going to happen given the physical style Seattle plays, they also are having an effect on the outcome.
“He’s such an effort guy and he’s such a tough guy, but he has to pull back,” Carroll said about Giacomini. “We love the way he fights and competes, but if we’re getting flagged then we’re wrong. And so we have to fix that.”
Seahawks guard James Carpenter left the game in the first half after injuring his right knee – but not the surgically repaired one that kept him out of the first three games. He later returned and appeared to hold up fine. Carroll said receiver Ben Obomanu and linebacker Mike Morgan were dinged up during the game, but later returned. Offensive lineman John Moffitt did not play because of his surgically repaired right knee that he re-injured last week against Green Bay. Paul McQuistan started at right guard with Moffitt out. Other inactive players for Seattle included receiver Charly Martin, safety Winston Guy, cornerback Danny Gorrer, cornerback Byron Maxwell, and defensive linemen Jaye Howard and Greg Scruggs. Former Rogers High and Washington State star Brandon Gibson finished with two catches for 28 yards for St. Louis. The Seahawks lost the turnover battle for the first time this season, with three interceptions. The Rams threw one interception. Rookie linebacker Bobby Wagner led Seattle in tackles with seven, including three for a loss. Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane finished with five tackles, including two for a loss.