SEATTLE Kris Richard was on one knee. And on fire.
Seattle’s young coordinator of a battered defense gathered his entire unit around him--then blistered his Seahawks. He screamed. He pointed at his players. He pointed at scoreboard, the field, the ground. It came after the rival Los Angeles Rams had stormed to a 20-0 lead during perhaps the most galling first half in Seahawks history.
Thing was, the defense was only one-third of Seattle’s issues on Sunday.
“We weren’t ready to play, enough,” quarterback Russell Wilson said.
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Five Pro Bowl players were injured on the Seahawks’ defense. Four were out. The fifth, All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, played while slowed on a badly strained hamstring. Los Angeles’ dynamic back Todd Gurley romped through what was left for 144 yards and three touchdowns. In the first half.
On offense, Tanner McEvoy lost a fumble in Seahawks’ territory after a catch on the opening drive. Wilson lost a fumble on one of four sacks in the first two quarters. The quarterback also got spun by LA’s extraordinary tackle Aaron Donald around into a backward pass out of bounds for a loss of 23 yards. On special teams, Seattle’s lead punt-cover men ran into each other on a 53-yard punt return by the Rams to the Seattle 1.
The Seahawks got out-gained 238-59 while falling behind 34-0 before halftime. It was a complete disaster, this 42-7 loss at booing CenturyLink Field. And it likely cost Seattle not just the NFC West title but perhaps their season.
“Embarrassing game,” wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. “I know that is not our brand of football.”
Baldwin had this postgame message to teammates in the sullen locker room: “Let it burn. Remember this feeling.
“We can’t waste this. This loss can’t be in vain.”
Seattle got wasted, all right, 352-147 in total yards and in every other way by the Rams (10-4), who are now poised to win the NFC West for the first time since 2003 when they played in St. Louis.
“We never really had a chance,” safety Earl Thomas said of a defense that missed so many tackles—including sometimes three on one play.
It’s difficult to overstate how awful the face-plant in the opening half was for the Seahawks (8-6).
The stakes for this one were Seattle’s highest for a regular-season game in years. Win and the Seahawks were likely in the playoffs again, 79-percent likely. Lose and there was just a 19-percent chance at a sixth consecutive postseason appearance.
Then they produced a home performance that was perhaps their worst in franchise history. It was certainly their most ill-timed, given what was at stake.
Their 34-0 deficit in the second quarter was their biggest in seven years, since trailing 41-0 to the New York Giants in 2010. That was Carroll’s and general manager John Schneider’s first season completely overhauling the roster with hundreds of roster moves, and the franchise with a new culture that led to appearances in consecutive Super Bowls and five straight trips to the postseason.
That streak may be coming to a thudding halt. Seattle’s playoff hopes entering a Christmas Eve game at Dallas now rely on winning out, plus Atlanta (8-5 and the NFC’s sixth seed) losing at least twice, at Tampa Bay on Monday night, at New Orleans next weekend or home against Carolina Dec. 31. Plus, six-loss Detroit must lose once more.
The tie breakers for the two wild-card spots in the NFC playoffs are against the Seahawks. It’s possible if not likely a 10-6 team in the conference will miss the postseason.
To miraculously win the division, the Rams that just smashed them would have to lose next weekend at Tennessee and on New Year’s Eve at home to San Francisco while Seattle wins at the Cowboys and home against Arizona.
This was the Seahawks’ the largest margin of defeat in the Pete Carroll era. It was the biggest loss since 48-10 at Green Bay on Dec. 27, 2009. That was the next-to-last game before coach Jim Mora got fired and Carroll got hired for the 2010 season.
“We’ve not seen us play like that, and seen that kind of result,” Carroll said.
“So it’s on all of us to hold ourselves accountable. We didn’t do that right, from any aspect of it.
“This is everybody. Every player in there—we talked about that in the locker room—everybody’s accountable.
“They had the opportunity. They took advantage of it. … And we didn’t.”
Wilson has been the most indispensable Seahawk all season, often single-handedly winning games while gaining as many as 96 percent of the offense’s yards. Sunday against Donald and the younger, faster, swarming Rams, Wilson was part of Seattle’s problems.
With rarely any time to throw and while sacked seven times behind a leaking line, Wilson completed just 14 of 30 passes for 142 yards. His lone touchdown was a pass to Luke Willson when it was 40-0 Rams. He lost a fumble. He threw that horrid backward pass for a loss of 23. And he gave up a safety when he got called for intentional grounding in the fourth quarter while not pressured and disconnecting with Paul Richardson on a down-field route.
By then, this game and perhaps season was lost.
The offense had just four first downs in the first half. It kept handing the Rams, whom they’d beaten 16-10 at Los Angeles while at full strength in October, supreme opportunities to score early Sunday. Los Angeles’ second-highest scoring offense in the NFL had drive starts at the Seattle 40-yard line --after McEvoy’s fumble on the game’s third play--at midfield and at the Seattle 1 to begin its first three possessions. The 1-yard drive to Gurley’s first touchdown came after Pharoh Cooper’s 53-yard return of a Jon Ryan punt, when Justin Coleman got blocked into teammate Neiko Thorpe and sustained a chest injury to set Cooper free.
Cooper returned another punt by Ryan past the whiffing McEvoy 26 yards to the Seahawks’ 36. Gurley ended that short drive with his second 1-yard TD run for a 20-0 lead.
That’s when Richard went off on his Seahawks defenders. All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman and Pro Bowl safety Kam Chancellor stood behind the fury and could only watch and offer advice. They were in team sweats, out injured for the season.
The worst of Seattle’s worst came with the Rams seeming to concede a punt and calling a white-flag run off tackle on a third and 20 late in the half. Gurley ran off left tackle--then bolted untouched 57 yards for his third touchdown of the first two quarters. Los Angeles led 34-0.
Go way, way back to 1994 and you will find just one other running play in the NFL on third and 20 or more yards to go that resulted in a touchdown. That was Tim Tebow as a rookie for Denver in 2010, against Oakland.
“You are more pissed off than anything,” Seahawks center Justin Britt said.
Across Puget Sound right now, he’s not alone in feeling that way.
The CenturyLink Field crowd booed the home team off the field at the beginning of halftime.
This was the scene in the sold-out stadium with 5:00 minutes left:
If it wasn’t the end of an era in the NFC West, it sure looked and felt like one.
“I wasn’t happy with anything,” Carroll said. “There was nothing about the game…no, there was nothing to be happy about.
“That was really a dismal performance by us.”