SEATTLE Why was Russell Wilson still in a 42-7 game with 5 minutes remaining, the stadium three-fourths empty and the Seahawks’ suddenly miniscule playoff hopes relying completely on Wilson not getting hit any more than the career-high tying times he’d already been sacked?
An equally legitimate question: What was coach Pete Carroll saying when he explained why Wilson stayed in so long?
“You probably all were thinking that, too. I thought, 'Why is he still out there?'” Carroll said following the loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday that ended the Seattle’s reign of the NFC West.
“I agree with you.
“But he wants to keep battling. And I gave him one more series. It’s just who he is.”
The Seahawks’ hopes of making the postseason now come down to winning their final two games, at Dallas on Sunday and home against Arizona on New Year’s Eve, and stealing the final wild-card spot with a combination of help around the NFC--starting with Atlanta (8-5) losing twice in its final three games. That includes Monday night at Tampa Bay.
And all of Seattle’s chances start with Wilson regaining his magic to carry the team almost by himself.
That’s why it was reckless to have him in Sunday’s loss to the Rams for so long--54 of the 57 snaps--and for Carroll to let Wilson decide when he came out of the long-lost game.
I mean, it was 34-0 in the second quarter. It was 40-0 in the third.
“Obviously, that was not the game we wanted to play,” Wilson said. “Or expected to play.”
A 61.9-percent passer coming in, Wilson completed just 14 of 30 throws while getting sacked seven times and hit nine other times by the Rams’ swarming, overwhelming front. He lost a fumble on a sack by Robert Quinn. Aaron Donald, Los Angeles’ dominant defensive tackle Wilson last week called the best player he’s ever faced, sacked him three times and pressured him 10 other times in 32 pass rushes. One one Donald’s sacks was when he spun Wilson around and Wilson threw the ball wildly backwards and out of bounds for a 23-yard loss.
The pass protection was so porous that left tackle Duane Brown, he of the seven holding penalties in 10 NFL seasons before he got traded from Houston to Seattle in October, got called for holding twice. In the first quarter.
“In terms of where we have to get better on offense,” Wilson said, “I don’t really know where to start yet.”
Mercifully, Wilson finally left the game with 1:50 remaining. That was often the odd safety he took throwing deep from his own end zone--while not pressured, for a change. His pass sailed to no one incomplete by 20 yards because he and receiver Paul Richardson disconnected on a route. Backup Austin Davis finished the game’s final three plays.
How rough a day was it for Wilson and the offense? Seattle had 22 downs with more than 10 yards to go for a first down. The Seahawks only ran 54 plays.
The players and coaches always talk about “staying on schedule” offensively, meaning on normal, manageable downs and distances. Sunday was so, so far off schedule it was actually offensive anarchy.
"Well, it was really hard. It was really hard. I really thought that we would do better,” Carroll said of the pass protection--which shouldn’t have been a shock given the offensive has been the team’s chief problem for two years. “The situations rolled so much in their favor in terms of the down and distance. It was easy to know that we had to throw the football. We were backed up, and we were behind the sticks consistently.
“That’s not how we wanted to play this game, and to give them that advantage where they could come roaring off the football, and they were able to do that. I don’t know how many times, but there was a ton of times it was second and 15 or more. And that’s really hard to slow a group like them down. But, I need to see the film. I was really disappointed that we had some penalty calls early on in pass protection. I hadn’t seen that happen to us like that, with Duane, and we were fighting it.
“It really put us in bad positions early on, and we got behind the sticks. And then they’re just too good to let them tee off like that."
Sunday was the first time in 41 starts Wilson completed less than 50 percent of his passes, since Nov. 15, 2015. He was 14 for 32 in a home loss to Arizona that day.
Carroll said Sunday’s game was such a mess so quickly he couldn’t truly comment on how Wilson played.
"Yeah, I don’t think you can assess any individual," Carroll said. "This was a ‘we’ thing."
Since getting national mention as an NFL MVP candidate following the home win over Philadelphia, Wilson has completed 45 of 91 passes for 413 yards, four touchdowns, three interceptions, one lost fumble, with nine sacks and 20 hits against him in the last two games, the losses at Jacksonville and to L.A.. That’s a passer rating of 63.1 the last two weeks.
Wilson’s career rating in the regular season entering Sunday was 98.9.
“They came ready to play,” Wilson said of the Rams, “and unfortunately we weren’t ready to play enough.”