Seattle Seahawks

Where has Seahawks’ run defense gone? The way of all the injured stars

For the second time this season, the Seahawks have given up back-to-back 100-yard rushing games.

This time, it happened before halftime.

Todd Gurley ran through and all over Seattle’s defense Sunday, totaling 152 yards on 21 carries, scoring four touchdowns in the Los Angeles Rams’ 42-7 win at CenturyLink Field. Gurley gained 144 of his yards and scored three times in the first half, as the Rams romped to a 34-0 lead.

The previous week Jacksonville rookie Leonard Fournette bulled for 101 yards in Seattle’s 30-24 loss.

So much for the league’s eighth-ranked rushing defense.

The common thread: Bobby Wagner’s hamstring injury. The All-Pro middle linebacker hasn’t been nearly his speedy, dominant self for the past two games.

Wagner is the fifth Pro Bowl player injured on the Seahawks’ defense. Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril are out for the season. Linebacker K.J. Wright joined them on the sidelines Sunday because of a concussion.

“It’s not like you’re just losing anybody,” Seahawks Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett said. “You’re losing Kam Chancellors, Richard Shermans, Bobby Wagners, K.J. Wrights … Cliff Avrils. These are all Pro Bowl players.”

It doesn’t get any easier on Christmas Eve, either. The Seahawks (8-6) next travel to Dallas to face reigning NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott, who will be coming off a six-game NFL suspension.

“We tackled poorly (against the Rams),” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “There was a play there where we missed three tackles in a row. Sometimes we play a game, and we don’t miss three tackles in the whole game.

“We didn’t handle Todd Gurley very well. He was on fire.”

A healthy Wagner likely would have made a huge difference.

Before he departed on the Jaguars’ first offensive series of the second half on Dec. 10 in Florida, Fournette had just 29 rushing yards.

After Wagner got hurt? Fournette rumbled for 72 yards and a touchdown, and Jacksonville scored 27 of its 30 points.

After not practicing all last week, Wagner tested his hamstring inside CenturyLink Field about two hours before Sunday’s kickoff against the Rams. He met at the center of the field with team doctor Edward Khalfayan and five other members of the Seahawks’ medical staff. Then Wagner started without any practice time.

He was noticeably slower, especially laterally running toward Gurley and trying to catch up to Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin on fly sweeps.

Gurley scored on a pair of short touchdowns runs before he hit a home run late in the first half, going off tackle untouched for 57 yards for a third touchdown.

With Wagner and Wright, the Seahawks had held Gurley to an average of 53.8 yards rushing and 6.2 yards receiving entering Sunday, with just one touchdown in four previous meetings. Those were his lowest numbers by far against any team he’s played more than once in his three-year career.

Sunday, without Wagner and Wright playing, Gurley bulldozed Seattle.

“The fact (Wagner) and K.J. weren’t there all week long (in practices), that affects us,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We haven’t been like that for six years.

“That’s the first time. That may be as obvious as issue as anything.

“But, still, that’s not why guys missed tackles. … We have to do better.”

Wagner left in the third quarter when the game got out of hand.

Asked how limited he thought Wagner was Sunday against the Rams, teammate Earl Thomas said: “I have no clue.

“But you normally see Wags running from sideline to sideline, and he just couldn’t do it today.

“But I think he just waited a little bit too long to take himself out.”

WILSON SUBPAR AGAIN

Russell Wilson, a 61.9-percent passer coming in, completed just 14 of 30 throws while getting sacked seven times and hit nine other times. Aaron Donald, the Rams’ defensive tackle whom Wilson last week called the best player he’s ever faced, sacked Wilson three times and pressured him 10 other times in 32 pass rushes.

This was the first time Wilson completed less than 50 percent of his passes since Nov. 15, 2015, when he was 14 for 32 in a home loss to Arizona.

Carroll said the game was such a mess so quickly he couldn’t truly assess 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 and three interceptions in the past two games, both losses. That’s a passer rating of 63.1 the past two weeks.

Wilson’s career rating in the regular season entering Sunday was 98.9

KUPP RETURNS TO WASHINGTON

Former Eastern Washington standout Cooper Kupp from Yakima was a central figure in the first meeting this season between the Seahawks and his Rams. The rookie had a pass from Jared Goff go off his hands while he dived in the end zone on Los Angeles’ final offensive play with 8 seconds left. Seattle won 16-10.

Sunday, he had a quiet game for the Rams in his return to his home state: two catches for 21 yards, and a drop on third down near the goal line that forced the Rams to settle for a field goal in the first quarter.

Then again, he said there weren’t a whole lot of opportunities for the passing game to be featured. Not with Gurley running wild.

“Special teams and the defense, they played incredible,” Kupp said. “Thinking back, there weren’t a whole lot of drives that I felt like we were having to move the ball very far down the field.”

Kupp said he remember the only other time he’s stepped foot in CenturyLink Field was in 2015 for a Seahawks’ 35-6 win over Baltimore.

He said he and his father, Craig, a former quarterback at Pacific Lutheran University, were on the field before the game.

“My dad asked, ‘Do you see yourself being out here in a few years?’ ” Kupp said. “I said, ‘Yeah, I can see myself playing out here.’ And now I am out here. It is a pretty cool deal.”

EXTRA POINTS: Nickel cornerback Justin Coleman left with a chest injury when he got blocked into teammate Neiko Thorpe at the start of a 53-yard punt return by Los Angeles’ Pharoh Cooper. Jeremy Lane took over as the nickel back inside. … Special-teams mainstay D.J. Alexander left the game with a concussion in the second half. … Tight end Nick Vannett departed with a shoulder injury in the second half. … The coaches of the six high schools that won state football championships — Richland’s Mike Niedhold, O’Dea’s Monte Kohler, Hockinson’s Rick Steele, Royal’s Wiley Allred, Kalama’s Sean McDonald and Almira-Coulee-Hartline’s Brandon Walsh — were chosen to raise the 12th Man Flag on Sunday. Allred was the one who actually hoisted the flag up.

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