Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks run with rampaging Rams, but depleted defense can’t hold on in 33-31 loss

Seahawks defensive lineman Frank Clark (55) intercepts a pass in the first quarter. The Seattle Seahawks played the Los Angeles Rams in a NFL football game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash., on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018.
Seahawks defensive lineman Frank Clark (55) intercepts a pass in the first quarter. The Seattle Seahawks played the Los Angeles Rams in a NFL football game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash., on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018. joshua.bessex@gateline.com

They ran the ball with attitude, again.

Afforded time to throw and run deep routes after all the effective rushing, Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett played rainbow pitch and catch.

But the Seahawks’ depleted, changed defense ultimately could not stop the Los Angeles Rams’ soaring offense when it had to. And when the offensive line that has excelled all day committed two mammoth penalties at the end, suddenly the Seahawks were way behind the defending champions in the NFC West.

Such is the ultra-thin margin of error this transitioning Seattle team can endure.

Chris Carson ran for a career-high 116 yards on 19 carries. Wilson threw three touchdown passes, including twp to David Moore for the first two scores of his career. But Todd Gurley’s three touchdown runs and Seattle allowing 468 yards of offense from the top-ranked one in the NFL was decisive in the end of the Seahawks’ 33-31 loss Sunday at CenturyLink Field, which was roaring like it was 2014 again.

“We actually kicked their ass up front,” said right guard D.J. Fluker, who had a pivotal role in how this pivotal division game with the might Rams ended.

“They got lucky.”

The Seahawks (2-3) dropped to 2-23 under coach Pete Carroll when allowing 30 or more points.

Los Angeles (5-0) already has a three-game lead on Seattle before all the leaves are off the trees, after Seattle was one perhaps one penalty away from being one game back.

With Seattle leading 31-24 in the fourth quarter the Rams answered Wilson’s second touchdown pass of the second half to Moore by driving to the Seahawks 10-yard line. Linebacker Barkevious Mingo made a huge tackle after a catch to force the Rams into fourth and 2. Seattle cornerback Shaquill Griffin then hit Rams receiver Robert Woods before Jared Goff’s pass arrived in the right flat for pass interference and a L.A. first down at the 5.

Gurley got his third touchdown run of the game on the next play. But Cairo Santos, filling in for injured Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein, line-drived and shanked the ensuing point after touchdown wide. That kept the Seahawks ahead, 31-30, with 14:50 left.

Santos redeemed himself with a 39-yard field goal that put the Rams back ahead 33-31, with 6:05 remaining.

The Seahawks moved to the Rams 32 on their next possession, on a 44-yard pass from Wilson to Lockett. But then the offense was late getting to line way down the field following the big play. With the play clock expiring right tackle Germain Ifedi committed a false start.

On first and 15 Fluker was caught holding Rams troublesome defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh with whom Fluker has been grappling and jawing all tense day.

Those penalties turned what would have been a 50-yard field goal try by Sebastian Janikowski for the lead with 3 1/2 minutes left into a 63-yard impossibility.

“They called a penalty. Cost us the game,” Fluker said. “I’d been taking him to the water all day.”

Carroll wanted to know why officials saw 62 running plays combined by the two teams and chose that time, that situation, to call Fluker for holding there.

“Unfortunately, we got knocked out of field-goal range with a penalty. It was really disturbing that that happened at that time,” Carroll said.

“Pretty frustrated about this, because we put ourselves in position to win. We hit the big play to Tyler and we’re in field-goal range and we’re going to knock it in. We‘re going to run the clock down—they had no time outs—and kick a field goal and win the football game and go home. So, it was right there. ...There were 60-something runs and it comes to, let’s throw that flag right there. ...There is a lot of plays in that game that probably could have warranted a penalty thrown. And it happened on that play right then.

“It just pisses me off, that that was how this thing ended.”

Thing is, Fluker absolutely held Suh. Grabbed him by the right shoulder with his left hand and pulled it down toward the turf at the point of attack. That was while Seattle’s Mike Davis (68 yards on 12 rushes and a touchdown) ran by for a gain of 5 yards to the Rams’ 30-yard line.

After the penalty on Fluker, Wilson threw incomplete passes twice while pressured. On fourth and 23 from the Rams 45, the Seahawks punted instead of sending Janikowski out for a 63-yard field goal (the 19-year veteran’s career long is 63 yards, seven years ago for Oakland at mile-high, thin-air Denver).

Carroll was terse in saying now when asked if he gave any thought to sending out Janikowski to try that 63-yarder for the lead with 3:38 remaining.

After Seattle’s punt, the Rams got two first downs. The second one was on a sneak by QB Goff on fourth and inches in Los Angeles’ own end with 1:39 to go, and L.A. ran out the clock from there to win yet again.

Following their plan that got them their first two wins of the seasons in the previous two games, the Seahawks ran 12 times in their first 19 plays against the Rams. Two of those runs were Carson up the middle for 16 yards bulling over defenders. That set up Davis’ 6-yard bolt, also up the middle of the Rams’ vaunted interior defense. Fluker flattened Suh on the game’s first score.

The Rams answered that touchdown in just five plays, the fifth Gurley’s 2-yard touchdown run.

All that running by Seattle early set up its second touchdown. The Seahawks brought in reserve tackle George Fant as a second tight end again, indicating another run was coming. Wilson faked the handoff. The Rams defense had to honor that fake, and read Seattle’s blocking after the snap. That gave Wilson plenty of time to allow Lockett to run from out wide right across the field to the left into the clear for a 39-yard touchdown.

The Seahawks led 14-10 in the second quarter.

The Seahawks’ depleted, changed defense missed four chances to keep the Rams from taking the lead on the ensuing drive. Strong safety Bradley McDougald went for a hit on Rams receiver Cooper Kupp instead of Goff’s pass he could have interception. That deflected ball turned into a Rams reception for 17 yards instead of a turnover. Tedric Thompson, starting at free safety now that Earl Thomas is on injured reserve with a broken leg, had a Goff pass wide of Woods in the red zone go off his hands. On third and 10, Seattle allowed Goff to scramble past most of the defense for a first down. Then Thompson missed an open-field tackle on Kupp during the Ram’s 6-yard catch and run for the go-ahead touchdown.

The Seahawks answered with Janikowski’s 52-yard field goal to tie the game at 17. That left the 40-year-old 3 for 4 on kicks of 50-plus yards, 3 for 5 from all other distances.

A defensive-holding foul against cornerback Tre Flowers away from the play negated a fumble by Los Angeles’ Brandin Cooks that Seattle recovered deep in Rams territory. Cooks left the game because of the hit by Thompson, shoulder to up near if not on the head. That foul on Flowers to start the Rams’ final drive of the half kept Seattle from a chance to take the lead into halftime.

The 17-17 tie at halftime was a stark contrast to the 34-0 lead the Rams had in December, the last time they played the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.

So was this entire day.

Yet the bottom line is, instead of one game behind the Rams for the NFC West lead, the Seahawks head to London on Wednesday night for next weekend’s game against Oakland already three games out in the division.

“We have a lot of season left, and we are right where we want to be,” Wilson (13 for 21 passing, 198 yards, season-high 132.5 passer rating) said.

“That’s one of the best teams in the game. ...I thought that we showed up and played the way that we need to play.

“We feel like we should’ve won that game.”

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