That Seahawks’ transformation – especially along the offensive line that turned Russell Wilson into an NFL record setter?
Wilson was limping and grimacing by the second quarter. St. Louis and its swarming, blitzing defense had sparked a 16-0 lead by then.
Doug Baldwin caught his 11th touchdown pass in five games to become the fourth player in league history to do that. But that rallied the Seahawks only briefly. Lost chances on both sides of the ball resulted in a 23-17 defeat that ended Seattle’s five-game winning streak and felt like a relapse to the woes that caused 2-4 and 4-5 starts to this season.
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How battered was the quarterback after getting sacked four times and hit 13 more?
“It’s football,” Wilson said sounding as he did after similar beating at the hands of the Rams in September and Arizona last month. “I’m fine. I’m good to go.”
The best Seahawks fact to emerge from an afternoon included seven players leaving for concussion testing and was more WWE, steel-cage match than football game: Seattle (9-6) had already clinched a playoff spot.
“This shows us there are still some things we have to correct,” Baldwin said. “Obviously, it to good it happened now than in the playoffs.”
This loss Sunday in front of a CenturyLink Field-record crowd of 69,080 increases the chance the Seahawks fall from the fifth to the sixth seed in the NFC. That would mean a game Jan. 9 or 10 at the NFC North champion, either rebounding Minnesota (9-5) or skidding Green Bay (10-5) instead of at NFC East champion Washington (8-7).
Last week Wilson became the first in NFL history to throw three or more TD passes without an interception in five consecutive games.
Sunday, he became the Rams’ punching bag. Again.
He completed 25 of 41 passes for 289 yards, two touchdowns – including a cosmetic one with 17 second left to Jermaine Kearse. He threw his first interception in six games. The team that had sacked him 31 times in seven previous games bludgeoned him relentlessly with four sacks and at least twice as many hits as and after he threw. After five transforming games it was back to September and October for Wilson and the offensive line, the former abandoning a collapsing pocket and the latter allowing free rushers when they weren’t getting penalized for false starts or holding or even clipping.
This was the first time in Wilson’s 63 career games the Seahawks didn’t lead at some point in a game.
And the Rams (7-8) won for the first time in 11 tries in Seattle, back to a wild-card playoff win here Jan. 8, 2005 -- despite gaining just 207 total yards.
The Seahawks fell behind 16-0 thanks largely to fullback Will Tukuafu losing a fumble on a third-and-1 run, his fourth carry of the season, in the first quarter. St. Louis’ Akeem Ayers ran that back 45 yards for a touchdown.
Seattle got back into the game thanks to two personal fouls by the Rams on third-down incomplete passes that extended the Seahawks’ last drive of the first half and first one after halftime. The first was a dubious call on St. Louis cornerback Trumaine Johnson for hitting Luke Willson in the back head-first as the Seahawks’ tight end first touched a pass Johnson’s hit broke up. Both Johnson and Willson then left for concussion evaluation.
Seattle ended that 16-play with a field goal and a 16-3 deficit at the half.
Then on third down early in the third quarter Wilson got chased soon after the snap yet again. He threw wildly incomplete under duress – but Rams usually exquisite pass-rushing tackle Aaron Donald got a personal foul for needlessly pushing Wilson to the ground.
That extended the drive that ended when Wilson, just after getting nailed yet again, threw on the next snap between four Rams into the end zone. Baldwin caught that while getting drilled to the ground, then got up and pointed to the Rams and then the home crowd roaring over his 11th touchdown catch in five games. It got Seattle to within 16-10.
But the Seahawks squandered two chances to recover fumbles by Rams running backs in the fourth quarter. The first was on third and short when Benny Cunningham lost the ball out of a pile. Seattle safety Earl Thomas cradled it for a moment but the ball squirted free across the wet turf on the rainy day. Officials ruled St. Louis center Tim Barnes recovered the fumble, then ruled it was Seahawks ball, then re-ruled Rams ball. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll could only scream at the officials; he and his team were out of challenges because of two earlier failures trying to overturn calls. And the replay was not conclusive enough to overturn the initial call of Rams ball, anyway.
A couple plays later, Rams’ 1,000-yard rookie runner Todd Gurley lost the ball to the Seahawks 3 at the end of a long romp. Seattle’s Jeremy Lane had his hands on the ball but could not bring it into his possession. St. Louis recovered – then scored on a Gurley touchdown run on third down to make it 23-10 with 10:34 to go.
Wilson now has 20 touchdown passes with one interception in his last six games. His first interception in 170 throws, the second-longest errorless streak in Seahawks’ history, ended when he threw a third-and-long jump ball to Tyler Lockett that the Rams pick off at their own 13 in the second quarter.
Baldwin joined Jerry Rice and Sterling Sharpe of the NFL and Art Powell in 1963 in the old AFL as the only players with 11 touchdown catches in five games. He set the Seahawks’ record with his 14th TD reception this season, one more than Daryl Turner had in 1985.
Baldwin also joined Steve Largent (twice) and Joey Galloway (two times) as only Seattle receivers with 1,000 yards and 10 TDs in a season