The law of averages caught up to the Seahawks, although it was always right there in the huddle throughout the season.
Behind on the road, the Seahawks offense, with a rookie quarterback, a game plan more conservative than Rush Limbaugh and no game-breakers among the receivers, doesn’t play catch-up very well.
In fact, it doesn’t play well at all, particularly when the coaching staff makes choices that play to the team’s weaknesses — and operates without the benefit of replacement refs.
In a game in which the Rams offense didn’t score a touchdown, and needed field goals of 58 and 60 yards as well as a trick play executed by a punter from Bothell High School to win, it was plain even to coach Pete Carroll that the 19-13 defeat Sunday in St. Louis was self-immolation.
“Sure it is,” Carroll said. “This was all about us.”
Under new coach Jeff Fisher, the Rams brought in a bunch of new, mostly younger players — the youngest team in the NFL — that should not be ready to outsmart a team that had beaten them 13 of the previous 14 games. But they did.
They did it on the sidelines too, where despite strong evidence (180 yards) that the Seahawks would get five yards every time they ran the ball, the Seahawks coaches ordered QB Russell Wilson to throw on several critical third-down situations — nearly all for naught.
He’s not there yet. And the Seahawks are 2-2 because the offense is even farther behind the defense and special teams than most Seahawks fans imagined.
The offense converted only two of nine chances on third down. Reasons are varied but included everyone, especially the increasingly notorious right tackle, Breno Giacomini. In precariously tight road games with minimal margin for error, he had two more unnecessary personal fouls, apparently continuing his inexplicable march to make the world forget Yosemite Sam.
“He’s a total maximum-effort guy but sometimes it gets the best of him,” Carroll said. “If we get flagged, we’re wrong.”
Besides no-account foolishness, much will be made of Wilson’s total of three interceptions, but in all cases, fault primarily lay elsewhere. In the second quarter, ahead 7-3, Wilson’s slightly late pass went off the hands of WR Doug Baldwin and into the hands of St. Louis quarterback Tremaine Johnson at midfield.
Said Carroll: “Doug should have had it.”
A dozen plays after the turnover came Fisher’s most noteworthy trickeration: He bamboozled Carroll and the defense with a fake field goal attempt. Rookie Johnny Hekker, the Bothell kid via Oregon State and mostly the punter, stood up from his placement hold and threw a touchdown pass to WR Danny Amendola, who lined up along the sideline completely undetected by the Seahawks.
“We’re supposed to see it,” Carroll said. “We talk about it all the time and we just missed it.”
Wilson’s second pick came on the first possession of the third quarter after Leon Washington set up the offense well with a kickoff return to the St. Louis 36. Wilson’s arm was grabbed mid-throw and his flutterball landed in the arms of LB Rocky McIntosh at the 18-yard line.
The final turnover was on the final Seahawks play, perhaps a karmic payback for the outcome on the final play Monday night against the Packers.
Moving the chains well in the final three minutes in pursuit of the go-ahead TD, Wilson had a second-and-five at the St. Louis 35 and and a wide-open TE, Anthony McCoy. Unaided by a defender, McCoy slipped and fell down. Wilson’s on-the-money pass zipped past him into the hands of cornerback Bradley Fletcher. Game over.
The turnovers were the sort of flukes that happen every game, but the Seahawks’ margin for victory is so thin that one moment of bad luck is enough, just as a moment of good luck was enough Monday. What the Seahawks needed to do was bulletproof themselves to flukes by building a lead, which they consistently failed to do on third down by throwing the ball instead of giving it to Lynch, who smashed the Rams with 118 yards on 20 carries.
Adding to the problem was the defense’s own vulnerability on third down. In an otherwise stellar performance, Seattle allowed St. Louis to convert four third-and-longs — just enough times to keep their offense alive to get within the considerable range of rookie kicker Greg Zeuerlin.
A sixth-round pick from D-II Missouri Western, Zeuerlin set the franchise record with a 58-yarder in the first quarter and beat it by two in the third quarter. He’s 16-fo-16 this season, with seven beyond 40 yards.
In a way, the big field goals were the Rams’ version of Hail Marys, of which the Seahawks know. Can’t keep living on the edge, at least not in the NFC West.
“Third down was lousy for us,” Carroll said. “The game was right in front of us, and we didn’t get it.”
For different reasons, the same could be said of the season-opening loss at Arizona. While none of the fails in the Seahawks operations seem insurmountable — they certainly must be able to find a time-out corner at the VMAC for Giacomini to stand in next week — they have reached the the quarter-pole in an 0-2 hole in a rapidly improving NFC West.
In a division that looks as if it can have three nine-win teams at a minimum, the Seahawks have burned up a lot of divisional capital already. And they’ve used up their karma for the year, if not for the decade.