Seahawks 14, at St. Louis Rams 9
When the best thing to be said about an NFL offense is that the quarterback is learning how to cover up the ball while being sacked, the conversation is about a dead team walking. But no.
The Seahawks at the season’s midpoint have the best record in the NFC at 7-1 largely because they have a remarkable talent for making something out of almost nothing. Definition of almost nothing? Let’s try 135 yards of total offense minus 83 yards from 10 penalties. AND THEY WON THE GAME because the Rams were slightly more oafish.
The Monday Night Football game in the sparsely populated Edward Jones Dome was, for both teams, a big pile of nothing. But the Seahawks prevailed because they made one good offensive play – an 80-yard touchdown bomb from Russell Wilson to Golden Tate – and one good goal-line stand. Most of the rest can be set curbside in the morning for pickup by the big green trucks.
Stripped bare were Seattle’s replacement tackles, Michael Bowie and Paul McQuistan. Rams defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn each had three sacks, and QB Russell Wilson went down seven times. The Seahawks coaches came up with no credible alternatives to the St. Louis pressure, leaving the outcome in doubt for the entire 60 minutes.
But, after playing their fourth road game in the past five weeks, they won. Remember this game in late December when it comes time to calculate playoff tiebreakers. The Seahawks are 3-0 in the division, and play Arizona and St. Louis again in Seattle.
Bad game? Yes. Big win? Yes.
FISTS TO SKY
- Having nothing to lose but the game, the Seahawks took a shot in the third quarter and hit it. Wilson’s pass was airborne for 50 yards before Tate, in solo coverage, worked around a defender and made a leaping catch before running 30 yards free into the end zone.
- Tate also scored the game’s only other touchdown, a two-yard pass in the second quarter he caught on the goal line and barely broke the plane.
- The game’s final seven plays came in the Seattle red zone, where the defense denied the Rams seven times, including four from the six-yard line.
- FS Earl Thomas delivered the hit of the game when he crossed the field to end a scramble by Kellen Clemens that spun the Rams QB 360 degrees and prompted him to come up barking at Thomas.
- Reliable St. Louis kicker Greg “The Leg” Zeurlein, who was 14-for-14 for the season, missed from 50 yards, even though he kicked it 70. A make would have allowed the Rams on the final possession to win the game with a field goal instead of a touchdown.
- Jon Ryan punted often and well, mostly.
- No turnovers.
PALMS TO FOREHEADS
- Three and out. Three and out. Three and out. Three and out. Three and out. Three and out. Three and out. Four and out.
- Prior to the first Tate touchdown, the Seahawks on first-and-goal and second-and-goal ran the read option, with Wilson keeping both times for no gain instead of giving to the running back. Isn’t he being asked enough?
- Tate spent the last 30 yards of his TD run mocking the St. Louis defensive backs, nearly getting caught at the goal line, then receiving a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. He was ripped on the air by ESPN analyst Jon Gruden as well as on the sideline by Pete Carroll. Yes, it was funny. And it also embarrassed Carroll on national TV.
- In the second quarter, Wilson inexplicably dropped back in the end zone to pass, and appeared to be going down for a safety and pulled away to the one yard line. Bad play call, bad blocking and yet another astonishing play from Wilson.
- On the win: “We are very fortunate to get out of here (with the win). They ran the ball down our throats. They did a fine job under the circumstances with a new quarterback. The good thing is that for the first time this season, we didn’t turn the ball over. If we had one turnover, we wouldn’t have won. But we’re at the midpoint of the season and we almost got ’em all (7-1). We’ve been on the road four of the past five weeks and we survived. That’s a major achievement in this league.”
- On the rushing-game failure: “We did a ton of stuff and none of it worked. Marshawn got the ball eight times. He didn’t get a chance. He was frustrated. I sat by him on the bench. We both were frustrated by that.”
- On the defense: “(The last drive) was about as challenging a situation as you could give a defense. In that final drive, they could do anything they wanted to, it seemed. On the last play, we called a very aggressive pressure. And we were one on one in the secondary. It was a very difficult night but a good outcome.”
- On the O-line woes: “We got a long haul the rest of the way, and these guys are who we’re going with. We gotta fix them. They’re trying. We tried to help them, and it didn’t work out.”
- On the absence of turnovers: “Russell did an excellent job of being more aware of when he was being hit. He wrapped up well. It’s not a positive situation (seven sacks) but it was an improvement.”
- On Tate’s mockery of Rams players: “That’s not the way we want to present ourselves at all. I thought he was more mature than that. He had too much fun at the wrong time. He knew it, and he apologized to everybody. But he still did it. It kind of washes away a really great play.”
On defense’s final stand: “The whole time the defense was out there I completely believed they would stop (the Rams). The defense really stepped up. It’s always a team effort.”
On the 80-yard touchdown pass to Tate: “He was the last guy in my progression (of reads), and he was one-on-one. He waved at the guy, which he didn’t need to do. But he made a spectacular catch.”
On the Rams defense: “They’re one of the best we will face this season. Their ends really brought pressure; how active their front seven are; how they stopped the running game. But not turning the ball over was huge for us. We’ll fix (the protection). Michael Bowie is a rookie going against one of the best (Long) in the game. He and (Robert) Quinn are as good as they get.”
On avoiding sack fumbles: “I was really conscious of it, making sure I got down. We talked all week about, if it’s not there, you have to surrender and protect the football.”
The long-known problems on the Seahawks offensive line have settled into a serious vexation that, thanks to two nationally televised games, are known to polar bears on the North Slope. There appears to be nothing immediately to be done about it, because if there were, certainly Carroll would have deployed it Monday night before Wilson gets pulled apart as if he were in medieval prison.
Even with veterans Zach Miller and Michael Robinson in the lineup, the offense was helpless against a very good Rams rush. With Marshawn Lynch held to 23 yards in eight attempts, there was no alternative weapon. The Seahawks had 40 offensive plays and 10 penalties for 83 lost yards.
The goal-line stand to end the game was memorable, but the main reason Seattle won was St. Louis’s offensive incompetence. Backup QB Clemens did a decent job, compromised on both interceptions by receiver failure, not Seattle craftiness.
The 7-1 mark is hard to take seriously when an offense at midseason generates 135 yards, 80 in one play. And while a return to health will help, the wait may cost them Wilson, who is taking a beating like no other starting QB in the league.
The primary salvation is the next three opponents are a combined 3-18 and there’s a bye in there. But they still are NFL teams, and unless the protection is fixed to help save Wilson, the Seahawks are pretenders.