It wasn’t a surprise the Seahawks lost in St. Louis, but on final regulation drive, defense gave up 84 yards in 12 plays, the last 37 yards of which evoked ghost of Kam Chancellor.
One way to look at it: The Seahawks lost by three points on the road mostly due to a ferocious Rams defense that overwhelmed an inexperienced offensive line; on defense, the worst mistake was made by the player filling in for Kam Chancellor, Dion Bailey, falling down of his own volition to allow the game-tying touchdown.
Anything there that is surprising? No.
Yet after the 34-31 overtime loss in the half-empty Edward Jones Dome, the Seahawks should be aghast. Recovering three Rams fumbles en route to scoring 18 consecutive fourth-quarter points for a 31-24 lead, all the arrows pointed toward a Seahawks win.
You know, kinda like their last game, when they had a 24-14 lead in the fourth quarter against the Patriots.
But mistakes, misjudgments and missed tackles opened the door for the Rams, who made a field goal in OT and denied the Seahawks on their one possession. Seattle has lost three of its past four in its nightmare roadhouse.
“We had our shots,” coach Pete Carroll said. “In all three phases and the coaches, we all need to do a better job. Disappointed that, across the board, we weren’t sharper than we looked.
“There were times — we had our moments, but not enough. When we had to finish the game, we didn’t finish it.”
Failure to finish, especially with a lead and a 3-1 advantage in turnovers, is uncharacteristic of Carroll’s teams. For the first time in 24 games when they scored 30 or more points, the Seahawks lost.
So let’s deal with the room’s big elephant: Bailey, the undrafted free agent starting his first NFL game, made the biggest screw-up.
A dropoff was anticipated, but Bailey deepened the hole when he fell while covering a backup tight end, Lance Kandricks, down the sidelines. Foles’ 37-yard TD pass completed an 84-yard drive in 12 plays that tied the game at 31 with 53 seconds left in regulation.
Not only did the failure become the game’s pivot point, it made one of the biggest stories in the NFL preseason more acidic, because it highlighted Chancellor’s value. Chancellor could have fallen too, except nobody’s buying that idea.
Naturally, Carroll refused to buy publicly into Chancellor’s absence as the reason the Seahawks gave up 352 yards to a Rams offense with newbies in the O-line and operating with a third-string tailback, as well as Foles in his first game as a Ram.
“We had a lot of aspects where we could have played better,” he said. “That’s not where my focus is.”
It was certainly the focus of Foles to pick on the rook.
“It was a match-up I took,” Foles told reporters. “Lance gave a little move and ran right by him.”
Said Bailey: “I was just too flat-footed, tried to open up and fell down. At that point I’ve got to tackle him and live to fight another day.”
For purposes of leverage in negotiations, Chancellor couldn’t have asked for better. But it’s doubtful the Seahawks will cave; in fact, it may well embitter the attitude among coaches toward him.
But the defense has more problems than the absence of Chancellor. The Rams converted six of 11 third downs despite not having their top two running backs, rookie first-round draft choice Todd Gurley and veteran Tre Mason, because of injuries. Missed tackles were plentiful and coverage breakdowns numerous, perhaps owing to the first-time participation of Bailey and CB Cary Williams, as well as the shift often of CB Richard Sherman to slot corner duties.
On offense, despite six sacks of QB Russell Wilson through the newbie-heavy line, Seattle put up 18 points and 343 yards of total offense. But it required career highs for Wilson in attempts (41) and completions (32), many of them quick, short routes to beat the pressure.
The Seahawks moved the ball when they converted to a no-huddle pace because it thwarted the Rams’ situational substitutions. But the punishment of Wilson was game-long and perhaps affected his willingness to keep the ball on the read option. Not once did it happen.
Here’s how Rams DE Chris Long put it to FOX TV afterward:
“We kept pounding the rock, and the rock broke.”
The improved results with no-huddle, which has always been a Wilson strength, caused him post-game to break from his usual script of endless praise — ever so slightly.
“We may have to consider hopping into that when we have a little lull,” he said. It was hardly a shot at offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s playcalling, but it was a hint. The problem is that no-huddle can be demanding for linemen, three of whom were playing their starting positions in the NFL for the first time.
That they fared reasonably well in no-huddle should bode well for Wilson’s idea. But it wasn’t enough help in the present, which now includes a trip to Green Bay. The Packers are itching for a shot at the Seahawks, who have won three in a row against the Pack, including the NFC Championship in January in which Seattle was largely outplayed but won.
The Seahawks did a number of good things, including weaponizing TE Jimmy Graham in the second half (six catches, including a TD) and getting a touchdown from Tyler Lockett on the first punt return of his NFL career.
But they didn’t do enough to win, nor take the spotlight off the man who wasn’t there.