BY Art Thiel 09:01PM 12/27/2015

Thiel: Seahawks have a week to put wheels back

Their running-backs-by-subcommittee held to 60 yards, the Seahawks suddenly look vulnerable as they head to Arizona needing a quality outing ahead of the playoffs.

Despite his inexperience, QB Case Keenum stayed sack-free and turnover-free against the Seahawks. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

It is easy for Seahawks fans to beseech the football heavens for the return of RB Marshawn Lynch. But fans of the St. Louis Rams, at least the handful that remain pending relocation, could seek the same for injured DE Robert Quinn.

Each side was absent its baddest dude. But so often in the NFL, it isn’t about who’s not there. It’s about who shows up.

The remaining Rams showed up. The remaining Seahawks are still waiting for the bus.

They weren’t so bad in the 23-17 to loss to the ruthless St. Louis Rams that the NFL should strip the Seahawks of the playoff bid they secured last week. But they were so sloppy at times and, worse, physically overwhelmed, that anyone is free to consider the Seahawks as a leading contender for a one-and-done playoff experience.

The Rams were tougher on both sides of the line. Here’s the proof besides the seasonal sweep: With 207 yards of offense, they triumphed in a game on the road in the rain, where they hadn’t won in 11 years, against a playoff team that had won five in a row.

That’s Clint-Eastwood-spaghetti-Western tough.

Seahawks DE Michael Bennett had a hard time understanding. Here’s how he explained it.

“The Rams, they play good football against us,” he said. “They just don’t play good football against everybody else.”

That’s why the Rams are 7-8 and out of the playoff hunt. But they beat Seattle three of the past four games over two seasons because coach Jeff Fisher has a workable template: Bring five on the rush, play a conservative offense, and get lucky.

Despite having to play backup QB Case Keenum, making his 14th career NFL start over four seasons, the Rams had no turnovers, one defensive score and an offensive score that was a single play of 28 yards (their longest play of the game) after a Seahawks turnover. The Rams’ longest drive was 62 yards, the longest run 20 yards and they completed only 14 passes. Yet they made it work.

Luck? Three times the Rams fumbled, scattering them like free-range chickens. All three they recovered, twice by lumbering C Tim Barnes.

“Seemed like the ball loved them more than the ball loved us today,” said FS Earl Thomas, offering a cockeyed explanation of the goings-on that was as representative as anything else to explain an afternoon that stunned the record crowd of 69,080 into long periods of mime impressions.

Regarding the rush, the No. 1 draft choices along the St. Louis front made a hash of the undrafted free agents among the Seahawks offensive line. One teensy consolation for the Seahawks is that they are unlikely in the playoffs to face another front as good.

“That front seven is unbelievable,” said WR Doug Baldwin, who had another big day with 118 yards on eight receptions, including a touchdown. “They showed a lot of different things we hadn’t seen on tape.”

The Rams stoned the Seahawks running-backs-by-subcommittee, allowing Fred Jackson 11 yards, Bryce Brown nine, and first-time starter Christine Michael six. Then there was the mistake of giving the ball to seldom-used FB Will Tukuafu, who fumbled on Seattle’s second possession and saw it turn into a 45-yard scoop-and-score by LB Akeem Ayers.

The Seahawks have recovered from similar errors this season, but there was no recovery Sunday because the Rams denied Seattle nearly every option.

“We couldn’t get out of our own way,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We really had a difficult time at the line of scrimmage, moving the ball and protecting. We just didn’t get it done at all.

“Hopefully, this isn’t a sign of anything other than we have to put it behind us.”

The key word there is “hopefully.” Carroll rarely relies on hope. But to have this vulnerability exposed so late is tough to compensate for in a week. Absent via injury Lynch and his able stand-in, Thomas Rawls, the Seahawks’ replacements don’t look so hot against a top-tier defense.

As every Seahawks fan knows, the run game is nearly everything to Seattle’s plan. They rushed for 60 yards Sunday. Coach Bruce Arians of the Cardinals, who host the Seahawks Sunday in the regular season finale, will take due note of every miscue, which he obviously did with the Packers in Arizona’s 38-8 demolition Sunday.

Even though the stakes may be lessened since both teams are assured playoff berths, the Seahawks have to prove the Rams’ domination was an anomaly and not a new trend. That’s hard to do in a week.

Bennett knew the lapse Sunday came at a critical juncture.

“You got to treat every moment like a Super Bowl moment,” he said. “There’s no do-overs, there’s no guaranteed games (at this time of the season).

“We gotta have that mindset every week. If you get teammates to think like that every week, it’s hard to lose. We lost the game; so obviously it wasn’t there.”

Getting it back in one week makes the Arizona game suddenly urgent. The game had the chance to be almost an exhibition-level event, but a Seattle loss at home coupled with the Cardinals’ big win over the Packers suddenly scrambles the egg.

A return of Lynch — there was no word Sunday of anything imminent — can’t solve everything. But it can return the baddest dude to a lineup that went from stirring to shaky in one damp afternoon.

 


YourThoughts

  • Just Another Bullwhip

    Poor, poor, poor Hooterville. In fact, I am so filled with empathy that for the first time
    I used the term “poor” three times instead of the usual two I do when the One-Timers pull yet another face plant. But setting aside for a moment my deep empathy and customary warmth, I have to say that other teams in the NFC playoffs have to be begging to play the One-Timers after watching them get, literally, punked so late in the season.
    When this season comes to its merciful end for the One-Timers it will be time to face the fact that things are only going to get worse until the One-Timers get a new head coach. Carroll is a decent recruiter, and an excellent rah-rah guy, but sustained excellence requires something more than Carroll’s “everyone should feel good and also get a trophy” Obama years philosophical slant. And the players lack of ability to take responsibility is
    symptomatic of this. What did The Mouth–Richard Sherman–have to say about getting burned? The Seahawks need a Bilichick (I know, he has cheated his way to all those Super Bowl wins, right?, but still . . . .), a Noll, a Walsh, a Gibbs, a Parcells, a Johnson, a Lombardi, , etc. The One-Timers rode a wave of emotion and a certain level of athletic talent coming together at the right time to win a Super Bowl. Big deal. A franchise ought to win a Super Bowl every 40 years or so. But now it is time to actually win within the true meaning of sustained excellence. And the One-Timers are never going to do it under Carroll.

    • 1coolguy

      Wow – what a hater.
      Name another coach that has had their team in back to back Super Bowls the past 10 years – it’s a very short list: None.
      As to coaches who have their teams in the SB twice the past 10 years, it’s Coughlin, Belichick and yes, Carroll.
      Needless to say, the rest of the NFL coaches must REALLY be in your dog house.

      • Just Another Bullwhip

        I don’t care about back to back appearances. To quote the great Al Davis, who I also had the privilege of working out with one time at the Westin right before the game Bo Jackson ran over Bosworth, if you don’t get the ring, you ain’t done a thing. And look at the Bills, they went four times in a row and, in many quarters, are looked at as a pathetic joke for it. Obviously you and I have different standards. But, if it makes things simpler for you, as it appears to so many others these days who use the term, you can, as you did, simply call me a “hater.”

        • Bruce McDermott

          This is sheer idiocy, of course. You go ahead and “not care” about Super Bowl appearances when judging a coach–while name dropping Al Davis, no less–and actually sentient beings will make their own judgments. There are certain people to whom life has clearly been unkind, and posting bile like this becomes some sort of sad therapy.

          • Just Another Bullwhip

            A therapist, eh? Or perhaps something closer to a salesperson?

          • art thiel

            You go, Bruce.

          • Bruce McDermott

            Sometimes, res ipsa loquitur, Art. :)

          • art thiel

            Illegitimi non carborundum, Bruce. :)

          • Warchild_70

            The motto of all military services nice one Art! SGT (Ret) US Army

          • Bayview Herb

            Get a life.

        • Dale

          Your emotion, garnered from who knows where, has really masked your intelligence on these posts. It happens to many of us. Hopefully, another time you will improve, or otherwise you will remain a continual loser. I’ll wish you improvement next time.

          • Just Another Bullwhip

            You know, winner, no one makes you read what I write. And if you think I am the only person out there with a contrary opinion about both the Seahawks and Carroll, your “intelligence,” or well-roundedness, is lacking. As for your comment that “emotion masking intelligence . . . happens to many to us,” I can see you are right. As you said, I hope you will improve next time, “or otherwise you will remain a continual loser.” Pull the plank out of your own eye.

          • Dale

            No problem; just carry one.

          • art thiel

            We welcome diverse opinions. Bullwhip thrives in the role of contrarian, and I would be the last to dismiss such a person, however flawed his logic.

        • art thiel

          Always dislike the quick use of hater. Yes, I know sports hate is different from real hate. Still diminishes the impact of he word.

        • jafabian

          Hey, hold onto that Bo vs. Boz trinket if it makes you happy. It’s only 28 years old. Don’t let anyone take that away from you!

      • art thiel

        Bullwhip is trolling. Because it’s easy.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        An Epiphany in reference to the troll under the bridge~ the realization you are dealing with a person who was a full fledged attention whore ~Typical troll behavior.

    • rosetta_stoned

      Yawn.

    • art thiel

      You’re right. What they need is Donald Trump running the show. Better that than running the nation.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Carroll challenged twice in hopeless situations then shot himself in the foot when he needed one in his pocket on the 4th Quahtuh ET Fumble recovery!This game was a Dis~AHSTUH! (Trumpism)

  • 1coolguy

    If Bailey had not been subbing for Okung the line would have been much stronger: We may have even won with Okung in the game. Bailey is not even close to being a second OR third string left tackle and given Okungs’ injury history I am surprised Bailey is the best we can find. He’s a sub right guard at best.
    Tukuafu’s fumble 6 was the difference in the game, which was a stinker on a number of counts, per Art’s article.
    Sherman – hey man, beaten by the sterling combo of Keenum to Britt: You mad bro?

    • Bruce McDermott

      Okung would have done nothing to help Gilliam, who turned a decent DE into a World Class player. 2 sacks coming into the game, at least 2.5 more, plus many hits and hurries, leaving it.

      • art thiel

        Agreed on Okung not being a game changer. Gilliam was bad, Lewis worse, and not just snaps. Saw a DT simply step around him for a TFL after going in untouched.

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  • Matt712

    Probably the ugliest game I’ve seen from the Carroll-era Seahawks since the house-cleaning of 2010. Didn’t look like a team with 7 pro bowl selections. Honestly, this year, only about 2 deserve it and one of them didn’t even get selected (KJ?).

    I thought this game was going to prove the doubters wrong. Instead it just made at least one more of them. I think the injuries coupled with other talent deficiencies have taken their toll. The team, as is, will not move further than a wild card win.

    • art thiel

      5 No. 1 draft picks on STL O-line. None among Seahawks O-line. Game over.

      • 1coolguy

        “STL O-line” – correction: STL D-line.

        • art thiel

          Good catch.

  • Kirkland

    At least this didn’t cost them a playoff berth. Much needed reality check.

  • Warchild_70

    I swear that I saw Rosie Greer and company this game. Too painful to review or comment. I’ve seen better slapstick at the follies de Burlesque!

    • art thiel

      Merlin Olsen too. Rams brought 50-year flashbacks.

      • 1coolguy

        The new Fearsome Foursome.

  • Matt712

    Although I hoped for some improvement from the first meeting, I at least wasn’t surprised by the Seahawjs O-line getting their rear ends handed to them, give the talent/ experience gap between them and their opponents. But the defense was a big disappointment – 2 TDs given up and 0 sacks… against that offense.

    I’m afraid the playbook is well established this season against this defense: go for the soft underbelly in front of the strong safety. As much as it hurts to say, the Seahawks indeed have a soft underbelly. All season they’ve been either out-schemed or out-matched in that area of the defense. Kris Richard has done little to address it, while Kam Chancellor’s shadow somehow made the pro bowl.

    What had been a no-man’s land patrolled by Wagner and Chancellor has become a sanctuary for any decent OC-QB combo to convert a third & long. The ‘nothing over the top’ philosophy doesn’t really work when the other team didn’t need to go long.

    • art thiel

      Defense gave up 207 yards and one “drive” for TD, 62 yards. Sherman flat got beat by Britt on a one play drive. They weren’t perfect, but loss is nowhere near on them.

      • Matt712

        Certainly, at the end of the day, the loss was on the turnover(s).

        But
        those decent overall D stats are hiding a really bad one: Rams
        converted 42% of their 3rd downs. This was a game the Seahawks D needed
        to totally dominate against a basement-dwelling offense. Didn’t happen.

  • ll9956

    “A return of Lynch — there was no word Sunday of anything imminent — can’t solve everything.” How true. After a seven week absence, it’s not clear–at least to me–that the return of the “baddest dude” would solve the problems exposed by the play of the O-line yesterday. It seems to me that Lynch would need a finite amount of time to regain the shape he was in prior to his departure. Even if he returns this week, I’d be surprised to see him on the field against AZ.

    It seems clear what the Hawks need to look for in the next draft: Quality O-linemen.

    • art thiel

      Let’s see how this week plays out before we talk draft.

  • jafabian

    Hawks will most likely open against Washington. The biggest worry there isn’t that team but rather the conditions of the field. It’s not like it’s helped RG3′s career. Good chance the Hawks will play the Packers after that and if it wasn’t for that Hail Mary pass they’d be 3-6 in their last 9 games. They have more issues than the Hawks. That could mean a Carolina/Seattle NFC championship and the Panthers have been limping into the postseason.

    • MacPhisto92

      how exactly will they play Washington? Losing yesterday blew that chance. The only way they can play Washington now is if they beat AZ next week and Minnesota loses. They blew it….simply blew it. They could have gone to Washington, now they’re most likely headed to Lambeau……huge difference, and one I don’t see them winning.

      • art thiel

        Four scenarios next weekend, two have them going to MN, one to WA, one to GB. http://espn.go.com/blog/seattle-seahawks/post/_/id/16985/seahawks-playoff-scenarios-for-week-17

        • MacPhisto92

          Thanks for the link, I guess I’m just expecting Hawks and Vikes to lose next week. Cardinals are hot and won’t be resting anyone, so I’m already mentally preparing for the revenge party the Packers have planned at Lambeau. Btw, props Art for calling out this Rams loss in an earlier article this year

        • John M

          Does it really matter? The “improved line” wasn’t even in the building. Everyone’s focus was breathlessly on Lewis’ next snap – will he put through the uprights this time or simply hurl it into the stands? RW took a serious beating out there yesterday. Is there no scenario that will convince Pete and John to get serious about O-linemen? And no, Lynch would have gone nowhere . . .

      • MrPrimeMinister

        When i saw what that washington qb did at the end of the first half on saturday night i thought “we really want to play THESE guys and THIS qb in the playoffs.” not gonna happen now.

        • MacPhisto92

          Exactly. Beating the Rams would have guaranteed them the #5 seed and 1st round matchup with the weak NFC East Winner (WA). Right now, that scenario could still happen, but the chances are slim (Mainly because I don’t think the Hawks will beat AZ on the road without a GOOD running back. The most likely playoff scenario is Seattle having to go to Green Bay (GB will beat Minnesota at home and win their division). This was a HUGE loss to the Rams, and I don’t get why so many people I’ve talked to are shrugging it off like it doesn’t really matter. The ONE team I didn’t want the Seahawks to play in the playoffs was Green Bay AT GREEN BAY F$&#!! No matter how ‘bad’ people think the Packers are playing, winning a playoff game AT Lambeau in January is one of the hardest things to do in the NFL…especially with Rodgers & company having extra motivation seeking revenge for last year’s NFC Championship debacle. Without a healthy and EFFECTIVE Marshawn Lynch, this team is going to be 1 and done if they have to go to Green Bay. I cannot believe they lost yet again to the Rams and blew their chance to guarantee a 1st round game with Washington.

    • art thiel

      Rams players loathe Seahawks fans, as they should. They were thrilled to be able to taunt back.

  • MrPrimeMinister

    It is imperative that when russell scrables–and scramble he will–he do it FORWARD. This turning and running backwards towards your own endzone in the wrong direction–please stop. I would have thought this would have been rectified by now.

    • art thiel

      If he could, he would. But there’s no room, so he reverse-spins his way out of trouble, and does it brilliantly 98 percent of the time. The issues are elsewhere.

  • zigzags

    It’s always a bizarro-world when the Rams come to town and this was no different. Once again, Jeff Fisher proves to be so far inside the head of Pete Carroll he could set up permanent residence. Pete’s mind-boggling early challenge set the tone for the day and hurt the team down the stretch. Wilson mind-boggling decision to stay inbounds and fumble the ball, rather than get out of bounds and conserve clock, virtually sealed the game. Sherman’s mind-boggling poor play resulted in the Rams’ one decent offensive play. The entire day was one mind-boggling cluster of poor play, bad luck and awful decisions.

    Thank God the Rams like to lay down for every other team and we won’t have to face them until next year.