The first nine minutes of Sunday’s game flashed what has been wrong with the Seahawks offense all season. It was also another bleak day for Jimmy Graham.
In the first nine minutes, the game was over.
The Rams needed just 91 scrimmage yards and 13 plays to go up 13-0. Given the ruthless pass rush, and a Los Angeles offense never needing to risk throwing downfield because RB Todd Gurley was free to party on a defense missing LB K.J. Wright and operating with a limited LB Bobby Wagner, no comeback was possible.
“Anywhere in there, if we could put a drive together and get on the scoreboard, I think it makes a big difference,” coach Pete Carroll said Monday in the post-mortem of the worst defeat of his Seattle tenure. “We needed an (offensive) response, and that didn’t happen.”
What did happen with the Seahawks offense in its first three possessions?
A fumble was lost after a 22-yard completion (WR Tanner McEvoy), each possession had a sack, LT Duane Brown was twice called for holding and and a 23-yard reception by TE Jimmy Graham was reversed to an incompletion because replay showed he dropped it.
In the two passes not messed up by receivers, Wilson was one for two for 10 yards.
Then the punt coverage team allowed Pharoh Cooper to return a Jon Ryan kick 53 yards to the Seattle 1, from where a Gurley touchdown that made 13-0.
If anyone needed a sequence for the tombstone on the 2017 season, that was it.
The three possessions had all the mess-ups that characterized the season, and the defense was left to hold off Rams drives of 50, 40 and 1 yards.
Permitting only 13 points was a feat, but it also was for naught because the offense in week 15 still does not have its compost together to rally against a defense the caliber of the Rams.
If one were to choose one thing from the incorrigible incompetence of the first three possessions upon which to unload the forward torpedo tubes after a 42-7 defeat, the vote here is for Graham.
Not only was the drop of a caught ball inexcusable, it would have been his only positive yardage of the day. His other catch in three targets produced minus-1 yard. The results followed the loss in Jacksonville when he had no catches.
Graham has a team-high nine touchdowns — also tops in the NFL among tight ends — on 53 catches in 472 yards. But the pending free agent gets little done between the 20-yard lines to inspire the Seahawks or any other club to come anywhere close to matching the $10 million salary he’s been getting. Any cash he may get won’t be for his blocking.
“It’s really disappointing,” Carroll said bluntly Monday. “We really expect to get him involved. There were other chances. We missed one, a really big one that we might not have seen, so we were trying to go (to him) and it just didn’t happen.
“It’s frustrating because he’s a big part of us, and he carries a lot of juice and energy for us when he makes his plays. We need him active. We certainly would like to get him active earlier.”
As the three-year trial with Graham, 32, as the offense’s missing ingredient nears its dubious end, it’s increasingly obvious that, despite some splendid games and moments, Graham is likely to be where the Seahawks begin their off-season cost savings.
He’s averaging a career-low 8.9 yards per catch for an offense that Sunday managed 149 yards, 59 in the first half, at home. Obviously, many others failed to contribute, but Graham is the oldest starter and the least likely to respond to any requests for improved engagement or effort.
It’s true that Wilson and Graham have struck up a strong friendship — he was in the quarterback’s wedding in England — but that comes in tied for last as far as Seahawks priorities to improve an offense that eight times Sunday faced 3rd-and-11 or longer, converting none.
“It was a combination of a couple crucial penalties and the negative plays,” Carroll said of the offense. “They keep us from getting on schedule. When you get off-schedule against a group that can rush like they can, we just made it easy for them. They took advantage of it. It’s really hard to overcome that.”
The Rams also managed to keep Wilson from destroying them with his legs. His 39 yards on five carries again led the Seahawks, but his longest was 15. He took a steady battering — seven sacks and nine quarterback hits.
“We bottled him up,” said DT Aaron Donald, who had three sacks and two tackles for loss. “He tried to roll one way and a guy was in his face. He tried to go another way, somebody was in his face.
“Any time you bottle him up and not give him a lot of space to do things, it’s good.”
Before the Seahawks contemplate the look of their future roster, they have to find a way to muster some emotion for the 8-6 Cowboys on Christmas Eve in Dallas. The Seahawks are not eliminated from the playoff race, but they have to beat the Cowboys and then Arizona on New Year’s Eve, and hope for many losses among NFC contenders to have a shot.
Carroll hopes public humiliation will have some positive effect.
“I know it may seem difficult for those out there to understand how we can do that,” he said. “But we will. That’s how we operate.”
Wright likely back, Wagner status quo
Carroll said Wright will likely be out of the concussion protocol Wednesday and play Sunday. Wagner’s sore hamstring apparently was no worse for wear, although he was pulled with out five minutes left in the third quarter.
Explaining the pre-game decision to start Wagner, who is having an All-Pro-level season, Carroll said, “We had to rely on what he felt like. He had to tell us. That was what the workout was for, so he could see for himself how far he could take it.
“He had to convey to us, not in an emotional way, what was making sense to him. Which he did. I was right, it worked out. There’s a lot of trust there.”
But SS Earl Thomas post-game said Wagner was not himself and probably should not have played. “Backups could have done just as good,” he told reporters.
Via Twitter, Wagner strongly disagreed, writing, “E keep my name out yo mouth. Stop being jealous of other people success. I still hope you keep ballin bro.”
On his ESPN 710 weekly program Monday, Carroll dismissed the potential feud.
“Emotions and all that,” he said. “Guys say something that they maybe shouldn’t have said, or wish they would have said it to each other. But that’s social media. Your thoughts go out. Those guys have been together a long time. They will work everything out. I’m not worried about anything.”
Carroll said he felt that Wagner at even less than 100 percent was worth having on the field.
“Bobby can play (injured),” Carroll said. “Some players can do it. They can play when they are injured a little bit and still play football. “I went up to him, really nose-to-nose and eye-to-eye: ‘Are you OK? ‘You’re probably not going to be able to do everything that you normally do, do you feel good? ‘Yeah.’
“So he was really wanting to do it and he did it.”