The Rams delivered in December the worst loss of Pete Carroll’s Seahawks tenure, and they’re back here Sunday at 4-0. The defense is desperately stacking sandbags.
Ten months after Hurricane Ram blew through football Seattle, there’s still plywood on the windows, car parts on the side of the road and clothing hanging from trees. But despite the evidence, no Seahawk wants to talk about the damage to their NFC West world.
Asked if the 42-7 beatdown Dec. 17 was a major reason behind the many coaching and player-personnel changes in the off-season, coach Pete Carroll said simply, “No.”
Asked what problems the Rams’ dynamic playbook causes — they were the No. 1 offense last season and remain so this season — defensive coordinator Ken Norton said, “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing.”
Asked what he took from the home-field embarrassment, LB Bobby Wagner said, “We lost in 2017, and this is 2018.”
As you can tell, they’re irked. Anytime nothing is said, something is up.
But whether that something amounts to anything Sunday (1:25 p.m., FOX) is dubious.
At 7.5 points, the 2-2 Seahawks are the biggest underdogs at the Clink that Las Vegas has offered since the immortal Beast Quake playoff game against New Orleans in 2010. The undefeated Rams have won their four games by a combined score of 140-67.
The largest margin of defeat in Carroll’s time in Seattle was a resounding exclamation point that divisional regime change was afoot.
The Rams rushed for 244 yards (152 by RB Todd Gurley), sacked QB Russell Wilson seven times, led 34-0 at the half and nearly got back all at once the humiliations endured when the Seahawks were the Western imperialists.
After a 4-12 season a year earlier, the Rams finished 11-5 — their first winning season since 2003, when they last won the division — then loaded up in the off-season with expensive hires and acquisitions. The 9-7 Seahawks missed the playoffs for the first time in six years and have been lunging at boulders and tree roots to slow their roll down the hill.
After the December game, FS Earl Thomas described the shock of role reversal for a team that rarely had lost by more than a touchdown.
“That blowout loss was different; it don’t happen like that,” he said. “I don’t got my fellas out there with me. Everything is different.”
That was a reference to the injury absences of CB Richard Sherman, SS Kam Chancellor and DT Cliff Avril, plus LB K.J. Wright sat out that game with a concussion. Additionally, Wagner played with a strained hamstring and was clearly diminished.
The injury led to memorable public tiff with Thomas, who said post-game, “To be totally honest, I think you have to give your hats off to Wags and a couple guys that played, but my personal opinion, I don’t think they should have played. The backups would have (done) just as good. The injuries, they definitely hurt today.”
Wagner responded indignantly via Twitter, writing, “E keep my name out yo mouth. Stop being jealous of other people success. I still hope you keep balling bro.”
Wagner was pulled from the game with five minutes left in the third quarter and down 40-0. He subsequently said he should have handled better his Thomas remarks, and claimed to have talked it out with him. Thomas denied such a thing occurred. But the argument is moot now.
After breaking his left tibia Sunday at Arizona, Thomas is as gone as Sherman, Chancellor, Avril and Wright, the latter still recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.
The Seahawks will attempt to fill in (not replace) Thomas with Tedric Thompson, a second-year pro who will make his first career start against Rams QB Jared Goff, who this week was named All-Pro for the NFL season’s first quarter by Pro Football Focus.
If that isn’t a sufficiently tender spot for Goff, Wright’s fill-in will be Austin Calitro, a rookie who has been on four NFL practice squads before being thrown in to the starting job for Seattle’s season opener in Denver.
While he did reasonably well, the Seahawks were scared enough that they went out and hired off the street sixth-year veteran Mychal Kendricks. He was an upgrade with an asterisk: He was a convicted felon after admitting to insider trading in 2015 with a Wall Street broker.
Not only were the optics of the hire embarrassing, the plan fell through this week when Kendricks was suspended indefinitely by the NFL. Carroll knew punishment was coming, but he still was confused, as well as a little irked.
“How do you define indefinitely?” Carroll said Wednesday. “I don’t know. We pressed that. What does that mean? It means indefinitely. We don’t have a sense for what’s going to happen right now . . . We thought it was going to be two, three weeks or something like that.”
To help reduce the bewilderment, the Seahawks also signed Maurice Alexander to back up at linebacker and safety. At least he has four years of NFL experience and 23 starts, all with the Rams.
But cumulatively, the newcomers are a steep drop from their predecessors, seeming to leave the Seahawks nearly as vulnerable as they were a year ago against the same offensive machine.
Naturally, Wagner disagreed.
“I think the discipline will be a lot different than the game last year,” he said. “The discipline needed to be better to win the game. We weren’t as on point as we needed to be. Something we had to learn from. It won’t happen again.”
The good news for Seahawks fans is Wagner is healthy, and a master of discipline. The bad news is that he’s the only defensive starter left from the team that appeared in consecutive Super Bowls, and the new guys are largely, well, fill-ins.
But at least the sleep of the youngsters is not disturbed by the memory of Hurricane Ram.