BY Art Thiel 08:37PM 10/07/2018

Thiel: Seahawks show no fear, get no win

A big underdog at home, the Seahawks did nearly everything well enough to upset the Los Angeles Rams. A final penalty dictated a loss, but the game was anything but a failure.

Seahawks TE Nick Vannett steams away from Ndamukong Suh on a 32-yard catch-and-run. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Russell Wilson said he suspects the Seahawks are about to turn a corner, but the agonizing 33-31 loss to the undefeated Los Angeles Rams Sunday (box) denied him the pleasure of conclusive evidence. Nevertheless, RG D.J. Fluker made a blunt point about progress that suggests Wilson was closer to the truth than anyone suspected Sunday morning.

“The minute we kicked their ass up front, that showed everything,” he said forcefully, bragging up the season-high 190 rushing yards against a defense full of all-star meanies. “We played hard every single snap. They’re a great front, but they don’t want to play that run. They not about that. They play it here and there, but at the end, their offense saved them.

“I told the ref before the game, it’s gonna be a gang fight today. (The Rams) haven’t seen a team play physical. They want to be pass rushers. They haven’t seen a team take it to ’em every single play.”

Fluker’s animated account was not far off the facts. Superstar linemen Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald did not dominate. The Rams’ secondary was error-prone. The Rams’ collective pressure did not repeatedly blast Wilson. And they did not like being run on 32 times, with only 21 chances to run down the guy they sacked seven times in December.

As a partial result of keeping the gang fight in check, the Seahawks put together a pair of third-quarter drives of 75 yards each, climaxed by the first two touchdown receptions in the career of second-year WR David Moore, to take a 31-24 lead into the fourth period.

The sequence surprised and delighted a Clink sellout still that had scorch marks from the teams’ previous Seattle meeting in December, a 42-7 rout that was the biggest margin of defeat in coach Pete Carroll’s Seattle tenure. They also bore a fresher wound from the inelegant departure last week of All-Pro FS Earl Thomas, who rode out of town backward and broken, middle finger raised high.

Despite the voids from the first game in the post-Legionnaire era, as well as the December nightmare, the defense made enough key stops to keep the game winnable, despite surrendering 30 first downs and 468 yards to the NFL’s most productive offense.

“I don’t know how many people out there thought (the game) was going to be like that,” Carroll said of the week-long forecasts of potential dismemberment. “But the guys in this room did.

“We controlled the field like we needed to — third downs (7 of 12 conversions) were terrific. Took care of the ball (no turnovers). Ran it for a bunch (average gain of 5.9 yards per carry).”

In fact, the Seahawks checked nearly every box on Carroll’s list that precipitates a triumph. But they lost. Fluker, among others, sounded bewildered.

“I don’t understand how we didn’t come out on top,” he said, grumbling. “We gonna see them again. I can’t wait for it.”

In fact, the single most vexing moment belonged to Fluker, along with his right-side buddy, tackle Germain Ifedi. Trailing 33-31 with 4:28 left, Wilson had just connected with wR Tyler Lockett on a 44-yard bomb for a first down at the Rams 32-yard line. They were already in the field goal range of Sebastian Janikowski, and seemed to have the goods for more.

But Ifedi was busted for his customary false start. One play later, Fluker was called for holding Suh. With 23 yards needed for a first down, Wilson twice went with short throws to Lockett, but came away empty. At 3:38, Michael Dickson punted away Seattle’s final possession because the Rams were able to run out the clock.

The penalties helped un-do what had been to that point a splendid effort by a 7.5-point underdog.

“They called a penalty, cost us the game,” Fluker said. “I been taking (Suh) to the water all game. He and (Donald), going at it all game, know what I mean? He got frustrated, I got frustrated.

“I got a whole lot of respect for him. but at end of the day, I gotta do my job. Wherever he needs to go, I’m taking him there. I back down from no one.”

Manly manliness aside, the Seahawks squandered the chance. A field goal by Janikowski was not guaranteed, nor would a single-point lead necessarily have stood up against the NFL’s top offense. But to self-destruct on the final chance was galling.

“It was really disturbing that that happened at that time,” said Carroll, who didn’t witness the infraction. “It just pissed me off that that was how this thing ended.”

Despite starting two rookies (LB Austin Calitro and CB Tre Flowers) and a second-year safety (Tedric Thompson), they kept in check RB Todd Gurley (77 yards in 22 carries), had two interceptions of fast-rising QB Jared Goff, and, unfortunately, knocked Rams receivers Jake Kupp and Brandin Cooks out of the game with concussions.

Wilson had a season-high passer rating of 132.3  after completing 13 of 21 passes for 198 yards, three TDs and only two sacks. RB Chris Carson had the Seahawks’ third consecutive 100-yard day, with 116 on 19 carries, abetted by RB Mike Davis’s 68 yards on 12 carries.

But they ended up the weekend with a 2-3 record, with a nice participation ribbon and the chance to seethe about it on a long flight to London this week to play the Raiders in Wembley Stadium.

Fluker offered one small reward.

“Everybody gets terrified with (Donald and Suh),” he said. “We weren’t terrified. We weren’t scared.”

In fact, the Seahawks unexpectedly played a Super Bowl favorite to a standoff. Almost.

Everywhere Todd Gurley went Sunday, he drew a crowd. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

 


YourThoughts

  • Tim

    Damn. So painfully close. Lotta heart though. If they can play like this consistently, the playoffs are within reach.

  • Mícheál Mac Cionnaith

    It was a game that left raw wounds. Contrary to Seahawks history, they played well enough to win, but didn’t. They usually get those 50-50 games, but today they didn’t.

    • Mícheál Mac Cionnaith

      Sorry to be an excessive windbag, but Sunday’s 33-31 loss made me really, really proud to be a fan. These guys (our Seahawks) aren’t chumps. That was a hiccup away from being a win. The players haven’t given up, so we can’t either.

      • art thiel

        Few are the times I’ve seen a pro team give up.

    • art thiel

      Lots of new players, and plays. Transitions are hard.

  • ll9956

    Good article, Art. You captured the feel of the game. This might well have been the Hawks’ best performance so far this season, regardless of the outcome. The two penalties on the Hawks’ last possession certainly were the daggers through the heart. But for them, the outcome might have been different. Of course what might have been doesn’t cut it. The loss felt similar to the SB loss in 2014.

    • art thiel

      I’ve not seen any indication he has a 63-yarder in him, not when he’s not getting his kickoffs into the end zone.

  • Husky73

    I have a question— after four preseason games and five regular season games, where is the Seahawks’ #1 draft choice? You know, the guy they drafted instead of an OL, WR, TE or DL?

    • art thiel

      Look at it this way — he’s contributing more than Malik McDowell.

      • Husky73

        Thiel ONE, Husky73 ZERO.

  • Ron
  • WestCoastBias79

    I feel so much better about that loss than I did last week’s win. This kind of felt like the late season 2011 loss against the NFC Championship bound Harbaugh 49ers, where everything just kind of clicked with a bunch of unknown late rounders and CFL guys just falling short, but giving you the feeling they were about to be really scary. If they play like this consistently, get Baldwin and KJ healthy, they’re a Wild Card team this year considering the NFC, save the Rams, looks wide open. Add a pass rusher and some depth in the offseason to go with a healthy Dissly, next year could be rolling smashmouth fun with the kiddies.

    Or they’ll lose to the Raiders next week and I’ll be calling for Schotty’s prehistoric scheming head again.

    • art thiel

      A fine example of sports bi-polarism.

  • Alan Harrison

    I’m actually not a big believer in the moral (as opposed to actual) victory, but it’s better than last week’s Pyrrhic (as opposed to progressive) victory. Still, I hope that playing to the level of the competition is not in the cards, although it seems to be moving in that direction. On another subject, what was the deal with George Fant playing TE? Just a fill until Ed Dickson gets here, I’m guessing?

    • art thiel

      Seahawks are missing Dickson and Dissly, and need more blocking from TE spot. They did it a lot in 2013 with Alvin Bailey.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art! This O-Line is starting to look legendary. Unfortunately, we have at least one senior in it, so hard to tell how long it will last. Need to enjoy it while it lasts. These guys are building confidence with each game, which is aided by play calling that plays to their strengths.

    Gotta love Fluker, and his nickname :^)
    Man is a no nonsense, ass-kickin’ guard, who tells it like it is. Oakland better look out – there is no way their defensive line won’t be feeling the loss we just had. It’ll be time for you to bring out your road grader analogies again. Next Rams game in LA will be special….

    I really like that they are bringing in Fant as a blocking TE – doing things that make sense and lead to success, instead of forcing what can’t happen, as was done with the old line.

    Yards after contact have got to be impressive with our two-headed beast mode. Chips on the shoulders is how these guys play, and it’s impressive that they can run with such large chips too!

    • art thiel

      Fluker/Sweezy as a tandem is definitely an upgrade from a year ago, as is emphasis on read/option. And using Fant as eligible DT is a throwback to the SB years with Alvin Bailey.

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    Great to see them running the ball well , I’m still baffled why they didn’t in the first 2 games ; both of those were winnable had they ran the ball more . The O-line is starting to show up now that Fluker is back and Sweezy moved to right guard .

    I’m a little confused why Russell isn’t keeping the ball more often on the read option , but I suppose that’s nitpicking considering the results with the running game . Baldwin has been almost invisible since his return , you have to start wondering about those knees . Same thing with KJ ; the guy’s missed all year so far after a knee scope ?!

    • art thiel

      Wilson has the option to keep on every RPO, but he’s correctly reading that defenses are selling out to stop his runs. That’s part of why the RBs are succeeding.

      Regarding the first two games, Carroll and Schottenheimer took much of the blame for poor playcalling.

  • Will Ganschow

    My post game reflection was already headed in the direction you have articulated. I do think that when a game is on the line, the fiercest competitor wins (ala Marshawn.) Sunday that was Suh.

    • art thiel

      I thought Fluker did well in helping minimize Suh’s dominance.

      • Will Ganschow

        Lets hope then that he makes good on his word the next time they play. Crunch time always comes. To the victors go the spoils.(Apologies to Chuck Knox.)

  • Will Ganschow

    Oh yeah. Was going to add I think the Seahawks have been suffering from Legionnaires Disease. Maybe we can start getting over it.

    • art thiel

      It’s more like a withdrawal. Hard to avoid the DTs when QBs go deep.

      • Will Ganschow

        Individuals are provided an opportunity to excel by a complicated an highly refined organization. When they succeed, they turn around and bite the hand that has provided the opportunity.

  • Dennis Nelson

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b9b20a6574c81d7cec311b0b8440cf629d11cb79f5fe492e5b8348c4fce3729a.png

    I think you mean Cooper Kupp and not Jake Kupp. Come on Art he is from Yakima.