BY Art Thiel 08:50PM 11/11/2018

Thiel: Another gut punch — and more progress

Against a backdrop of tragedy, Seahawks and Rams did the best they could by playing a wonderful game. The Rams did a little better.

FS Tedric Thompson found himself a little out of position to stop Rams WR Brandin Cooks. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

One way to look at the events of Sunday afternoon in the Coliseum is that among the beleaguered people of Southern California who were able to seek a three-hour respite from despair, the Seahawks and Rams provided distraction with some splendid entertainment. The Rams won. Good for all concerned.

Another way to look at it was on the level of an ordinary NFL week, where dreams get fulfilled and dashed with metronomic regularity. The Seahawks, for the second week in a row, were in the dashed category. Compared to fire and massacre, it was trivial. They knew it, all observers knew it, but there was solace in the ordinary when so much was incomprehensible.

For Seahawks fans, however, the ordinary was too familiar — against a formidable opponent, trailing late in a game within reach, yet not graspable. The intense 36-31 loss (box), like a 25-17 defeat by the Los Angeles Chargers a week earlier in Seattle, was a gut punch to playoff chances, which had been a reasonable ambition after winning four out of five games.

Now 4-5 with a short week of work ahead of a Thursday night home game against Green Bay (4-4-1), the post-season is a long shot. But coach Pete Carroll would have none of that. Speaking rapidly and animatedly, even for him, his urgent appeal to pride seemed as if he wanted to will away the outcomes to see only the upside.

“Our competitiveness will give us a chance to do something special if we keep hanging, if  we keep believing,” he said. “That’s our message. There’s no negatives coming out of this thing. There’s always opportunity to do better.

“Just seeing the truth of who we are. I can’t wait to get this thing going again.”

A good chunk of Carroll’s enthusiasm was deserved. Despite missing via injuries their leading rusher, RB Chris Carson, and top O-line tough guy, RG D.J. Fluker, the Seahawks amassed a remarkable 273 yards rushing, 83 more than they had against the Rams a month earlier when LA barely won in Seattle, 33-31.

That’s some serious truth. It was the most ground yardage by the Seahawks since 2014 against the New York Giants (320). More surprisingly, the leading rusher was rookie RB Rashaad Penny, the nearly invisible first-round draft choice who had 108 yards on 12 carries.

Downright astonishing was the fact that he ran behind someone named Jordan Simmons, Fluker’s replacement, of whom 99.9 percent of the 12s had not heard prior to Sunday.

In his first pro game after being cut Sept. 2 by, ahem, Oakland, where he wandered about for a year on the practice squad after signing as an undrafted free agent out of USC, Simmons started and drew Rams titans Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh.

That’s like taking your first training-wheels bicycle ride at the Indianapolis 500.

“Unbelievable job by Jordan today,” Carroll said. “He played the whole game (having) never played before. Stepping up there was fantastic. We wanted to make sure we had a big, solid guy (6-foot-4, 339 pounds) who could hold up in there against their big guys. We thought he would be the best fit for this match-up.

“He has all of the right stuff to be a good player, he just hasn’t had the consistency in his background to show a lot. We could see it. Everything he’s done, he’s done really well. He hasn’t had much work with us, either. We gave him shot and he came through.”

Behind the newbies, the Seahawks scored touchdowns on their first two possessions, a seasonal first. Remember a year ago how wretched was the Seashawks’ offense in the early going?  Sunday, 10 plays produced 86 yards on the first drive, five plays for 75 yards on the second. On the road, against a good defense that knew what was coming.

Carroll likely could not have been more proud of a seasonal football development.

“Doesn’t matter who (the opposition has) up front there,” he said. “Great to see Rashaad bust out like that. But that doesn’t surprise us. Chris has done it, Mike (Davis, 11 carries, 58 yards) has done it.

“The whole thing has fit together where we can show that consistency.”

Included was 92 yards on nine carries by Wilson, by far his best rushing day. Wilson had a great feel for the Rams’ hyper-aggressive pass rush that did not place a spy on him.

“Incredible game by Russ to keep running and make things happen, keeping us in it,” Carroll said. “They’re wasn’t anybody on the field who didn’t bust their ass today.”

There was, however, a critical breakdown by Wilson and the O-line that produced the game’s decisive play.

With 6:15 left in the game and trailing 29-24, Wilson dropped back for a pass on third-and-3 at the Seattle 32-yard line. DE Dexter Fowler, who earlier helped sustain two Seahawks scoring drives with personal fouls, got around Duane Brown, strip-sacked Wilson and recovered the fumble at the nine-yard line. One play later, WR Brandin Cooks scored on a nine-yard run to put the Rams up 36-24.

The Seahawks subsequently went 90 yards on 12 plays and scored on Wilson’s three-yard pass to Davis with 1:56 left. When the defense forced a three-and-out, thanks in part to deploying three timeouts, the Seahawks got the ball back with 1:24 left.

The master of the fourth-quarter-winning rally was in charge.

But just as in the Chargers game, the master came up short. Seven plays reached the LA 35, where the drive expired when Wilson’s final throw sailed out of bounds over the head of WR Tyler Lockett.

“Everyone was confident and (the Rams) were a little nervous too,” Wilson said. “We’ve won a lot or games in the fourth quarter, a lot of tough moments. When you have late-game success, people believe.

“You’re not going to do it every time, but you believe you’re going to do it more times than not.”

Just not the past two times. Carroll admitted it was hard to take. Asked if he thought the Seahawks were better than 4-5, he said, “I do. I really do. I’ve been feeling that since we got going, about week four. We started figuring out what we’re about.

“I love the way we’re playing.”

Everyone who watched had to conclude the sprawling brawl, speckled with fights, scrums and unpleasant language, was compelling theater. Especially with the backdrop of tragedy.

Wilson wore a jacket to to his presser with the word Malibu on it. The oceanfront enclave had numerous homes damaged or destroyed by fire, including friends of Wilson and his entertainer wife, Ciara.

“There’s a lot going on in th LA area. A tough time,” he said. “You wake up in the morning and never expect that to happen. People losing their homes and all their stuff. That’s tough.

“One way to overcome is with love, with service to each other. Today I was trying to honor (with the jacket) people who lost their homes, or were shot and killed. Tough things going on in the world.”

The Seahawks and Rams did what they could.

“We played a great football game today, they played a great football game today,” he said. “They made one or two plays more than us.”

It was a small thing. A thing well done.



  • Tim

    I love our team–I think we’re going to be really special…next year. Don’t understand the onsides kick with so much time remaining…love being aggressive but with an offense like the Rams, it didn’t make sense to me. We had it within our grasp again.

    • John M

      Not to mention the onside kick is not the chubby Russian’s long suit . . .

  • Kevin Lynch

    The Hawks can finish 10-6. The three worst matchups are out of the way. But they can finish 10-6 and not get a playoff spot. They need to take out the Vikings. And if they can win in Carolina they are actually sitting pretty well. You’d have to manage a split of Packers/Chiefs. All in all, not too bad for a 4-5 start to the season.

    • Ron

      The Hawks can finish 10-6? Aren’t you the pessimist. In my alternate reality they can go unbeaten, finish 11-5, win the Super Bowl, and bring Paul Allen back from the grave.

      • Kevin Lynch

        Ha-ha! Normally I AM the pessimist when it comes to the Hawks. But the Green Bay team they play Thursday has no Jordy Nelson. The Carolina defense gave up 50 points. The Minnesota game will not be played at 9 degrees. Kansas City may have wrapped home field by the time Seattle plays them. And the Hawks are not losing to S.F. or Arizona. So, yeah, ten wins are possible. But NOT if they allow several more teams to average seven yards per rush.

  • coug73

    It was a small thing. A thing well done.

    Art, Hemingway would have liked your last two sentences.

    • art thiel

      Thanks. He strung together many more that I preferred.

  • Husky73

    By the next football season, Pete Carroll will be 68 years old. I have no doubt that he has the health and enthusiasm to coach into the future. Seeing him today in sunny LA, with a renovated Coliseum underway, and with the Trojans struggling, it would be right and natural for me (a Husky) to see Carroll back at the helm of Fight On.

    • 1coolguy

      That is a LONG shot

      • Husky73

        I agree.

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    The on-side kick , in a 2 point game on the road with10 minutes left … THE STUPIDEST decision Carroll ever made !

    Oh wait , there was that Superbowl . And 17 passes in a row without a single running play in the 3rd quarter against the Bears this year . And the clock mismanagement against the Rams in our house . And , and , and ..

    Carroll is starting to remind me of coach Romar when he was with the Huskies ; great recruiter/drafter , piss poor coach . He’s costing us games . He probably just cost us the playoffs tonight with that idiotic college stunt he pulled . To lose to a good team like the Rams on the road in their house is one thing ; to lose like we did is another .

    • 1coolguy

      All poor decisions, granted, but I would estimate most observers of the NFL would rate him in their top 10. They have one of the league’s best runs the past 5 or 6 years, and they make ALL the prior Hawks seasons forgettable, other than Holmgren’s one SB year.
      So compared to Hawk history, be happy with what you have, is my suggestion.

      • John M

        I am, and you just said something cool . . .

    • art thiel

      Disagree about the dumb call, based on their experience in practice. It was a risk, sure. But you won’t beat the Rams without breaking patterns.

      All coaches make mistakes, and Carroll has owned up to numerous ones. It’s just that when a play goes wrong, fans assume idiocy. It’s rarely that simple.

      • Theyfinallyfiredcable

        Just curious Art ; you saw Janikowski successfully execute an onside kick in practice ? For his career he’s like 2 for 26 according to the stat they threw up on TV during the game . I would think our magical punter would’ve been a better choice , but then of course you’re announcing it .

        10 minutes left in a 2 point game .. it reeked of desperation , and they weren’t desperate at that point .

  • 1coolguy

    Simmons? Fluker? Ifedi? Players resurrected. 273 yards? Really? By the league’s worst O line the past 4 years? I humbly submit a vote for the Hawks Most Valuable PERSON – Mike Solari.

    • art thiel

      A real possibility. Committing to a power game’s man-block schemes takes a village, however. Duane Brown may be as important a hire as any.

  • ll9956

    In the last two games, it was one pivotal play that was the dagger through the heart. Against the Chargers it was the pick-six. This week the strip-sack. I would argue that this week’s calamity wasn’t Russell’s fault. A fraction of a second of better pass protection might have resulted in a more favorable outcome. Would have–might have–should have . . . Makes one’s brain hurt.

    • Ron

      Russell didn’t need to throw that final pass 10 feet over the head of a wide open Tyler Lockett.

      • art thiel

        Need? He didn’t need to, no. But he was running forward full speed. Very difficult to gauge that sort of pass.

        • Ron

          Maybe difficult for you or me. But we haven’t been playing QB all our lives and getting paid $20M a year to do so.

    • art thiel

      On the strip sack, Brown kept contact with Fowler throughout. Wilson needed to step up in the pocket. The Seahawks were in empty, so Wilson knew he had no blocking help. One stride would have prevented the chop on his arm.

  • jafabian

    Nice seeing Penny have a solid game. And he didn’t really get a lot of carries either. Same with Mike Davis. Props again to the O-Line. Solaris is getting a lot of praise but I also say a big part of their improvement goes to their staying together. In the past the line loses 2-3 starters in the offseason forcing a retooling of the line. I also thought this game showed how the Hawks could use an established edge rusher. Where have you gone Bruce Irvin?

    • art thiel

      Regarding the question of passer, it’s: Why did you go over the handle bars, Malik McDowell? That pick haunts everything they do in 2017-18.

      On RBs, they had a rotation that kept all fresh.

      • jafabian

        And that was refreshing to see. Usually you get players complaining that they need reps to get production. The current group knows to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

        When you mentioned McDowell I had to look him up. Still a free agent I see.

  • Effzee

    Carroll has had a number of boner decisions, but I don’t hate the onsides decision. If we think the Rams were going to score anyways, it just gives us more time at the end to go down and win it. The fumble screwed everything up.

    • art thiel

      Carroll said they practiced the onsides kick all week, Worked every time. Seabass flat mis-hit the ball, which failed to deliver a high hop. They saw a hole in Rams coverage, and needed a big play.

  • WestCoastBias79

    After seeing Carolina get boat raced by the Steelers, the Falcons losing to the Browns, the Eagles losing to the Cowboys, the Packers being Aaron Rogers overcoming his coach and teammates etc., I honestly don’t know who is good in the NFC once you get a notch below the Saints/Rams. The playoffs are very much in play if they beat the Packers. The last run of fun with the previous group of the young and hungry was kind of kicked off with the Thursday night Fail Mary, maybe history will rhyme again?

  • nolan

    Pete lost the game. 9:00 left, down by 2 and we try and onside kick when Cbas is something like 2-33 in this category!

  • Alan Harrison

    Fun, if ultimately disappointing game. Penny was, to paraphrase Dennis Green, what they thought he’d be. I had to look up Jordan Simmons, too. What does that say about Pocic and Hunt? RW still doesn’t throw receivers open, which is why he holds the ball too long. At this point, I don’t believe he ever will. By the way, the commentary on TV was remarkably bad (Tony Romo, who’s not quite as adept as he thinks he is). Kept pointing out the three guys up front on the Seattle D stopping the run. Called the Seahawks O old-school (Nebraska from twenty years ago, I think he said) just because they ran the ball. Constant RW second-guessing, especially on closing drive. Abysmal know-it-all. I hope he’ll learn, but if his playing days are any indication, he won’t.

  • Archangelo Spumoni

    Mr. Thiel
    What with the upcoming game vs the Mighty Beavers, is there time to get Mr. Rudman to write another column?
    Please ask him for a retrospective or something–I think you know how to get in touch with Steve.
    Archangelo Spumoni
    P.S. When I read the “It was a small thing. A thing well done” for a few seconds there I thought I was still getting the old P-I with that great group o’ writers from Emmett Watson on down. I miss the P-I.

  • Warchild_70

    The game was not televised not televised here in Alabama, the people would rather watch the local teams like Alabama verses the next tomato can of the SEC. After watching the highlights I got a chill it was back in the 90’s so close yet no cigar. One thing I did like is to see Penny get his first pro touchdown hope there’s more to come with this O line. Dangeruss needs to quit doing the potty dance when things start to close in. GO HAWKS, ROLL TIDE!! Y’all take care, ya hear?