ST. LOUIS – Rack this one up in the win column, and then bury it deep in the Mississippi River.
For the Seahawks, it wasn’t a victory to celebrate. It was a narrow escape to consternate. Disaster averted, but distress activated.
“We won,’’ said Golden Tate, “but it kind of feels like we didn’t.”
No, Tate wasn’t waving bye-bye when he said it, as he had been doing for about 30 ill-advised yards while completing what turned out to be the decisive touchdown in the third quarter. But even that flashy play turned out to be anti-climactic because of Tate’s antics.
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“He’s a playful, wonderful-spirited guy who had too much fun at the wrong time,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “That was not the right thing to do. He knew it, and apologized to everybody. It kind of washes away a fantastic football play by the quarterback and him.”
It was that kind of night, where even the highlights came with an asterisk. About the best compliment Carroll could muster — besides the fact that his team won the game — is that Russell Wilson managed to hold onto the ball despite being under siege all night en route to being sacked seven times.
“It’s not a great positive, but it’s an improvement,” Carroll said with a thin smile.
The Seahawks came into this game with every advantage — like a second-string quarterback in charge of the Rams, and a St. Louis fan base distracted by the World Series — and left with concerns at every turn.
Wilson’s protection was mostly porous, and the Seahawks defense let the Rams break loose with far too many big runs. Seattle had too many penalties at inopportune times. Facing the 30th-ranked rush defense in the NFL, the Seahawks were unable to get Marshawn Lynch on track, much to his visible irritation at times.
“We couldn’t get him the football enough,’’ Carroll said. “Not enough for him to be a factor, and he was frustrated by that. I am too. We were both frustrated, sitting on the sidelines together.”
But for the grace of two Kellen Clemens interceptions and the first miss of the season by mega-leg Greg Zuerlein, the worst-case scenario might have become unthinkable reality. Still, they let Clemens carve them up on a final desperate drive by the Rams that brought them within 1 yard of a stunning comeback victory.
“They could do everything they wanted to, it seemed like, on that drive,’’ Carroll said.
Everything, that is, except score. And so the Seahawks slinked away with a 14-9 win that felt empty, just like the Edward Jones Dome. Even the fact that droves of fans stayed home to watch the Cardinals, muting the Rams’ home-field advantage didn’t do much to advance the Seahawks’ cause.
“It could have helped us, but it didn’t,’’ Carroll said. “We got in our own way so much it didn’t help us.”
It’s true that in the NFL there are no trivial victories, particularly on the road. So give the Seahawks their props for winning for the fourth time in five games away from CenturyLink Field, because there was a time that wouldn’t have happened. As Red Bryant said, after praising the Rams effusively for their effort, “They did all that and still came up with a loss.”
But it was impossible to view this game without more concern about the Seahawks than before the game. For starters, it is absolutely incumbent upon them to find a way to keep rushers off Wilson if they want to preserve their quarterback.
Carroll said they “had a million problems” with protection, and somehow it didn’t feel like hyperbole. There’s no truth to the rumor that Robert Quinn sacked Wilson on the way to the team charter.
When asked if the victory washed away some of those problems, Carroll replied, “Gosh, I don’t think so. We have a long haul, here. This is just the halfway point. These are the guys we’re going with, and we’ve got to fix it. We’re trying.”
Oh, the Seahawks tried to manufacture some swagger, most notably with Tate’s taunting turn on his touchdown run. But that, too, left a bad taste.
“That has nothing to do with our football,” Carroll said. “That’s not the way we want to play, that’s not the way we want to present who we are.”
That’s pretty much the epitaph for the Seahawks’ night, when they severely tested the theory that there’s no such thing as an ugly win in the NFL.
In the end, they can thank some crunching tackles near the goal line by Earl Thomas and Heath Farwell, about the hardest hits in St. Louis that didn’t belong to David Ortiz.
“It was a very difficult night, but a very happy win,’’ Carroll said.
Only in the context of the alternative.
|The Seahawks had their season-low in total offense vs. St. Louis on Monday night.|
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @StoneLarry