This version of the Seahawks isn't the only one to have trouble closing out games at the end.
You can lament that the Seahawks keep coming close this season, all five defeats within one possession and three by five points or less.
It’s exactly what Seahawks fans were doing 20 years ago, as well.
In Dennis Erickson’s final year, the Seahawks won five games by 10 or more points but lost six by eight points or less and three by three points or less, ultimately finishing 8-8.
That got Erickson the boot even though the Seahawks had a point differential of plus-62, ninth-best in the NFL.
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Turn just a couple of those around and maybe the Mike Holmgren era never happens?
Two decades later, Seattle stands 4-5 and with a plus-27 point differential, 10th best in the NFL and best of any team with a losing record.
Is it a sign of a team that is better than its record or of a team just good enough to lose the close ones?
Seven more games for Seattle to figure that out.
Now, in our weekly Final Word, let’s review the latest what-if — Seattle’s 36-31 loss to the Rams.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
WHAT I SAID: Seattle offensive line vs. Rams’ defensive front.
WHAT HAPPENED: You can quibble about aspects of the offensive performance, specifically that Russell Wilson was sacked four times, one resulting in a fumble that the Rams recovered for a quick and decisive touchdown in the fourth quarter (though Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Wilson could maybe have prevented the sack, saying “Russell couldn’t quite step up under. He needed to just sneak up underneath him about a half of a foot and he’d have pushed by.”). And the pass blocking, solid in the first meeting against the Rams, made it difficult for deep routes to develop (Pro Football Focus ranked Seattle 23rd out of 26 teams that played this week in pass-blocking efficiency). But the Seahawks rushed for an almost unfathomable 273 yards despite Chris Carson’s absence and Jordan Simmons seeing his first NFL action at right guard in place of D.J. Fluker. Maybe it makes sense, considering the way the season is going, it was the most rushing yards in a defeat in Seahawks history (the previous high was 230 in an overtime defeat in 1995 at Arizona).
WHAT I COULD HAVE SAID: Seattle defensive front vs. Rams running back Todd Gurley. The Seahawks took some solace in holding Gurley to 77 yards on 22 carries in a 33-31 defeat last month in Seattle. Gurley had almost that by halftime this time around — 76 on nine — finishing with 120 yards on 16 carries. It was the second consecutive week Seattle got burned by the run early (Melvin Gordon had a 34-yard touchdown run in the first half for the Chargers). “I don’t know if there’s a common denominator,’’ Carroll said Monday. “We’ve just got to play better and not allow the big plays to happen. It’s just consistency. That’s the common denominator, (is) the consistency at the line of scrimmage.”
PLAYER TO WATCH
WHAT I SAID: Seattle weakside linebacker K.J. Wright.
WHAT HAPPENED: Wright, in his third game back following knee surgery in late August, couldn’t finish the game, and his knee undoubtedly impacted his play when he was on the field — he played only 39 of 65 Seattle defensive snaps. It’s unclear if Wright will be able to play Thursday against the Packers, and turning 30 before next season and with a contract that runs out at the end of this season, his long-term future with the team also remains uncertain.
WHAT I COULD HAVE SAID: Punter Michael Dickson. Dickson is one punter you really can say is a player worth watching every week. He had only three punts, all in the second quarter, but they could hardly have been better, averaging 55 yards per kick with a long of 68 and a net of 47.7. Seattle now is up to second in net punting for the season at 44.8 behind only the Eagles at 46.5.
COACHING DECISION TO WATCH
WHAT I SAID: Will the Seahawks again target cornerback Marcus Peters?
WHAT HAPPENED: Seattle hit a bevy of big plays in the passing game in the first meeting, twice torching Peters for touchdowns. Peters continued to struggle over the next few games, vowing after a defeat against the Saints that he’d do better. He did Sunday, with a lot of help from a pass rush that was better than it had been the first time — the Rams had just two sacks in the first game when Seattle had averaged 15.2 yards per pass reception.
WHAT I COULD HAVE SAID: Will the Seahawks try another fourth-quarter onside kick?
Seattle is now 0-2 on onside kicks this season. The Rams recovered Sebastian Janikowski’s kick with 9:52 left after Seattle had cut the lead to 26-24. Carroll said later Janikowski did not execute the kick properly while not saying what was supposed to have happened. The idea can be defended, though. Seattle had forced the Rams to punt just once in six series to that point. And giving the Rams a short field at least assured they could take less time off the clock if they did score (they did but were held to a field goal, which, all things considered, was about the best-case scenario other than recovering the kick itself.)
WHAT I SAID: Running backs Mike Davis/Rashaad Penny/C.J. Prosise.
WHAT HAPPENED: With Chris Carson out, the Seahawks had to turn to their other backs. And that led to the most positive story of the game for Seattle, Penny’s 108 yards on 12 carries after he he’d had 146 on 42 coming in. You could argue Penny should have had more — he had three for 56 yards in the first half with just one in the second quarter after he had runs of 38 and 18 to spark a touchdown drive in the first quarter. Davis, though, was also running well (50 yards on nine carries in the first half) and Seattle undoubtedly trusts him greatly in the passing game. Seattle began the second quarter with two three-and-outs, giving C.J. Prosise a chance on the first of those two series (as had been planned) and then going with Davis on the second. Penny then went back in on the third series of the second quarter. He played extensively in the second half though Seattle went primarily with Davis in its hurry-up offense at the end, a role he has more experience with than Penny.
WHAT I COULD HAVE SAID: From a Seattle perspective, nothing else topped Penny.
WILD-CARD PLAYER WHO COULD SURPRISE
WHAT I SAID: Strong safety Delano Hill.
WHAT HAPPENED: Hill played 21 snaps at strong safety with Bradley McDougald sidelined for a time with a sore knee before coming back. Hill made the tackle on one of the game’s key plays, a 35-yard completion to Robert Woods that allowed the Rams to convert a third-and-15 and set up what proved to be the go-ahead touchdown for Los Angeles. Hill wasn’t to blame for the play, with Carroll saying Seattle was in a zone and that it was the middle part of the zone that was supposed to prevent a receiver from getting deep (Pro Football Focus assigned blame on the play to nickel back Justin Coleman, who appeared to let Woods run past while pursuing another receiver. Carroll seemed to confirm PFF’s assessment, saying, “We got caught up cheating on the coverage, guys looking at the wrong stuff.’’)
WHAT I COULD HAVE SAID: Dion Jordan. Jordan had five tackles and half-a-sack in what was his best game of the season. He had eight tackles and no sacks coming into the game.
WHAT I SAID: The first-quarter scoring for the two teams (Seahawks 35-34, Rams 51-51).
WHAT HAPPENED: The Rams’ one weakness this year has been slow starts — they have outscored their opponents by 20 or more points in all but the first quarter. Seattle was the latest team to take advantage of that, scoring touchdowns on its first two drives in taking an early 14-7 lead — only the second time since the 2016 season the Seahawks have scored 14 points in the first quarter (the other being the Houston game last season, which was tied 14-14 at the end of one).
WHAT I COULD HAVE SAID: Turnover margin. Seattle won or tied the turnover margin in each of its first seven games, standing at plus-10 overall. But Seattle has been minus-one each of the past two weeks, losing a turnover in the fourth quarter that resulted in a touchdown while not forcing a turnover of its own. Of all the numbers people want to throw out about the Seahawks, turnover margin remains the most predicative in the Carroll era. Seattle is 54-12 under Carroll when winning the turnover battle, 29-39 when it doesn’t.
THE FINAL WORD
WHAT I SAID: Rams 34, Seahawks 20.
WHAT HAPPENED: Almost a direct hit on the Rams score, though that’s hardly hard to do — Los Angeles has scored from 33 to 39 points in eight of its 10 games this year, with 23 and 29 in the other two. There was a time not so long ago when Seattle’s defense wasn’t like all the others, but that day appears to have passed. Seattle’s running game – a surprise without Carson and Fluker — kept the Seahawks in it. But a loss remains a loss.