Three immediate impressions from the Seahawks’ 30-20 wild-card playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday at Lumen Field:
That’s a wrap
The Seahawks lost a playoff game at home for the first time under coach Pete Carroll, and suddenly their season is … over.
Just 13 days after the Seahawks defeated the Rams to claim the NFC West title, the Rams came back to Seattle and won the rubber match behind a dominant defensive performance — and it’s the Rams moving on to the divisional round.
The Seahawks (12-5) played flat and uninspired, especially on offense, and they’ve been ousted in the opening round for the second time in the past three years.
The Rams (11-6) won despite losing starting quarterback John Wolford to a neck injury midway through the first quarter. They won despite a so-so passing performance from Jared Goff, who replaced Wolford just 12 days after having surgery on his broken right thumb. And they won despite the loss of All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald to a rib injury early in the third quarter.
For Carroll, the loss will surely come down to this — to Seattle’s two turnovers. Two turnovers that led directly to two L.A. touchdowns.
The first was a tremendous play by Rams cornerback Darious Williams, who read the play — a quick pass to DK Metcalf — before the snap, picked off the pass from Russell Wilson and returned it 42 yards for the game’s first touchdown midway through the second quarter.
In the fourth quarter, more disaster for the Seahawks: D.J. Reed fumbled on a punt return at the Seattle 36-yard line. The Rams recovered, and four plays later Goff found a wide-open Robert Woods for an easy 15-yard touchdown — giving the Rams a 30-13 lead with 4:46 left and closing the door on the Seahawks.
The Seahawks finished the season 12-0 in games in which they won or tied the turnover battle. All five of their losses came when they lost the turnover battle, as they did Saturday (two lost fumbles, no takeaways).
Where does the offense go from here?
The question repeated over and over in the final month of the regular season will surely be a prominent story line throughout the offseason: Can Russell Wilson get back to an elite level?
Wilson, of course, was just about everyone’s NFL MVP in the first half of the season, when he threw 28 touchdown passes in the first eight games of the season. He threw just 12 over the final eight games — and his final stat line Saturday was much like a typical one in the season’s second half: 11 for 27 passing for 174 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 77.8 passer rating.
The Seahawks, it seemed, struggled to find their offensive identity — even with Metcalf and Tyler Lockett putting together record-breaking seasons, and even with a healthy Chris Carson over the final month.
To be fair, yes, the Seahawks faced some of the NFL’s best defenses over the past month — the Rams twice, Washington, San Francisco, the New York Giants. They closed the regular season with four consecutive wins, but they did so with little margin for error — and those errors reared their ugly head Saturday against the Rams’ top-ranked defense.
Most glaring, the Seahawks couldn’t convert their first eight third-down attempts Saturday, and finished 2 for 14 on third-down plays. That, obviously, is not good enough.
There have been persistent questions about this offense in the second half of the season, and there will be many, many more in a long, long offseason.
Defense can’t stop the run
On the surface, you could make a case that Seattle’s defense did its job Saturday.
But it wasn’t enough.
The Seahawks needed takeaways. They couldn’t get any.
They needed to stop the Rams rushing attack and rookie Cam Akers. They couldn’t do it.
They needed to get after Goff, to shut him down, to force him to make mistakes. They couldn’t do it.
Akers, who was out because of an ankle injury in the Seahawks’ victory over the Rams two weeks ago, was the difference Saturday. He rushed for 131 yards and added a 44-yard catch-and-run that set up his touchdown run later in the drive.
The Rams maintained their QB secret up until about 20 minutes before kickoff, when it was revealed that Wolford would get the start — just the second of his NFL career.
It didn’t last long.
Wolford left the game at the 5:34 mark of the first quarter after taking a hit from Seahawks safety Jamal Adams. Wolford was diving forward near the line of scrimmage on a designed QB run when he took the hit from Adams’ shoulder. Wolford stayed down for several minutes, then walked with trainers directly to the locker room with what was described as a neck injury. He was later photographed by The Associated Press being loaded into an ambulance.
Goff took Wolford’s place and was promptly sacked on his first drop-back.
But the Rams did just enough on offense, and then rode their top-ranked defense — playing a field-position game and taking advantage of those two Seattle turnovers.