In the fourth quarter, with the Seahawks trying to protect a seven-point lead, Bailey fell while trying to cover a tight end one-on-one. It led to the game-tying touchdown, which led to overtime, which led to the Rams winning.
ST. LOUIS — Three observations from the Seahawks’ 34-31 overtime loss to the Rams on Sunday:
1. Strong safety Dion Bailey
Bailey faced the questions admirably, but they won’t stop. He sat silently at his locker with a white towel draped over his head. He stared straight ahead, or at the ground. When he talked, he spoke in a hushed voice.
Bailey started in place of Pro Bowler Kam Chancellor as Chancellor’s holdout stretched into the first week of the season. And in the fourth quarter, with the Seahawks trying to protect a seven-point lead, Bailey fell while trying to cover a tight end one-on-one on the outside of the field. It led to the game-tying touchdown, which led to overtime, which led to the Rams winning.
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“It’s just something that just can’t happen,” Bailey said. “I was just too flat-footed. My foot stuck in the turf when I tried to open up. At that point I’ve got to tackle him. Just tackle him and live to fight another day.”
Chancellor’s absence is the cloud hanging over the Seahawks’ season, and it forced Bailey, a former undrafted free agent, to fill his big shoes at strong safety. Chancellor forfeited a game check of $267,647 for missing Sunday’s game, but coach Pete Carroll brushed aside the idea that Chancellor’s absence was noticed.
“That’s not where my focus is now,” Carroll said.
In his first career start, Bailey actually played a solid game — other than his glaring mistake in the fourth quarter.
“I’ve got to go 100 percent on my opportunities, and I missed a big one today,” Bailey said. “I’ve got to learn from it and represent my family name better next week.”
As Bailey sat quietly at his locker after the loss, a number of veteran teammates stopped by to offer encouragement. If Chancellor’s holdout drags on — and there’s no indication it will end soon — the Seahawks know they will need Bailey in the future.
“It’s a tough situation,” free safety Earl Thomas said, “but sometimes when it hurts like that it makes you sharper. We’ve all been through those type of situations.”
Kam Chancellor is about to get paaaaaid: pic.twitter.com/i2dZLyiSzW
— SB Nation (@SBNation) September 13, 2015
Bailey stood out in the preseason for the way he kept making plays. It was hard not to notice him at practices or in preseason games. He wasn’t as active against the Rams, and it’s unlikely that he will be able to replicate Chancellor, one of the more unique players in the league. But the reality is that the Seahawks were right there with a chance to win it with Bailey as their starter.
“It’s a tough situation for me right now,” he said, “but I’ll move on, and I’ll get better. I will be better next week.”
2. Tight end Jimmy Graham
The Seahawks are still figuring out Graham. He finished with a nice day: six catches for 51 yards and a touchdown in the red zone. But Graham is too talented to go with only one target in the first half, or to not get an opportunity in the red zone, which happened on one drive before halftime.
Carroll said Graham was a big part of the game plan, right from the beginning. “We got knocked around a little bit on the pass rush, and we didn’t get the chances,” Carroll said of Graham’s one target in the first half.
Graham is too valuable and talented not to utilize, and the Seahawks still need to find the balance between not forcing Graham the ball and making sure that he’s heavily involved.
He showed why he can be so dangerous — a 20-yard catch down the middle and a seven-yard touchdown in which he beat a defender one-on-one while lined up outside like a receiver.
Quarterback Russell Wilson said the goal is to “throw the ball at the right time to the right guy,” which is what he always has done. But what’s different this year is that Graham is one of the rare players who can make tough catches even when he isn’t open.
3. Returner/receiver Tyler Lockett
Lockett is the real deal — at receiver. From the moment the Seahawks traded up to draft him in the third round this year, Lockett has been pegged as the starting kickoff and punt returner.
He has done nothing to shake that confidence — two return touchdowns in the preseason followed by a 57-yard punt-return touchdown in the season opener against St. Louis. He is a deadly and smooth returner.
But the question about Lockett always was about whether he would contribute much at receiver.
In his first career game, Lockett was the Seahawks’ third receiver and played in many of the game’s bigger moments and drives. He caught four passes for 34 yards and looked like a player who should be a big contributor as receiver as well.