In a 20-10 loss to the Rams on Tuesday night in Inglewood, California, that assured their first losing season in 10 years, the Seahawks could point to any number of plays as a turning point.
An underthrown pass from Russell Wilson to DK Metcalf in the fourth quarter that might have given them the big play they needed to get back in it.
A penalty on cornerback Bless Austin in the fourth quarter that gave the Rams a first down on a third-and-12 and jump-started the drive in which Los Angeles took the lead for good.
A no-call on a fourth-down pass from Wilson to DeeJay Dallas later in the fourth quarter. Dallas protested so vehemently that he had been interfered with, he ended up drawing a flag for kicking the ball.
“Key moments, key penalties, key little things like that,” Wilson lamented later. “Those things can’t happen.”
But any focus on one play obscures the big picture of this one — that the Seahawks just weren’t good enough when it mattered most. That also seems like a fitting epithet for a season that for the first time since 2011 is meaningless before Christmas.
The Rams outgained the Seahawks 332-214, had almost twice as many first downs (20-13), held the ball for 35:06 and limited Seattle’s offense to 3-for-11 on third down.
And the one time the Seahawks had a chance to take control of the game after grabbing a 10-3 lead on the first drive of the second half, they let the Rams drive 86 yards on six plays to almost immediately tie it up.
“They came out and were just more dominant than we were,” tight end Gerald Everett said.
True, things seemed to be going against Seattle since Friday, when the game was postponed from Sunday to Tuesday due to the Rams’ COVID-19 issues, which along with allowing the Rams to get a couple of players back also gave them a couple of days practice they wouldn’t have otherwise had.
But coach Pete Carroll, realizing his team had some COVID issues, said of the delay, “I don’t think that had anything to do with anything.”
What undoubtedly did was not having leading receiver Tyler Lockett after he was put on the COVID-19 reserve list, which hamstrung an offense that has been more miss than hit much of the season.
That meant Seattle needed to have an especially big game from Metcalf, but that didn’t happen. He had six receptions for just 52 yards and none longer than 12 on 12 targets.
Metcalf, though, was in position for a potential game-turner with about eight minutes left and the score 17-10 when, on third-and-14 from Seattle’s 38-yard line, he burst behind Rams star cornerback Jalen Ramsey down the sideline, open at about the LA 20.
But Wilson’s pass hung in the air, and Ramsey had enough time to recover and bat it away.
Wilson said he got hit as he threw it but also admitted, “I wish I had that one back.’’
The Seahawks also wished they could take back a third-and-12 play for the Rams on the first play of the fourth quarter, with LA at its 10 and the score tied. Seattle appeared off the field before a late flag came in on Austin and he was called for defensive holding on Cooper Kupp, who had his way with Seattle much of the night with nine receptions for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
Carroll stopped short of calling it a bad call but said, “That was a very, very untimely play for us.’’
Given new life the Rams moved quickly down the field for a TD to take the lead on a 29-yard pass from Stafford to Kupp with 10:48 left.
Then came Seattle’s next drive and the missed opportunity on the Wilson pass to Metcalf, one of several times the two failed to connect when Metcalf appeared open.
Metcalf appeared frustrated at times, but Carroll called it just the usual passion of a game day.
“They’re trying their ass off to play right,” Carroll said. “They’re working on their stuff, their routes, their concepts. The calls are there. We’re trying to get the ball. … You’ve just got to throw it and catch it; we’ve got to make the plays, and they’ve got to get the job done. We’ve got to throw it better, and we’ve got to make sure that we make our plays.”
On Seattle’s next possession, a pass-interference penalty on Ramsey drawn by Metcalf on third-and-seven helped Seattle get to the Seattle 38. But Wilson then missed Metcalf, and the Seahawks punted.
The defense forced a three-and-out, and the Seahawks had one last shot at not only the game, but saving the season, moving to the Rams 45.
But in what felt like a snapshot of a season gone awry, Rashaad Penny was called for a false start, creating a third-and-six at the 49.
Penny then lost a yard, setting up fourth-and-seven. Seattle went for it, and Wilson lofted a pass to Dallas, who had a step on Rams linebacker Ernest Jones. Jones never turned around and appeared to grab Dallas as the ball arrived. But while the ball fell to the turf, no flag did, which sent Dallas into a rage, an outburst that elicited a flag of its own.
Carroll called the flag on Dallas “a knucklehead penalty.”
As for the no-call on Dallas, Carroll said: “These guys make these calls when they make them, and sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. It happened quickly and didn’t look very good on the replay that somebody showed me.”
He paused and added: “I’m not bellyaching about that call. We needed to win the game in all the other ways we could win the game.”
But Seattle was unable to do that, only twice in 10 possessions able to mount a drive of longer than 27 yards and unable to do anything defensively about Kupp.
And that, too, will prove to be the theme of a season that began with the hope of going to the Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium in February, instead of ending with a loss in the same stadium in December.
“We’ve underperformed,” said defensive end Carlos Dunlap, whose three sacks were one of Seattle’s few highlights. “I’ve got very high expectations for me and my teammates. We all are holding ourselves accountable for our stake in how our season is going, and we know we have every bit of ability to have a completely different season. But it hasn’t shook up that way, and today was another tally in the column we did not want it in.”
Seattle last had a losing season when it went 7-9 in 2011. And though the Seahawks are not officially eliminated from the playoffs, they logically are, given a less than 0.1 percent chance by FiveThirtyEight.com, leaving them playing for pride in the final three games.
Carroll insisted that won’t be a problem.
“You saw how hard we played tonight,” Carroll said. “There was nothing but guys fighting for one another. So that’s what we’ll do.”