‘The great thing is the reality is that we are fighting for first place,’ Russell Wilson said of Seattle’s game next Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams. That game now looms as the potential decider of the NFC West.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — After as frustrating and ugly a defeat as they’ve had all season, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson walked around the locker room and talked to his teammates instead about what there still is to win.
“The great thing is the reality is that we are fighting for first place,’’ Wilson said of Seattle’s game next Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams. That game now looms as the potential decider of the NFC West after each team lost Sunday — Seattle 30-24 at Jacksonville and the Rams 43-35 at home to the Eagles.
That leaves the 9-4 Rams one game ahead of the 8-5 Seahawks. But because Seattle already has beaten Los Angeles, a Seahawks’ victory next week will put them in the driver’s seat for a second consecutive division title and fourth in five years.
“We’ve got to clear our heads and be great this week,’’ Wilson said.
However, there is a lot to clear out of their heads.
There was the losses of standout linebackers Bobby Wagner (hamstring) and K.J. Wright (concussion) that had Seattle playing most of the fourth quarter without five defensive starters lost since October (the others being Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril).
Coach Pete Carroll said he couldn’t say how long either might be out, but Wagner’s case in particular seems worrisome because he’s had hamstring issue for a while now and appeared visibly upset as he left the field.
On the field, there was a game for the taking when Seattle scored 10 points within 58 seconds in the third quarter to force a 10-10 tie.
Just as quickly, though, the Seahawks allowed two big plays in the next two minutes — a 75-yard touchdown pass and a 72-yard punt return by former Washington Husky Jaydon Mickens to set up another touchdown. That gave the Jaguars a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“That was a subpar quarterback,’’ said Seattle free safety Earl Thomas of Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles, who was 18-for-27 passing for 268 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. “Got to take advantage of that stuff. They had a great game plan. They just out-executed us, which can’t happen. We definitely want those types of games back. Definitely got to take advantage of that. But we didn’t.’’
And then there was the way it ended, with the Seahawks finding losing tough to accept after a Wilson-led rally included touchdowns of 61 yards to Paul Richardson and 74 to Tyler Lockett in a last-ditch effort to win.
Down 30-24, the Seahawks got the ball at their own 42 with 2:39 left and two timeouts.
“I don’t know if there can be a better situation for us,’’ Wilson said.
But on second down, Doug Baldwin stepped out of bounds a yard short of the first down after a 9-yard gain, wanting to be sure to stop the clock.
“The initial thought was I’m going to try to go forward,’’ Baldwin said. “But if I get pushed back and get pushed out of bounds the clock doesn’t stop. So I didn’t want to chance it. I wanted to get out of bounds going forward so we could stop the clock. But in hindsight, yeah, I wish I could have gotten the first down.’’
Indeed, Wilson was sacked on third down to set up fourth-and -nine. Wilson wanted to hit Richardson down the seam, but Richardson got tangled with Jacksonville cornerback Aaron Colvin — or interfered with in the Seahawks’ view. Under pressure, Wilson had no choice but to just throw a wild pass to Baldwin that fell incomplete.
Jacksonville then used a 13-yard run by Leonard Fournette to convert a third-and-11.
But if the game was over, the fighting had just begun.
On the next two plays Seattle players were penalized for either late hits on Jacksonville players or throwing punches, with both Sheldon Richardson and Quinton Jefferson ejected and Michael Bennett also penalized.
“We have to be more poised than that,’’ Carroll said. “It was a very difficult finish.’’
After the Jefferson ejection, Carroll walked onto the field saying he wanted to calm down his players. He said he knew he’d get a penalty but at that point, the game was over anyway.
“They were trying to fight to get the ball back, and there wasn’t the chance to do it at that point,’’ Carroll said. “I was just trying to slow them down. I talked to (referee) Gene (Steratore) about it a couple of plays before it, and I just tried to make a statement to our guys so we didn’t finish with any more garbage happening out there.”
As Carroll did that, Jefferson walked toward the locker room only to get taunted by Jacksonville fans and then pelted with beer and soda, among other things.
Jefferson broke away from security personnel at one point and headed to the stands to confront fans.
“He just kind of lost it,’’ Carroll said. “Somebody poured a beer on his head walking out of the stadium or something. I told him that’s pro football. They pay to get in, they can do whatever they want I guess.’’
Said Jefferson: “Folks in the stands is throwing beer and throwing soda. I mean, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I’m a man, just like anybody else. I’m a man just like the man in the stands. I’m not going to let someone disrespect me, throwing a beer on me.’’
Jefferson could face additional NFL penalties, including a suspension, as possibly could Bennett and Sheldon Richardson, depending on what the league finds.
The only good news came as the Seahawks — finally — headed to their locker room and found out the Rams had lost.
“Yep, right back where we were,’’ said Carroll. “I love the way they battled. I love the way they fought. There was no not believing that we couldn’t get back, and there’s enough power in that belief to give us a chance to have a great finish this season. I’m counting on it.”
|NFC playoff picture|
|If the season ended today, the Seahawks would not make the playoffs, but the game next week against the Rams could determine a lot.|
|Philadelphia||11-2||1||at Giants (2-11), vs. Raiders (6-7), vs. Cowboys (7-6)|
|Minnesota||10-3||2||vs. Bengals (5-8), at Packers (7-6), vs. Bears (4-9)|
|L.A. Rams||9-4||3||at Seahawks (8-5), at Titans (8-5), vs. 49ers (3-10)|
|New Orleans||9-4||4||vs. Jets (5-7), vs. Falcons (8-5), at Buccaneers (4-9)|
|Carolina||9-4||5||vs. Packers (7-6), vs. Buccaneers (4-9), at Falcons (8-5)|
|Atlanta||8-5||6||at Buccaneers (4-9), at Saints (9-4), vs. Panthers (9-4)|
|In the hunt|
|Seattle||8-5||7||vs. Rams (9-4), at Cowboys (7-6), vs. Cardinals (6-7)|
|Detroit||7-6||8||vs. Bears (4-9), at Bengals (5-8), vs. Packers (7-6)|
|Green Bay||7-6||9||at Panthers (9-4), vs. Vikings (10-3), at Lions (7-6)|
|Dallas||7-6||10||at Raiders (6-7), vs. Seahawks (8-5), at Eagles (11-2)|