One sight was so unfamiliar and uncomfortable it was hard to process — the Seahawks’ uber-durable quarterback Russell Wilson standing on the sideline with what coach Pete Carroll called a “badly sprained” middle finger on his right hand, unable to play.
Another was distressingly familiar — a defense that after a few bright moments early again proved stunningly feeble when it mattered most.
It added up to a potentially disastrous 26-17 defeat to the Rams on Thursday night at Lumen Field that could be season-altering for a team that entered the year with Super Bowl hopes.
Carroll said he couldn’t say if Wilson will miss any games.
“I wouldn’t put any timeline on it right now,” Carroll said, saying it’s something “we’ve got to figure out.”
Carroll said he couldn’t say if Wilson would need surgery. But that he didn’t rule it out left the possibility he might need it and could be out for an extended period. Carroll also would not say if the finger was dislocated. The finger appeared bent on TV replays.
Wilson’s hand hit the arm of Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald on what turned out to be an incomplete pass to Tyler Lockett on a play that snapped with 7:17 remaining in the third quarter.
Wilson stayed in the game for one more play to finish the series and played one more series — a three-and-out in which he threw one pass for one yard to tight end Colby Parkinson — before he left the game for good.
The Seahawks trailed 9-7 when Wilson was injured, and the Rams took a 16-7 lead on the series after he was hurt. During that Rams’ possession, Wilson was surrounded by trainers examining the finger, and he threw some passes and took some snaps before returning for one series.
“He was trying to figure it out,” Carroll said. “They were working to figure it out and it took a while and then he just could tell it wasn’t right to go back out.”
Carroll said Wilson did not argue the decision to come out.
“The doctors and everybody were together on that,” Carroll said. “Russ knows his body. He knows what he can do.”
Wilson had missed plays in only three games during his career due to injury, and none since a game in 2017 at Arizona. He had played every snap of every game since 2018 other than coming out late in a 40-3 blowout against the Jets last year.
Wilson’s start Thursday was the 145th consecutive of his career dating to his rookie season in 2012, the second-longest active streak in the NFL.
Wilson was replaced by Geno Smith, who led the Seahawks to a touchdown and a field goal on his first two possessions with the roar of a crowd, that was understandably nervous when he entered the game, growing louder with every play.
As Smith took the field on his second series, the crowd broke into chants of “Ge-no, Ge-no.’”
“The atmosphere was just electric tonight,” Smith said.
And when the Seahawks got the ball back with 2:09 left at its own 16-yard line, trailing 23-17, what would have been one of the more unlikely wins in recent history seemed at reach.
“With all of that, we still had a chance to win the football game,” Carroll said.
But typifying what turned out to be one of the gloomier nights in recent history, Smith’s pass on the first play to Lockett was intercepted by Rams safety Nick Scott. Lockett fell down on the play after he was bumped by Jordan Fuller.
As ominous as the injury to Wilson is, it’s unclear if he will miss any time.
“He’s going to heal himself,” Carroll said. “He’s the epitome of the mentality of taking control of how your body functions.”
Wilson did not yet want to talk about it to the media, skipping his postgame news conference for the first time in his career.
But if Wilson’s finger heals eventually, it’s unclear if the defense will.
A unit that ranked last in the NFL in total yards coming into the game turned in one of its better halves in helping the Seahawks to a 7-3 halftime lead. An inexplicable decision by Matthew Stafford to try to throw away a pass in the end zone that was picked off by his former Detroit teammate and good friend Quandre Diggs helped.
But the Seahawks had no answers for the Rams in the second half as the Rams gained 301 yards.
The biggest play came early in the third quarter as the Rams faced a third-and-10 at their own 20. Stafford bought time and threw deep to DeSean Jackson. The pass was under thrown and Jackson had to adjust to make the catch. Jamal Adams was the nearest defender but didn’t make the play, nor the tackle, as Jackson wound his way to the 12.
Carroll said diplomatically later that “unfortunately on the big play we didn’t find our way to the ball” and that “I’m not going after any one guy or anything about anything right now.”
Said Diggs: “Those are plays we’ve got to have. We can’t have guys third-and-10 and we give up big plays like that. That’s unacceptable.”
The Rams needed just two more plays to score a TD that gave them the lead for good.
Wilson was hurt on the next series, and the Rams followed with a quick five-play, 82-yard drive to make it 16-7. The TD came on a 13-yard Stafford-to-Tyler-Higbee pass in which Adams was again the defender.
Wilson played one more series and the Rams were forced to punt. Smith came on and led a 98-yard drive, going 5-5 for 72 yards.
Carroll said Smith’s performance proved that “we are in good hands” if Smith has to play going forward.
But the Rams needed only six plays to go 73 yards for another score, never facing a third down, to make it 23-14.
“We’ve got (stuff) to fix,” Diggs said forlornly. “Everybody knows that.”
Said Carroll: “When they’re able to throw the ball over the middle like that, they’re getting too much time and we have to do a better job of that. Backers, get to the quarterback so he has to dump the football off and that did not happen in the second half.”
What did happen in the second half — Wilson’s injury and a defense that again leaked like few have in the Carroll era — leaves everything about the season in question.
With the loss, the Seahawks fell to 2-3 while the Rams improved to 4-1. The Seahawks could be three games back in the division if the 4-0 Cardinals win at home Sunday against the 49ers.
“There is stuff for us to fix,” Carroll said. “There is stuff for me to fix.”
Far more than he might ever have imagined.