Despite a 24-3 victory over Los Angeles that clinched the division title, Seattle has much to improve on before the playoffs arrive.
Sorry, but this wasn’t the game that will get me all giddy about the Seahawks’ fortunes, or wax enthusiastically about their glorious return to form.
Oh, sure, Seattle’s 24-3 victory over the Rams in Poopalooza ’16 was another testament to bone-crushing defense, and it featured an encouraging return to form by Russell Wilson, his ill-advised pass into heavy traffic in the fourth quarter notwithstanding.
And it came with its own built-in reward, namely a division title that bodes well for the Seahawks’ future, at least theoretically – even though it’s as much a testament to the ineptitude of their division brethren as their dominance.
But we’ve seen this too many times this year — Seahawks’ wins that seemingly signal a turning point, only to be followed by regression and backsliding. So until they show consistency and an ability to maintain their dominance, color me skeptical.
Pete Carroll alluded to that very fact when he said, “Some things are coming together, but we have a lot of improving we still have to make. Fortunately, we have time.”
The truth is, we still don’t quite know what this team is, and we may not until the playoffs begin. For the Seahawks, it was a victory without the sense of progress that normally accompanies a win. That’s partially because the Rams are so ineffectual that any defensive gains – and they were undeniable — must be measured against an offense that running back Todd Gurley last week compared, aptly, to a that of a middle school.
“To come back here this week and play Seahawks football is a great feeling,’’ said corner DeShawn Shead.
But what exactly is Seahawks football in 2016? Is it the team that lost to this very Rams team, or the one that beat New England on the road? Is it the team that is invincible at home, or the one that was manhandled last week at Green Bay?
This Seattle team remains as confounding as any in the Carroll era, an enigma wrapped in a puzzle. You can still see the outline of a team that has the ability to fulfill all its goals, having just attained the first of them, a guaranteed home game in the playoffs.
“We really do take great pride in the division title, because of the implications in the playoffs,’’ Carroll said. “Why wouldn’t you want to play here? Let’s keep going and see how many times you get to play at home at this point.”
But you can also see, within that framework, flaws and problems that can still trip them up. The running game was again problematic on Thursday, with Thomas Rawls gaining just 34 yards on 21 carries, a paltry 1.6 per-carry average. The Seahawks need to show that the defense that allowed the Rams 97 total yards in the first three periods on Thursday is more indicative of their true selves than the one carved up by Aaron Rodgers last week. The 13 penalties for 86 yards – including five false starts – was alarming.
For the second time this season, Richard Sherman had a tirade on the sideline, this time in reaction to a pass from the 1-yard-line that he felt was the wrong call. Bobby Wagner attributed it to Sherman’s “passion” and Carroll – who bore the brunt of Sherman’s displeasure — said he didn’t have a problem with the outburst.
“He was fired up; that’s good … I’m not worried about it one bit,’’ Carroll said — but it still wasn’t a good look in the middle of a game they were clearly going to win handily.
This game might have headed in a decidedly different direction if Rams quarterback Jared Goff, still trying to justify his No. 1 draft selection (to no avail so far) hadn’t grossly missed a wide open Brian Quick in the end zone early in the game. Or if Michael Thomas, after shooting past Seattle safety Steven Terrell, hadn’t dropped an underthrown Goff pass that nevertheless should have been a huge gainer, if not a touchdown. Or if the Rams hadn’t whistled for a defensive holding, away from the play, that kept alive a Seahawks drive deep in Los Angeles territory.
The Rams, whether they be in St. Louis or Los Angeles, have almost inexplicably had the Seahawks’ number. But this Rams’ incarnation, at this stage of a forlorn season, don’t have anyone’s number.
The Seahawks were never going to stumble in what was generally a ragged and sloppy game, one with enough hard hits to warrant three players going into concussion protocol, weird enough to feature the Rams’ Aaron Donald get an unsportsmanlike call for throwing a flag back at the official after getting penalized, and humorous enough to devolve into a Key and Peele skit when Michael Bennett earned a flag for three pelvic thrusts after a sack.
The good news for Seattle is that they bounced back from last week’s debacle, and did what they were supposed to do against a vastly inferior opponent.
The bad news is that no one can say for sure that their problems are solved.