LOS ANGELES — The hope is that this was a one-game blip.
That the defeat was a byproduct of the schedule, as much as anything else, for a Seattle team that had an emotional and hard-fought victory against the Vikings just six days ago. Having to then travel to Los Angeles, they looked tired and slow throughout against a revived Rams team.
Any other explanation, of course, is far more concerning to explain the way that the Rams manhandled the Seahawks from start to finish Sunday night to hand Seattle a 28-12 loss in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, dropping Seattle to the No. 5 position in the NFC and a game behind the 49ers in the NFC West.
It was the first time Seattle hadn’t scored an offensive touchdown since a 17-9 loss at Green Bay to open the 2017 season.
“That’s no excuse,’’ said middle linebacker Bobby Wagner of the team’s tight turnaround, which meant that Seattle did not practice in full pads all week.
Still, the Rams seemed like the faster team from the start, in part due to a strategy aimed at taking advantage of the Seahawks’ possibly tired legs.
The Rams used a quick-tempo, and at times a no-huddle, offense throughout the first half when they scored touchdowns on three of four possessions to take a commanding 21-3 lead at halftime.
“Without question, early in the game they were controlling the tempo,’’ said Seattle coach Pete Carroll. “And it took us a bit. We weren’t surprised by it, but we just didn’t handle it as well as we would like. Once we got settled down in the second half, it was a different game. But it was too much of a surge in the first half that we were unable to overcome.’’
Wagner said the Seahawks — and he included himself because, as the middle linebacker, he is responsible for setting the defense — just had to get the calls made more quickly on defense and get lined up right.
“We’ve just got to get lined up faster,’’ Wagner said.
Seattle also needed to execute better on offense.
Down 14-3 early in the second quarter, Seattle saw two promising drives end due to dropped passes, either of which might have changed things drastically.
First, Seattle decided to go for it on a fourth-and-one at the Rams 24 when Russell Wilson rolled out and hit Malik Turner for what would have been an easy first down. Only problem is that Turner dropped the ball.
“Yeah, it was really nice execution,’’ Carroll said of the play. “Everything was there, and we just didn’t catch the football.’’
On the next series, usually sure-handed tight end Jacob Hollister dropped a pass on third down that would have converted a third-and-seven and given the Seahawks a first down past their own 30 at a time when Seattle needed to keep the ball away from the Rams as much as anything else.
“We just needed to keep moving and we just didn’t convert and the ball got away from us,’’ Carroll said. “We just didn’t convert like we needed to.’’
Hollister took the blame for the incompletion, saying any pass that touches his hands should be caught.
Seattle also inexplicably left receivers wide open a few times, such as a 33-yard pass from Jared Goff to Tyler Higbee to convert a third-and-nine on the first series and set up the team’ first touchdown.
Seattle cornerback Shaquill Griffin took the blame for that one, saying he was too aggressive in coming up and then letting Higbee run by him.
Griffin also took the blame for the Rams’ second touchdown, a 2-yard pass from Goff to Robert Woods that made it 14-3.
Griffin said he wished he had both plays back and said, “I hate when it happens.’’
As Carroll said, Seattle settle down somewhat in the second half as the Rams scored only one touchdown.
But the Seahawks couldn’t score any on offense, getting their only TD on a 55-yard pick six by Quandre Diggs, who had another interception later in the third quarter.
The plays gave Seattle some life, but the Seahawks never got closer than 12 points.
“This was a rough night for the Seahawks,’’ Carroll said. “We did not do what we planned to do at all.’’
Indeed, Seattle had a lot to play for.
San Francisco’s last-play victory over the Saints earlier in the day meant that Seattle had to win to stay in first place in the NFC West. But because the Saints lost, it also meant the Seahawks could move into the top spot in the NFC.
A victory also meant the Seahawks would clinch a playoff berth for the eighth time since Carroll became coach in 2010.
Seattle instead now is a game behind the 49ers in the standings, but thanks to the fact that the Seahawks beat the 49ers last month in Santa Clara and will meet them at home in the regular-season finale on Dec. 29 in Seattle, the Seahawks also still control their destiny.
“The interesting thing about it is it doesn’t change anything for us,’’ Carroll said. “We had to win this game and now we have to win the next one and keep on rolling if we want to do anything with this season, which we have a chance to do. And we’ve got to go about our business so it’s important for us to move on and get rolling and stay true to what’s next.’’
What’s next is a trip to Carolina, a team the Seahawks seem to play when it really matters every year.
Carroll kept his postgame message to the team as positive as he could, emphasizing that since the game with the 49ers looms in the horizon, Seattle just has to win the next two (at Carolina and then home to Arizona) to keep all hope alive.
“Unfortunately we had a chance, a really nice chance, to stay abreast and stay on top of our division,’’ Carroll said. “But we will deal with that later on.”