An NFL.com article after Sunday’s 42-7 loss suggested that Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Jimmy Graham could be gone by the start of next season. That would be an astonishing bloodletting, but this is a team that needs new blood.

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One team at CenturyLink Field on Sunday was overflowing with vigor, oozing visible confidence and swagger that seemed to grow with every passing minute. The players looked faster and hungrier, crisper and better prepared, a team on the rise and heading for much bigger things.

That team was most certainly not the Seahawks, who had more the aspect of a shot fighter. The Rams, in fact, resembled the Seahawks of five years ago, a team on the verge of greatness and, most important, one bursting with the realization of just how good they were.

After Sunday, it’s hard to imagine the Rams still have any doubt. Now it is the Seahawks who must assuage all manner of doubt, both within a reeling locker room and from a fan base that still can’t believe what it just saw.

Rams 42, Seahawks 7

 

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It’s hard not to conclude that this game, a shocking 42-7 Rams victory, as one-sided a thumping as you’ll see in the NFL, was a transformational moment in a multitude of ways.

It marked a changing of the guard within the NFC West, where a power shift seemed to have been executed before our stunned eyes. You don’t come into Seattle, the NFL’s most inhospitable visiting stadium, and blow out the team that has controlled the division for years, all but clinching the title, without the clear sense that a day of reckoning had arrived.

And within the Seahawks’ organization, you have to believe this was the forerunner to big changes in the not-so-distant future. And, more to the point, that it should be.

The Seahawks must grapple with the reality that they aren’t what they used to be, and frankly haven’t been in 2017 except for fleeting moments of excellence (most notably against the Eagles just two weeks ago) that weren’t sustained and tended to blur the overall sense of decline.

These next two games will reveal plenty. It’s hard to wrap one’s brain around it after Sunday’s debacle, but the Seahawks aren’t eliminated from the playoffs. Yet they now need help, and plenty of it, above and beyond the basic requirement of winning their final two games against Dallas and Arizona. After what transpired Sunday, it’s hard to envision them doing that, let alone all the other things that must fall into place.

Still, how they rebound from the loss will provide a window into their resilience and character. It wasn’t an encouraging start when linebacker Bobby Wagner reacted on Twitter to a postgame comment by free safety Earl Thomas that the Seahawks would have been better off with Wagner not playing, and he should have taken himself out of the game earlier:

“E keep my name out yo mouth. Stop being jealous of other people success. I still hope you keep balling bro.”

Wagner quickly deleted the tweet, but it was an ominous development. In the same interview, Thomas had been asked if the Seahawks could get past a loss of this magnitude.

“It depends,’’ Thomas said. “It depends, as far as the veteran leadership. We’ve got to lead these young guys right. We can’t clique off into sections and go this way and that way. We have to stay together.”

Is there potential for players to form cliques? “I don’t think so,’’ Thomas replied. “But we’ll see.”

It’s not like the Seahawks haven’t been faced with devastating losses before. The Super Bowl defeat against the Patriots when victory and a second consecutive championship seemed a fait accompli might have been the most painful loss in NFL history. You could make a plausible case that the Seahawks haven’t been quite the same since.

But they still won postseason games each of the past two years. Now they face not only the distinct prospect of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2011, but also a major roster turnover in the offseason that hits some of the most significant players in club history, and core pieces of this era.

In an article on NFL.com after Sunday’s game, Mike Silver suggested that among the players that could be gone by the start of next season are Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Thomas — the heart and soul of the Legion of Boom — as well as Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Jimmy Graham.

That would an astonishing bloodletting, but this is also a team that needs new blood. Pro sports can be a cruel business, one in which sentiment and loyalty gets shoved aside. And football of all the pro sports is the one with the shortest shelf life for its players. The Seahawks no doubt would have put up a much better effort Sunday without injuries to so many Pro Bowlers on defense, but those players are at an age when the cumulative wear and tear is going to lead to more frequent injuries and inevitable decline. It’s possible that Chancellor and Avril might not play again because of the severity of their neck injuries.

The Seahawks also are in a severe salary-cap bind at a time that their major deficiencies, particularly in the offensive line and running game, can no longer be duct-taped together on a wish and a prayer. Not with the burgeoning strength of the Rams on full display Sunday, juxtaposed against Seattle’s sagging legacy.

If this is the game that pushes Seattle toward a reboot that moves them forward around the nucleus of Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner, well, it will have been a momentous day in the midst of a shattering defeat.