Condotta predicted the Rams' score correctly, but he, like everyone else, never imagined that the Seahawks' offense would pick this game to wake up. We take a last look back at what worked for Seattle against the Rams, the key players who showed up, and the ones Seattle needs to get more from.
As the Seahawks get into the heart of the second quarter of their season, they have to figure out how to become their old selves in the fourth quarter of games.
It’s the third time this season Seattle has blown a fourth-quarter lead of at least four points, and the second time it resulted in a defeat.
Turn those results around (Denver, in which Seattle led 24-20 early in the fourth, and the Rams game, in which Seattle led 31-24 as the fourth quarter began) and you’re talking about a Seahawks team tied for the lead in the NFC West.
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Instead, Seattle woke up Monday basically already left playing for the wild card, three games back of the Rams in the West, officially ninth in the NFC playoff picture (as of games Sunday).
It also left Seattle having been outscored 44-31 in the fourth quarter, defying Pete Carroll’s mantra that you can’t win the game in the first, second or third quarters but you can in the fourth. Until now, despite the struggles of last year, Seattle has never been outscored in the fourth quarter during Carroll’s tenure, outscoring foes a whopping 142-64 in the final 15 minutes.
Something to watch as the season wears on.
Now on to my weekly review of what I thought was worth watching heading into the game and what happened.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
WHAT I SAID: Jared Goff vs. Seattle defense.
WHAT HAPPENED: Goff threw for 321 yards and one touchdown and averaged 9.5 yards per pass that was due in no small measure to a number of missed tackles by the Seahawks. One of Goff’s interceptions has a definite asterisk — the Hail Mary at the end of the first half. He also played the second half without two of his leading receivers — Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cooks, each out with concussions. Goff also made the play that mattered most at the end with the 2-yard quarterback sneak to seal the victory. Advantage, Goff.
WHAT I COULD HAVE SAID: Seattle running backs vs. Rams’ defense.
That Los Angeles is ranked fifth in the NFL in run defense entering the game also was deceiving — while the Rams were allowing just 86 yards per game on the ground, they also allowed 4.6 yards per carry. After Sunday, when the Seahawks rushed for 190 yards and 5.9 per carry, the Rams are allowing 5.0 per carry, fourth-worst in the NFL. It’s encouraging Seattle was able to take advantage of that weakness, but it’s worth remembering Seattle will face better run defenses down the road (though not this week as the Raiders are allowing 4.9).
PLAYER TO WATCH
WHAT I SAID: Free safety Tedric Thompson.
WHAT HAPPENED: As coach Pete Carroll said, there was some good for Thompson in his first start in place of the injured Earl Thomas — the interception to end the first half and seven tackles — and some bad, notably a few missed tackles. Interestingly, the analytics site Pro Football Focus graded Thompson as one of the best safeties of the weekend. PFF cited Thompson with just two missed tackles and just one pass target in primary coverage, giving him the fourth-highest grade of any safety in the NFL in Week 5. At the least, something to build on.
WHAT I COULD HAVE SAID: Linebacker Barkevious Mingo.
Seattle decided to play nickel defense almost the entire game. But instead of leaving the weakside linebacker on the field in those situations (as it has done when K.J. Wright is healthy), the Seahawks instead left Mingo, the strongside backer, on the field. He played 64 of 66 snaps while also playing a team high-tying 25 on special teams. Mingo so far is emerging as one of Seattle’s better offseason acquisitions.
COACHING DECISION TO WATCH
WHAT I SAID: Will the Seahawks bust open the playbook?
WHAT HAPPENED: In a way, they did, unleashing some play-action passing as they hadn’t the previous week. According to PFF, Seattle called play-action 12 times, with Russell Wilson hitting 8 of 11 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns, for a 154.4 passer rating (158.3 is perfect). A week after Wilson threw only one pass that went longer than 15 yards in the air, he had four completions of 30 yards or more.
WHAT I COULD HAVE SAID: Timeout usage?
OK, so you never for sure when those will come into play the way they did Sunday. Carroll basically played it exactly by the book. It was Rams coach Sean McVay who didn’t, potentially handing Seattle the victory if Goff got stuffed. Such is football.
WHAT I SAID: Special teams.
WHAT HAPPENED: It was surprisingly eventful — Michael Dickson had his first punt blocked (it wasn’t his fault — Carroll said later the Seahawks flat out blew a blocking scheme they’d worked on all week), Dickson drop-kicked kickoffs to try to prevent Rams returns, the Rams missed a potentially crucial extra point and Sebastian Janikowski hit a 52-yard field goal — his third 50-yarder of the season (only three Seattle kickers have had more in a season. Stephen Hauschka with six in 2015 and Norm Johnson and Josh Brown with five each in 1986 and 2005, respectively). And both teams had kickoff returns of 40 yards or longer. But when the game ended, it sort of felt like neither team had a real edge.
WHAT I COULD HAVE SAID: Untimely penalties.
Seattle had seven, which is basically its season average and also the NFL average. So no real harm there. But four helped turn the game — defensive holding on Tre Flowers in the second quarter that nullified a Seattle recovery of a Cooks fumble; pass interference on Shaquill Griffin on fourth down that kept alive the Rams’ final TD drive; and the false start on Germain Ifedi (which, as Carroll explained, was more the fault of the snap not getting off in time) and the hold on D.J. Fluker that pushed Seattle out of field-goal range on its final drive.
WILD-CARD PLAYER WHO COULD SURPRISE
WHAT I SAID: Tight end Nick Vannett.
WHAT HAPPENED: Vannett had a couple big plays, including the 32-yard gain when Wilson flipped him the ball that set up Seattle’s first touchdown. He also played 50 of 60 snaps starting in place of the injured Will Dissly and, given Seattle’s running success, must have been doing some things right blocking.
That each had big games for a second consecutive week also has interesting roster implications. Davis’ emergence has for now made a non-factor of first-round draft choice Rashaad Penny, who did not play on offense Sunday and whose only action was fielding the first Rams’ kickoff of the game (he was then replaced on those duties by Tyler Lockett). It always was expected Penny might share time with Carson. It wasn’t expected he might lose snaps to Davis, whose roster spot seemed far from certain when training camp began.
As for Moore, it’s clear now he is the team’s third receiver, behind Lockett and Doug Baldwin, for now consigning veterans Jaron Brown and Brandon Marshall to reserve duty (Moore had 31 snaps Sunday to nine for Brown and seven for Marshall).
WHAT I SAID: 7.4 and 4.9, the yards per play for each team offensively.
WHAT HAPPENED: The Rams somewhat remarkably finished at exactly 7.4, which leads the rest of the NFL by almost half-a-yard. Seattle, meanwhile, used the big passing plays as well as a lot of consistent running to finish at 6.8, a season high and a number that would have been the third-best a year ago.
WHAT I COULD HAVE SAID: 2-0, Seattle’s advantage in turnovers. One of the turnovers, the interception by Thompson before the half, has a slight asterisk to it, though that’s a play that has to be made to prevent a touchdown, obviously (the point being the Rams were willing to give up the pick to try to score). But the other was huge, the interception in the end zone by Frank Clark that prevented a possible 7-0 Rams lead right off the bat. The problem is that it was a rare time the Seahawks didn’t convert a positive turnover margin into a victory. Seattle now is 52-12 under Carroll when winning the turnover battle, and Sunday was just the second time since 2015 that Seattle won the turnover battle and lost a game (now 15-2 in such games since then). And if there’s anything to worry about, it’s that Seattle is tied for second in the NFL in turnover margin at plus-six but has just a 2-3 record (consider also that Seattle has fumbled 10 times already this year but lost just two of them. Only the 49ers have a greater percentage of recovering their own fumbles so far this season).
THE FINAL WORD
WHAT I SAID: Rams 33, Seahawks 17.
WHAT HAPPENED: Well, I got the Rams part right. But as I think most of the rest, I didn’t quite see Seattle’s offensive outburst arriving the way it did. If only Seattle had saved some of its best for last — after gaining 93 yards in the first quarter, 72 in the second and 150 in the third, Seattle had 58 on 11 plays in the fourth, 44 on one pass.