The Seahawks' run defense kept stumbling, Rashaad Penny started rumbling and a fourth-quarter trick play didn't pay dividends in a road loss.
The Seahawks’ final drive fell short.
Seattle lost two games to the NFC West-leading Rams this season by a total of seven points.
Here are three impressions from the Seahawks’ 36-31 loss to the Rams.
Seahawks run defense stumbles (again)
Four days after the Seahawks allowed 160 rushing yards and 7.3 yards per carry in a 25-17 home loss to the Chargers last weekend, first-year Seattle defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was asked to explain his unit’s porous performance.
“It really comes down to a couple of plays,” Norton said of his team’s run defense. “They had a couple of tosses on us and a fly play. You take those plays out and it’s an entirely different average and an entirely different series of yards.”
Great, so eliminate the big play and the Seahawks’ rushing defense should be all set, right?
Not so much.
The Rams rushed for 150 yards, 6.8 yards per carry and a pair of touchdowns on Sunday. Standout running back Todd Gurley II led the way, rushing for 120 yards, 7.5 yards per carry and a touchdown, while adding 40 receiving yards. After he finished with just 77 rushing yards (and three touchdowns) in his first meeting with the Seahawks this season, Gurley ripped off 76 rushing yards in the first half alone.
And this time it didn’t just come down to “a couple of plays.” On the Rams’ final touchdown drive of the first half, Gurley piled up runs of 11, nine, 10 and 17 yards. The Seahawks entered the game ranked 30th in rushing defense (137.1 yards per game). Their recent issues stopping the run have been much more than a blip on the radar.
Rashaad Penny finally breaks out
Remember Rashaad Penny, the Seahawks’ rookie first-round pick?
You could be forgiven for forgetting about him, after Penny rushed for just 148 yards, 3.5 yards per carry and zero touchdowns in his first nine games this season. In two of those games, the Norwalk, Calif., native didn’t even earn a carry.
But with starting running back Chris Carson missing Sunday’s game with a hip injury, the Seahawks needed someone else to carry the load. And in his first NFL game in his home state, that’s what Penny did.
The 5-foot-11, 220-pound running back produced easily the most prolific game of his young career, piling up 108 rushing yards, nine yards per carry and an 18-yard touchdown on just 12 total carries. Mike Davis added 11 carries for 58 yards and a 3-yard touchdown catch.
For the first time in several seasons, the Seahawks appear to have both depth and talent in the backfield.
Onside kick backfires on Seahawks
The Seahawks had to do something drastic to beat the 8-1 Rams on the road.
That’s what they tried to do, but it didn’t work out in their favor.
Trailing 26-24 with 9:52 left in the fourth quarter on Sunday, Sebastian Janikowski attempted his second on-side kick in the last two games. And, just like last time, the kick was easily recovered by the Seahawks’ opponent.
The decision is understandable, of course, considering that the Seahawks entered the game as massive underdogs and forced the Rams to punt just once in seven drives prior to the on-side kick.
But, on the other hand, Janikowski is just 2-for-33 on on-side kicks in his long career and has failed to convert his last 25 tries.
Then, trailing by five with 1:51 left, the Seahawks opted for a Michael Dickson drop kick instead of a more traditional on-side kick. The Rams started with the ball on their 25-yard line and quickly went three-and-out.
One decision paid off. The other certainly didn’t.