Even without Aaron Donald for most of the second half, the Los Angeles Rams’ defensive front shut down Russell Wilson in the Rams’ 30-20 upset in a wild-card playoff game Saturday at a quiet Lumen Field — leaving the Seahawks with major questions about the direction of their offense heading into the offseason.
Wilson, once again, couldn’t get the offense moving with any consistency, with any rhythm, and he once again had little room to breathe against the NFL’s top-ranked defense. In their third meeting in nine weeks, the Rams overwhelmed the Seahawks’ offensive line as much as any defense had all season. Wilson was sacked five times Saturday and 16 times against L.A. this season.
“That was really hard,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said, when asked to evaluate Wilson’s performance. “I thought it was really hard.”
Wilson threw a pick-six in the second quarter after Rams cornerback Darious Williams read the quick pass intended for DK Metcalf before the snap and jumped the route. That gave the Rams a 13-3 lead, and the Seahawks had to play uphill the rest of the way.
Wilson did find Metcalf later in the second quarter for a 51-yard touchdown after a broken play in which the quarterback scrambled away from pressure and Metcalf broke free behind the Rams secondary. It was the kind of explosive play that the Seahawks made look routine in the first half of the season, when they were leading the NFL in scoring and Metcalf emerged as the most dynamic young receiver in the league.
Wilson had a chance to find Metcalf again for a big play in the third quarter, on the rare route in which Metcalf got away from star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, but Wilson’s throw was out of reach. Donald, the Rams’ All-Pro defensive lineman, injured his ribs on the play after wrapping up Wilson.
Donald did not return. The Rams did not seem to miss him.
Defensive end Leonard Floyd had two more sacks of Wilson on Saturday, giving him seven sacks against the Seahawks this season.
“We needed to get going there,” Wilson said of his mindset after Donald’s injury. “The game kind of felt stale for us in a way — we kind of flatlined. We needed to get going and make that happen. And the next thing you know, we didn’t.”
Wilson, continuing his decline in the second half of the season, completed 11 of 27 passes for 174 yards with two touchdowns and the one interception. He had a passer rating of 72.1, his second-lowest of the season; his lowest (57.0) came in the Week 10 loss against the Rams in L.A.
ESPN’s metrics gave Wilson a QB rating of 17.6 on Saturday, the fifth-lowest rating in any game of his NFL career and the lowest of his career in the playoffs.
“I hate this feeling, obviously,” Wilson said. “We felt like we had a chance today. … I was hoping for us to be able to win it all, and we didn’t do that.”
The Seahawks ran the ball reasonably well — 136 yards on 25 carries (5.4 yards per carry), including 77 yards from Chris Carson. But their struggles on third down — they started 0 for 8 and finished 2 of 14 — meant they couldn’t sustain drives and couldn’t establish the run as much as they would have preferred. And that played right into the Rams’ defensive plan.
“They have an identity. I think they want to run the ball first, period. That’s just who they’ve been even back to Beast Mode,” Rams safety John Johnson III said. “They want to run the ball first. If you knock the run out, Russell tries to get in his bag and be a Houdini, so just keeping him in the pocket, not letting him extend plays.
“You know the receivers are going to get open for him, so we really just try to keep our eyes on our luggage and make plays down the field and limit the explosives. That’s been the recipe for as long as I can remember.”