The Seattle Seahawks have proven they can hang with the NFL's top teams, but Sunday again illustrated an inability to finish.
Desperate for a win to stay in the thick of the NFC Wild Card hunt, the Seattle Seahawks were able to effectively execute their offensive game plan and had the Los Angeles Rams on the ropes for a second time in a little over a month but took a 36-31 loss
Even without top running back Chris Carson and bruising guard D.J. Fluker, who were both ruled out before the game with injuries, the Seahawks gouged the Rams for 273 rushing yards and controlled the line of scrimmage throughout Sunday's battle at the Coliseum. Leading the way, rookie running back Rashaad Penny enjoyed his first breakthrough performance, rushing for 108 yards on 12 carries and scoring his first NFL touchdown.
Quarterback Russell Wilson continued his efficient play feeding off the dominant rushing attack, completing 17 of 26 passes for 176 yards and throwing three touchdowns. He also contributed to Seattle's strong outing running the ball with 92 rushing yards on only nine carries, scrambling away from pressure and picking up several key first downs.
Accumulating over 400 yards of total offense and putting 31 points on the scoreboard normally would be good enough to win an NFL game. But not against Todd Gurley and the high-powered Rams, who once again proved the difference between being a true contender and a pretender in this league comes down to finishing games.
While Seattle's offensive output was impressive, Los Angeles went up and down the field with ease much as they did during the first matchup at Seattle on Oct. 7, passing and running on the Seahawks at will throughout the contest. As a team, they racked up 456 total yards and averaged over seven yards per play. And as coach Pete Carroll emphasized post-game, Seattle's inability to create any turnovers impacted the final outcome.
"We need the football. You win when you take the ball- they were minus-one again today. I think we were minus-one last week too, same thing.? Carroll said. "When it happens, just look at our record. You gotta get the football. That comes from creating situations where you're ahead and they take the chances and you get more opportunities."
Carroll's team couldn't generate any turnovers because the Seahawks failed to consistently put pressure on quarterback Jared Goff, allowing him to complete 28 of 39 pass attempts for 318 yards and two touchdowns. With a comfortable pocket to work with most of the game, he completed several back-breaking throws, including a 35-yard strike to receiver Robert Woods late in the third quarter facing 3rd and 15.
Only two plays later, Goff nailed tight end Tyler Higbee with a beautiful back-shoulder throw to help the Rams re-gain a 26-24 lead that they wouldn't relinquish.
"We just screwed up the zone drop. We just busted it dropping, bit on the wrong route." Carroll said about the key third down breakdown in coverage. "It was a fundamental error, we just screwed it up. That should never happen, but it did."
Chronic problems stopping the run also showed up for a second straight week, as Gurley rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown while also providing 40 yards as a receiver. And immediately following a brutal fumble by Wilson deep in Seattle's own territory, receiver Brandin Cooks raced around the edge on a fly sweep for a nine-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 36-24 with less than six minutes left on the game clock.
Reading the same movie script as last week versus the Chargers, Wilson and the Seahawks wouldn't go away. Facing a 12-point deficit while still possessing all three timeouts, the franchise quarterback exhibited short-term memory and swiftly drove his team down the field in under four minutes, capping off a 12-play drive with a short touchdown pass to running back Mike Davis.
Unlike the rest of the game, Seattle's defense found a way to get a crucial stop, partially aided by a bobbled fly sweep on first down and false start on Rams tackle Andrew Whitworth a few plays later. Wilson would indeed get another shot at pulling off the comeback, hoping to finish what he couldn't one week prior when his pass attempt bounced off of the hands of receiver David Moore on a final untimed down.
But as has become a far too familiar scene in 2018, the Seahawks simply couldn't seal the deal in a close game.
Needing to drive 75 yards with 1:24 left on the clock, Wilson connected with Tyler Lockett on a crossing route for a 29-yard gain past midfield. After an 11-yard scramble, he clocked the football at the Rams 35-yard line with 37 seconds remaining.
Momentum stalled quickly, however, as Wilson misfired on two throws to Moore and tight end Nick Vannett on second and third down. With the game on the line on fourth down, he escaped the initial pass rush but airmailed a wide-open Tyler Lockett along the sideline, finalizing yet another gut-wrenching loss for the Seahawks.
Seattle has now lost five out of six games this season decided by seven or less points, an undesirable development for a team that only two weeks ago looked primed to make a run for a playoff spot.
Now sitting at 4-5, Carroll's team will likely have to win six of their final seven games to have a shot at a wild card. Despite the two difficult losses so far in November, he remains upbeat about his team's chances heading into the final seven games.
"We have a lot of games at home coming up, we have all kinds of opportunities, we gotta bring this thing together a little tighter." Carroll said enthusiastically. "We gotta do the things that we've been doing the fight that we've shown, the competitiveness we're all about. It's gonna give us a chance to do something special if we keep hanging and we keep believing."
With the odds stacked against them, the Seahawks have brought the fight each week and put the Chargers and Rams on the brink of defeat in three games. But the NFL is a results-driven business, and as Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells once said, "You are what your record says you are."
If Carroll and his team plan to make a run towards a wild card they'll have to quickly learn how to finish off quality opponents. Thankfully, they'll have another chance to prove themselves in short order, as the Packers will be coming to town on Thursday night in what will serve as a Week 11 playoff elimination game.