By Eric D. Williams The News Tribune
ST. LOUIS — A visibly irritated Red Bryant lingered in the locker room, one of the last Seattle players to make his way to the bus after a head-scratching, 19-13 loss to the St. Louis Rams Sunday afternoon at the Edward Jones Dome.
Even though Seattle’s defense did not give up a touchdown, special teams gaffes, three critical turnovers and ill-timed penalties led to a second game in four weeks that slipped away to an NFC West division rival.
The Seahawks now sit tied with the Rams at 2-2 in the standings, a game behind San Francisco (3-1) and two games behind division leader Arizona (4-0).
But with expectations of making a deep playoff run, Bryant knows each game is precious.
“It’s very frustrating because of what our goals are,” Bryant said. “We’re trying to go far in the playoffs. We feel like we’ve got a good team to do that. But we’ve got to win these types of games — bottom line.”
Seattle controlled the game in the trenches, rushing for 182 yards on offense and holding St. Louis to 75 rushing yards.
“I still think we played a good enough game to win the game,” Seattle safety Earl Thomas said. “We controlled what we can control.”
But the Seahawks failed miserably in executing the little things once again.
Quarterback Russell Wilson looked like a rookie third-round pick, throwing three interceptions, including one on the final drive of the game in St. Louis territory when tight end Anthony McCoy slipped on an out route.
The Seahawks finished with three personal fouls — two by offensive tackle Breno Giacomini that stalled drives.
But the most critical mistake came on special teams.
With just over a minute left in the opening half, Seattle’s defense forced the Rams to attempt a 30-yard field goal by rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein.
But St. Louis faked it, with punter Johnny Hekker standing up and hitting receiver Danny Amendola for an easy, 2-yard touchdown pass.
Amendola had stayed out on the field after his offense’s unsuccessful play on third down, sneaking over and lining up on the ball near the Rams’ sideline — which is allowed according to league rules.
And Seattle’s field goal defensive unit did not account for him. Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said he tried to call a time out, but did not get the officials’ attention before the Rams got the play off.
The officials initially threw a flag on the play, but picked it up once they realized that Amendola had not left the field.
“We’re supposed to see it,” Carroll said. “We talk about it all the time. We just missed it. And they did a great job of getting it off.”
The play put St. Louis ahead for good, 10-7. The Rams added a 48-yard, Zuerlein field goal just before the half after forcing Seattle to punt with 40 seconds left.
Zuerlein also impressively drilled long field goals from 60 and 58 yards, and the St. Louis defense made the points stand.
While Seattle’s offense moved the ball well between the 20-yard lines, the Seahawks once again settled for field goals in the red zone.
The Seahawks also struggled to convert on third down on offense, finishing 2-of-9 for the game on the critical down. Seattle finished 1-of-3 inside the red zone, settling for Steven Hauschka 31- and 30-yard field goals in the second half.
“It’s hugely frustrating,” Seattle tight end Zach Miller said. “In a tight game like this, that’s what it comes down to. If we score touchdowns in the red zone, it’s a different ball game.”
Said Carroll: “That’s just not good enough. We’ve got to get better and convert.”
While the defense played good enough to win, the Seahawks have to play better in all three phases — offense, defense and special teams — to realize their goal of being a playoff contender.
“We expected to leave here with a W,” Bryant said. “I give a lot of credit to the Rams from preventing us from that. We’ve got a long flight home. We’ll look at the tape and see what the adjustments are we need to make. And just like we had to put the win behind us in Green Bay, we’ve got to put this loss behind us and press on.
“We’re frustrated, but we’re not discouraged.”