By John Boyle Herald Writer
ST. LOUIS — In recent years, even as they floundered through road loss after road loss, the Seattle Seahawks could at least count on a victory in their annual trip to St. Louis.
On Sunday, however, even the Edward Jones Dome became the scene of a Seahawks road whipping as the Rams handed Seattle a 20-3 defeat. The loss ended a 10-game winning streak for the Seahawks over St. Louis, and it came in the building that was home to two of Seattle’s three road wins over the past two seasons.
So much for the Seahawks’ plan to take their game with them on the road.
“We had a big objective of getting our play right on the road as we talked about during the week, and we missed the opportunity,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
And that wasn’t all the Seahawks missed. In addition to a chance to show they can play well on the road, the Seahawks also lost an opportunity to seize early control of the division. San Francisco, the preseason favorite in the NFC West, fell to 0-4 with a loss in Atlanta, while Arizona was blown out in San Diego to fall to 2-2. But instead of improving to 3-1 heading into a bye week, the Seahawks lost to the Rams, who are now also 2-2, creating a three-way tie atop the division.
“We came into this weekend looking at a real good opportunity to go into the bye week, get a break, and be in first place in our division,” Carroll said. “To do that we had to get through the Rams.”
The problem was that, on this day, Seattle would have had trouble going through just about anything, never mind the stingy Rams defense.
The Seahawks fell behind 7-0 when Sam Bradford hit former Washington State standout Brandon Gibson with a 15-yard touchdown pass, capping a 90-yard drive. The Seahawks answered with an 81-yard drive that resulted in a field goal, but that would pretty much be the extent of their offense production. Seattle had 257 total yards of offense in the game, 174 of which came in the first half. In the second half, Seattle had just four first downs and failed to get the ball across midfield on eight possessions.
Defensively the Seahawks were better, but not good enough to make up for a stagnant offense. Seattle held the Rams to 349 yards, a respectable total, and managed four sacks. But a few big plays along with a lack of forced turnovers made it impossible for the defense to cover for the struggling offense. Last week the defense, which forced four turnovers, and special teams, which forced another and produced two kickoff returns for touchdowns, was enough for a win despite a sub-par performance from the offense. That wasn’t the case on Sunday.
“They were able to dictate the game, that was the sad part,” said safety Lawyer Milloy, who had six tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack. “We have to get more balance as a team, especially on the road. Obviously when we go home, we have our 12th man with us, but we have to bring that energy here on the road with us. The bye week will be big with us. We’re 2-2, it’s very early in the season still, but we have to figure this road thing out early. We can’t be two different teams.”
The Seahawks had a chance to cut into St. Louis’ 7-3 lead late in the first half, but after lining up for a 51-yard field goal attempt, the Seahawks went with a fake that ended in holder Jon Ryan being tackled for a 9-yard loss. With a short field, the Rams were able to tack on a field goal for a 10-3 halftime lead and potential six-point swing.
“We had an opportunity to do it,” Carroll said of the fake. “We had a look that we liked, so went after it. They did a nice job, they adjusted a little bit.”
Seattle opened the second half at the 42-yard line, but went three and out. St. Louis quickly extended its lead thanks in large part to a pair of screen passes that gained 70 yards. The first was a 49-yard catch and run by gimpy running back Steven Jackson, who was fighting through a groin injury. On the second screen, Jackson’s backup, Kenneth Darby, scored from 21 yards out. Down 17-3, the Seahawks punted on five straight possessions, breaking that streak when Matt Hasselbeck fumbled on a sack.
“This season is divided into half of the games at home and half of the games on the road, and we have to get our game right were can take it out and play well and execute,” Carroll said. “… Our execution wasn’t good enough to get us the kind of movement that we needed.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do. We need the bye desperately, we need to get work done this next week, we need to get a couple of guys healed, and we need to get better.”
The Rams, led by rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, who passed for 289 yards in the best game of his young career, now are a team to be taken seriously in the wide-open NFC West. The way the Seahawks played on this day, however, the opponent may not have mattered.
“This is the NFL,” said Hasselbeck, who completed 20 of 36 passes for 191 yards and an interception. “You’ve got to play your best or you’re going to lose to anybody. The way it went for us today, we would have lost to just about anybody.”