SEATTLE — In a game brimming with implications both for the playoffs and the future hierarchy of the NFC West, the Seattle Seahawks desired a statement win Sunday afternoon against the up-and-coming Los Angeles Rams.
Instead, Seattle found itself on the wrong end of a 42-7 dismantling, leaving the Seahawks reeling and their postseason hopes dimming.
“We’ve not seen us play like that and seen that kind of result,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “So it’s on all of us to hold ourselves accountable. I give (Los Angeles) a lot of credit. This was an opportunity for us to match up for first place, and they were obviously on it and we weren’t.”
The 35-point loss was the worst of Carroll’s seven-plus seasons in Seattle. The second-worst defeat was a 41-7 loss to the New York Giants during Carroll’s first year with Seattle in Week 9 of the 2010 season.
“I wasn’t happy with anything,” Carroll said. “There was nothing about that game. We avoided getting shut out. We scored a touchdown. No, there was nothing to be happy about. That was a really dismal performance by us.”
The loss Sunday delivered a serious blow to Seattle’s hopes of extending its playoff streak to six consecutive seasons. The Seahawks (8-6) are tied with Detroit, and depending on Atlanta’s Monday night result, could be tied or a game behind the Falcons for the NFC’s sixth and final playoff spot heading into Week 16.
Atlanta owns a head-to-head tiebreaker with Seattle, and a three-way tie with the Falcons, Seahawks and Detroit Lions would be decided by conference records. Despite the loss to Los Angeles, Seattle isn’t completely eliminated from NFC West contention. The Seahawks would need to win their final two games, have the Rams lose their final two and finish with a better division record.
But Seattle hardly resembled a team poised for the postseason.
The offense proved ineffective, Rams running back Todd Gurley’s gashed the defense time and time again, and poor special-teams play consistently gave the Rams short fields to navigate.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, who was sacked seven times, completed 14-of-30 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown. His 39 rushing yards led a dismal Seattle run game that couldn’t get going against Aaron Donald and Los Angeles’ physical defensive front. J.D. McKissic led Seattle’s running backs with 20 yards on six carries, and Mike Davis added 19 yards on six rushes.
Seattle trailed Los Angeles 13-0 by the end of the first quarter and found itself behind 34-0 at halftime, forcing the Seahawks to throw to catch up. For the game, Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham combined for two catches for 5 yards on seven targets. McKissic led all Seahawks receivers with 38 yards on three receptions.
Seattle’s only score came on a third-quarter, 26-yard touchdown strike from Wilson to tight end Luke Willson.
“In terms of where we have to get better on offense, I don’t really know where to start yet,” Wilson said. “I think I have to watch the film and kind of go from there. We were behind the eight ball the whole first half.”
Conversely, with Pro Bowlers Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and K.J. Wright out and a limited Bobby Wagner at middle linebacker (he played Sunday with a bad hamstring), Seattle’s defense had no answer for the Rams’ run game.
Gurley racked up 152 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. He also caught a second-half touchdown pass.
“We tackled poorly,” Carroll said. “There was a play there where we missed three tackles in a row. Sometimes we play a game and don’t miss three tackles in the whole game. We didn’t handle Todd Gurley very well. He was on fire.”
Seattle’s struggles started early.
A Tanner McEvoy fumble on the game’s third play set up the Rams’ first score. McEvoy caught a 19-yard pass over the middle, but was stripped by LaMarcus Joyner. Alec Ogletree fell on the ball, and five plays later, Greg Zuerlein drilled a 36-yard field goal, giving Los Angeles a 3-0 lead with 12:06 to play in the first quarter.
The turnover prompted an avalanche of miscues that plagued Seattle all afternoon.
Zuerlein pushed the Los Angeles lead to 6-0 minutes later with a 31-yarder before Rams return specialist Pharoh Cooper set up LA’s first touchdown.
Cooper weaved through the Seahawks’ punt coverage before Neiko Thorpe tackled him just short of the end zone. Gurley cashed in the next play with a 1-yard score, giving Los Angeles a 13-0 lead with 5:57 to play in the first period.
Midway through the second quarter, Cooper gave the Rams prime field position once more with a 26-yard punt return to the Seahawks 36. Five plays later, Gurley extended the Los Angeles lead to 20-0 with another 1-yard TD run through the heart of Seattle’s goal-line defense.
After a fumble by Wilson during Seattle’s ensuing drive, Rams quarterback Jared Goff threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods, who was wide open in the left flat. The score put Seattle in a 27-0 hole.
Gurley punctuated a dominant first half with a 57-yard touchdown run on a third-and-20. Gurley ran off tackle to his left and sprinted untouched into the end zone, putting the Rams in front 34-0. The run gave Gurley 144 first-half rushing yards and three TDs.
“It’s always tough to swallow when you lose, but you can’t lose sight of the positive you brought to the game, the positive your position group brought to the game,” safety Earl Thomas said. “When they’re running crazy on us like that, it’s no fun at all. When they’re celebrating and stuff, that’s not what we’re use to.”
Gurley and the Rams continued piling on after halftime. The Los Angeles back caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Goff to extend the Rams lead to 40-0 with 7:04 to play in the third quarter.
The Seahawks earned a meager moral victory by avoiding a shutout when Wilson found Willson running down the seam for a 26-yard touchdown strike that trimmed Seattle’s deficit to 40-7 with 1:28 to play in the third.
“We weren’t right in any phases,” Baldwin said. “That is a good team we just played. However, all that being said, we didn’t play our best football. We didn’t put our best foot forward from the jump, so we didn’t give ourselves a chance.”