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What we learned from Seahawks’ win over St. Louis

How the Seahawks allowed 200 rushing yards is one unanswered question from their win over St. Louis. (AP)

By Danny O’Neil

Three things we learned:

1. Preventing turnovers comes at a cost.

The Seahawks didn’t turn the ball over for the first time this season, a real sign of progress after quarterback Russell Wilson lost two fumbles inside his own 20 in Week 7 against Arizona. Wilson made protecting the ball a priority in St. Louis not by trying to avoid the pressure, but making sure he didn’t try to do too much when the defense closed in.

“My quarterback coach and I just talked about all week, if it’s not there, you just have to surrender,” Wilson said.

That came at a cost. Not only was Wilson sacked seven times – the most in his career – but he didn’t extend plays with his escape artistry as we saw through the first seven games.

2. The Rams pose a uniquely terrible matchup for Seattle.

The Seahawks have faced St. Louis three times since Jeff Fisher took over as the Rams’ head coach. The Seahawks have yet to score more than 20 points in those games, and not only that, but St. Louis’ defensive line has been a nightmare for Seattle.

The Rams sacked Wilson six times in the regular-season finale last year, three by defensive end Chris Long. The Rams had seven sacks on Monday, getting three apiece from Long and their other defensive end, Robert Quinn.

This isn’t to excuse Seattle’s struggle in pass protection, but to put it in perspective. St. Louis has a history of giving the Seahawks some difficulty. In the last three meetings between these teams, neither side has managed more than 20 points in a game.

3. Seattle needs to reaffirm the identity of its offense.

A week ago, it was possible to laugh at the fact that running back Marshawn Lynch extended a middle finger in the direction of Seattle’s sideline after the Seahawks called a play-action pass at the goal line.

After he carried eight times in Seattle’s victory and finished with the third-fewest yards of any game since joining the Seahawks, coach Pete Carroll sat next to Lynch on the flight back from St. Louis to talk things through.

Seattle has never made any secret about the intention of being a run-oriented offense, and Lynch in many ways embodies its personality. After Seattle finishing with its worst offensive performance in four years, the Seahawks need to re-establish their identity on offense, and that starts with Lynch.

Three things we’re still trying to figure out:

1. How did the Rams’ ground game ran up 200 yards on the Seahawks?

Of all the problems Seattle ran into in St. Louis – from the penalties to the issues in pass protection – it was the inability to stop the Rams’ rushing attack that bordered on inexplicable.

Seattle had given up 96 yards rushing in its previous two games combined, yet the Rams ran for 97 yards in the first half alone. The Rams’ rushing offense ranked No. 29 in the league entering the game, yet St. Louis became the first team in three years to run for 200 yards against Seattle. It was the first time in five years the Rams had rushed for 200 yards in a game.

The Seahawks themselves were still trying to figure out just how that happened.

“We pride ourselves in stopping the run,” defensive end Red Bryant said, “and I can’t wait to watch the tape so I can see what it was they saw on tape to be able to run the ball effectively on us.”

2. Is Jermaine Kearse ready for a larger role?

Kearse is going to have that opportunity with receiver Sidney Rice out for the year because of a knee injury. Kearse is the biggest target still on Seattle’s roster, and there were plenty who thought he was ready to take a bigger role after he caught five passes over the first five weeks, two of them for touchdowns of more than 20 yards.

He was targeted twice in St. Louis, neither resulting in a completion. The first drew a flag for defensive pass interference that was picked up when the officials ruled the ball uncatchable, but that didn’t change the reality that Kearse failed to fight through the opponent’s attempt to jam him. The second was a quick slant he failed to catch.

Kearse has an opportunity for a larger role these next few weeks, but he’s got to grab onto it – preferably with both hands – and hold onto it.

3. Is the Seahawks’ read option declining in effectiveness?

Sure looked like it during Seattle’s sole red-zone possession of the first half. Wilson kept it on back-to-back plays on the goal line, pulling the ball out of Lynch’s belly and running toward the edge.

In both instances, Wilson read the defensive front correctly, but failed to diagnose how the linebackers were defending the play. He took two significant hits for a net loss of 1 yard. It was reminiscent of that third-down run in Indianapolis when linebacker Jerrell Freeman made a crushing tackle to force a punt.

Wilson did have a 17-yard run on an option keeper in St. Louis, but halfway through this season, his most effective runs have come when he scrambled off a pass play and not off the read option as opponents have become better at snuffing it out.