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Seahawks winning, but nearing breaking point up front


By Danny O’Neil

ST. LOUIS – It’s a good thing that all wins look the same in the standings.

That means no one has to take a closer look at Seattle’s 14-9 victory in St. Louis on Monday night, a game in which the Seahawks were outgained by 200 yards, surrendered seven sacks and had one play account for half their points and nearly two-thirds of their total offense.

It’s OK, Seattle. Exhale. The Seahawks survived, suffering some bumps and bruises, a few blows to the pride but no lasting damage to their record.

Russell Wilson was sacked seven more times Monday night, bringing his total to 19 over the last five games. (AP)

“It was a very difficult night to watch the Seahawks,” coach Pete Carroll said. “But we’re proud to get out of here with a win.”

And while the result may have been the only thing worth remembering for Seattle on Monday night, it wasn’t the only thing that mattered. Not if you’re trying to look past the rudimentary accounting of wins and losses to understand the trajectory of this Seahawks’ season.

There’s getting to be a pretty significant pile of evidence that Seattle is facing a problem up front, one that has compromised its identity on offense and could threaten the season.

Quarterback Russell Wilson isn’t just getting hit too much, it appears he’s getting hit more often. Opponents are becoming more accustomed to defending him when he keeps it on option runs as evidenced by the back-to-back tackles in the red zone in the first half. The pass pressure keeps coming, and St. Louis’ total of seven sacks was the second most an opponent has had since Carroll became Seattle’s coach.

The pass-protection problems have been evident for more than a month now, though. On Monday in St. Louis, the run blocking was just as bad. Marshawn Lynch carried the ball eight times for 23 yards, the third-fewest he has had in any game as a Seahawk.

Seattle is still missing offensive tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini, and while both are expected back, each is at least a few weeks away. In the meantime, the Seahawks should be showing more progress than we’ve seen up front.

Even Seattle’s one offensive highlight was soiled by a mistake, Golden Tate flagged for taunting after he waved at the Rams’ safety as he ran into the end zone and was nearly cut off before he scored.

About the best thing Carroll could say for his offense?

“We didn’t turn the ball over,” he said, “Had we done it one time, we would have lost.”

There will be plenty of people who will tell you that no win is easy in the NFL, each one is important, and as ugly as Seattle’s victory was in St. Louis, that’s exactly the kind of game that can be the difference in determining home-field advantage in the playoffs.

That’s absolutely true.

“In the league, you’re going to have games like this,” safety Earl Thomas said.

The players were proud of this win, and they should be. The defense refused to give in even after allowing 200 yards rushing, the Seahawks digging their heels in and holding the Rams out of the end zone on five different scoring chances from inside the Seattle 10 in the final minute.

The fact that Seattle won a game in which it gained 135 yards on offense and cost itself 82 yards in penalties is nothing short of remarkable.

“You have to win games like this when you’re not necessarily at your best,” said defensive end and captain Red Bryant. “When you’re not necessarily at the level we wanted to be in, but it was a great win for the football team. We definitely can learn from it.”

Maybe this was the clunker in an otherwise sterling season. And maybe St. Louis is just a terrible matchup for Seattle. The Rams had six sacks in Seattle during last year’s regular-season finale, and they had seven in Monday’s game, including three by Robert Quinn alone.

And maybe this was the Seahawks grinding out the end of an absolutely brutal gauntlet of games in their schedule, playing four road games in the span of five weeks.

“We survived them,” Carroll said. “That’s a major accomplishment in this league, and we’re very proud of that, regardless of how it looks like or how it came to us.”

Exhale, Seattle. The Seahawks survived, and while they didn’t come within an inch of their life, they were a yard from defeat.