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Seahawks fall under .500 with 36-31 loss to the Rams

Russell Wilson was sacked four times in the Seahawks' 36-31 loss to the Rams. (AP)

The second and final meeting of 2018 between the Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams was a lot like the first. It was especially physical, the teams kept trading the lead back and forth, and in the end the Seahawks’ 31 points wasn’t enough against the NFC West leader.

Seahawks’ most painful loss yet | Takeaways | 710 reaction | Photos

The Rams had a key takeaway in the fourth quarter and the Seahawks didn’t, allowing Los Angeles to pull away for a 36-31 win as it outscored Seattle 16-10 in the final frame.

Seattle struck first with a touchdown on an opening drive for the third time in four games, running backs Rashaad Penny (108 yards, one touchdown) and Mike Davis (58 yards) kept the ground game going in Chris Carson’s absence, and the Seahawks led by a point going into the fourth quarter. But the Rams created more pressure on Russell Wilson (176 passing yards, four sacks) than the Seahawks did on Jared Goff (318 passing yards, two sacks), and Los Angeles dominated the battle through the air to improve to 9-1 on the season.

Here’s a quarter-by-quarter look at the 4-5 Seahawks’ loss at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to the Rams.

First quarter

Seahawks 14, Rams 7

The Seahawks went over two years without scoring on their opening drive of a game until they broke the streak Oct. 14 against the Raiders in London. Those problems are long gone. On Sunday, they scored a touchdown in their first offensive series for the third time in four games.

Seattle needed only one completed pass to find the end zone, the final play of the drive being an 8-yard reception by tight end Nick Vannett for his second touchdown in as many games.

Even with starting running back Chris Carson and guard D.J. Fluker out due to injury, the Seahawks established the run to get on the scoreboard first. Mike Davis, filling in for Carson, had 25 yards on four carries, including a long of 12, while wide receiver Tyler Lockett spun out of trouble in the backfield on a reverse then made a few more nifty moves to pick up 18. Lockett was also facemasked on the run, tacking on an additional 14 yards to put the Seahawks in the red zone. Three plays later, quarterback Russell Wilson found Vannett to put Seattle ahead 7-0 against one of two teams in the NFL that entered Sunday with eight wins.

The Rams have eight wins for a reason, though, and that was on display on their opening drive. In 10 plays and 4:35 of game time, the Rams covered 86 yards to score a touchdown of their own and signal that a shootout similar to their 33-31 win in Seattle on Oct. 7 could be shaping up. Los Angeles never even faced third down on the series, with a 20-yard pass from Jared Goff to Todd Gurley setting up a 10-yard TD pass to Gerald Everett.

The Seahawks went right back to work on the ground when they got the ball back, and first-round draft pick Rashaad Penny put together his best series of what so far has been a disappointing rookie season. Back in Southern California, the San Diego State product took the ball twice on the drive, first rushing for 38 yards to get Seattle into Rams territory, then showing a nice cutback to go 18 yards for his first NFL touchdown. With Penny leading the way, the Seahawks took just five plays to cover 75 yards and score.

SEA – Nick Vannett 8 pass from Russell Wilson (Sebastian Janikowski kick), 11:23
LAR – Gerald Everett 10 pass (Greg Zuerlein kick), 6:41
SEA – Rashaad Penny 18 run (Janikowski kick), 3:42

 

Second quarter

Rams 17, Seahawks 14

The story of the first quarter was offense, and it left the Seahawks with the upper hand. The second quarter was more about defense, and that allowed the Rams to move into the lead as they shut out Seattle for the frame.

The Rams connected on a field goal early in the second quarter and Seattle’s offense had its first stumble of the day, going three and out on the following drive after reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald sacked Wilson for a loss of 8 on third down. That put some pressure on the Seahawks’ defense, and luckily for Seattle it was up to the challenge.

On third-and-7 at the Seahawks 43, defensive end Quinton Jefferson got to Rams QB Jared Goff for a huge sack, forcing the Rams to call on Bothell High School alum Johnny Hekker to punt for the first time in the game.

Los Angeles continued to have success with its pass rush, however, with Donald once again sacking Russell Wilson to force a second straight three and out. The Rams took that momentum and turned it into a touchdown drive capped off by a 17-yard run by Todd Gurley that saw him get all kinds of blocking help along the way.

Note: After a stellar showing in the first quarter, Penny was rested early in the second quarter. Jen Mueller reported on the 710 ESPN Seattle broadcast of the game that Penny was dealing with lingering effects from an illness, so the Seahawks were being cautious with his playing time.

LAR – Zuerlein 35 FG, 14:53
LAR – Todd Gurley 17 run (Zuerlein kick), 2:48

Third quarter

Seahawks 21, Rams 20

A pivotal play opened the door for the Seahawks to re-take the lead late in the third quarter, but it nearly gave the Rams the opportunity to take a two-score advantage.

With the Rams ahead 20-14 and Seattle opening a drive from its own 25, Los Angeles put some heavy pressure on Russell Wilson. That forced the Seahawks quarterback into an ill-advised throw under duress that Rams cornerback Marcus Peters dove to intercept – except the former UW Husky was flagged for defensive holding earlier on the play. So instead of the Rams getting the ball deep in Seahawks territory, Seattle received a first down at the 30-yard line.

Rashaad Penny had a 24-yard run a few plays later to the L.A. 25, but an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Germain Ifedi enforced after the play pushed Seattle all the way back to the Rams’ 49. An unsportsmanlike conduct call came four plays later on the Rams’ Dante Fowler, though, giving Seattle a first down at the 26. Two plays after that, Wilson and Tyler Lockett connected for a 23-yard touchdown, and Sebastian Janikowski’s PAT put the Seahawks back ahead 21-20.

On L.A.’s next drive, the Seahawks’ defense put itself in a good spot, getting the Rams to third-and-15 at their own 46. But Jared Goff found wide receiver Robert Woods in the middle of the field for a gain of 35, getting Los Angeles exactly where it needed to be to make a run at getting the lead back as the quarter came to a close – something it pulled off not long after the final quarter started.

The Rams opened the third with Greg Zuerlein’s second field goal of the day.

LAR – Zuerlein 37 FG, 9:44
SEA – Tyler Lockett 23 pass from Wilson (Janikowski kick), 4:20

Fourth quarter

Rams 36, Seahawks 31

The Rams didn’t waste time going back ahead, with Goff hitting Tyler Higbee from 10 yards out for a touchdown that gave Los Angeles a 26-21 lead. Seattle got to Gurley on a two-point conversion try, though, meaning a touchdown alone would put the Seahawks in the lead.

Seattle wouldn’t be as fortunate, at least not immediately. Wilson scrambled for runs of 11 and 21, and a 15-yard pass to Doug Baldwin along with a roughing the passer call on Ndamukong Suh put the Seahawks in the red zone. But on third-and-5 from the 8, Wilson had the unenviable distinction of being sacked by Suh and Donald, and the Seahawks had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Janikowski that cut L.A.’s lead to just two.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Seahawks attempted to catch the Rams sleeping by having Janikowski try an onside kick, but the Rams jumped on the ball, giving them advantageous field position with about 10 minutes to go.

Seattle’s defense nearly had a game-changing play on second down at its 9, but a deflected Goss pass hit the ground just before Seahawks DT Jarren Reed could catch it. Instead, the Rams turned to Zuerlein for a 20-yard field goal that made it 29-24 Los Angeles.

That interception would have helped the Seahawks out immensely, especially because the Rams were able to strip Wilson of the ball on Seattle’s next drive, giving L.A. the ball at the Seahawks’ 9. The very next play was a 9-yard touchdown run by Cooks that took a big chunk out of Seattle’s hopes of climbing back over .500.

Not that the Seahawks went away, though. Just inside the two-minute warning, Davis caught a 3-yard pass from Wilson that once again brought Seattle to within five points of the Rams. And after a squib dropkick by punter Michael Dickson on the kickoff, the Seahawks’ defense came up with a three-and-out while Pete Carroll used all three of Seattle’s timeouts to get the Hawks the ball back at their own 25 with 1:24 remaining.

The Seahawks got into Rams territory one last time with a huge 29-yard pass to Lockett, but they stalled out on downs at the 35.

Note: Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, former Eastern Washington University star and Yakima native, left the game with a left knee injury. He also came out of the previous Seahawks-Rams game in October due to a concussion.

LAR – Tyler Higbee 10 pass from Goff (run failed), 14:54
SEA – Janikowski 33 FG, 9:52
LAR – Zuerlein 20 FG, 7:39
LAR – Brandin Cooks 9 run (Zuerlein kick), 5:49
SEA – Mike Davis 3 pass from Wilson (Janikowski kick), 1:56