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Takeaways: Rashaad Penny has big day, but Seahawks’ D struggles in LA

Seahawks rookie RB Rashaad Penny scored the first touchdown of his career in Week 10. (AP)

The Seahawks weren’t expected to win their Week 10 game against the Rams – they were nine-point underdogs by gametime – and no matter how promising their performance was, their 36-31 loss Sunday to Los Angeles gives them even less room for error as they work to return to the postseason.

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

Still, as a team that had depth questions heading into the season and was already short a starting right guard and running back, the Seahawks were able to execute the same game plan they’ve been running since Week 3. And for all the criticism that style has drawn, Seattle had a chance to beat the Rams in the final seconds.

Here are three takeaways from the Seahawks’ loss to the Rams.

Welcome to the NFL, Rashaad Penny

Pete Carroll has fielded questions all year about Seattle’s first-round pick, and most concerned Penny’s lack of involvement in the offense. Despite being just the second first-round pick by the Seahawks in five years and a player who was drafted with Seattle’s revamped run game in mind, Penny had played just 42 offensive snaps since Sept. 23.

Whether it was a result of Chris Carson’s absence due to a hip injury, the right opportunities in the game, or a growing understanding of the offense, Penny had a breakout performance in Week 10.

Penny finished the night with 108 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. He recorded his first NFL touchdown and his first 100-yard game, and he also became the third Seahawks running back to record 100 or more yards in a game this season (joining Carson and Mike Davis).

Seattle finished the night with 273 rushing yards, its highest rushing total of the season since Week 5.

Carving up the Seahawks’ D

Despite losing several veteran starters from a season ago, it was the Seahawks’ defense that carried this team through the first few weeks of 2018. Before Earl Thomas suffered a season-ending injury, he and Bradley McDougald were the most effective safety tandem in the league. Through Week 8, Seattle was second in turnover differential.

The Rams amassed over 400 yards against the defense in Seattle earlier this year, though, and did the same on Sunday, finishing with 456 net yards and 36 points.

It was Seattle’s second consecutive game without a turnover forced, though defensive tackle Jarran Reed came close to intercepting a tipped pass from Jared Goff in the red zone.

Rams running back Todd Gurley finished with 120 yards and a touchdown, while receiver Brandin Cooks was targeted 12 times for 100 yards through the air.

Despite their loss to the Saints last week, the 9-1 Rams still boast the league’s most prolific offense, so the Seattle defense had their hands full Sunday.

Carroll said he still wants to see more consistency, though.

“We need more consistency throughout the game,” Carroll said. “We needed to knock some of those plays down, just play a little bit better on the outside there.”

Safety Delano Hill was injured in the first quarter and forced out of the game, but Carroll said he’s “OK.” Starting safety McDougald was sitting out with a knee injury but was called to fill in for Hill. Carroll said McDougald “came out of the game well” and has a chance to play on Thursday against Green Bay.

A look ahead

The Seahawks will need to shake off the loss and move forward on a short week.

Seattle will face the Packers (4-4-1) at CenturyLink Field on Thursday night. The Packers are in third place in the NFC North and will likely be among those vying for a wild-card spot in December. A loss against the Rams Sunday all but cements what was already Los Angeles’ strong hold on the NFC West. But a win over the Packers Thursday could give Seattle an important tie-breaker – and a loss could prove all the more costly for that same reason.