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Seahawks’ offense stifled as season ends with 30-20 playoff loss to Rams

The Seahawks went into the playoffs a 12-win team. They’ll go into the offseason a 12-win team, too, after a sorely disappointing upset loss to a division rival.

Rams 30, Seahawks 20: Quick Hits | Instant Reaction | Box score

Strong efforts on defense and special teams weren’t enough to save a flat performance from an offense that scuffled through the last half of the regular season, and the sixth-seeded Los Angeles Rams took down No. 3 seed Seattle 30-20 at Lumen Field on Saturday.

It was the third meeting of the 2020 season between the NFC West’s two playoff teams. The Seahawks had defeated Los Angeles 20-9 just two weeks prior while the Rams won at home 23-16 in November.

The Seahawks’ defense did its part Saturday, holding to the Rams to 13 points through the first third quarters – which is not counting a pick-six by Rams cornerback Darious Williams – but the offense’s inability to avoid third down or succeed when facing it sunk Seattle. The Seahawks were plagued by problems on third down throughout the regular season and it only got worse in the playoffs, with Seattle going 0 for 8 before converting one against the Rams. The Hawks finished the day just 2 for 14 on third down.

Russell Wilson had one of the toughest days of his storied career, as he threw the aforementioned interception returned for a touchdown, was under constant pressure and anchored an offense that seemed frustrated and out of sorts. He was limited to 11-for-27 passing for 174 yards and sacked five times for a loss of 32 yards to end a season in which he started off as the favorite for MVP but clearly fell out of the race later on.

DK Metcalf caught a pair of touchdown passes from Wilson, though the second was late in the fourth quarter when the Rams had a comfortable lead. He led Seattle with 96 yards on five receptions.

Running back Chris Carson had 77 yards on 16 carries and Wilson added 50 yards on four attempts, but the run game was curiously not factored into the Seahawks’ gameplan as much as it seemed it could have been.

Los Angeles running back Cam Akers had 131 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries, helping out a Rams offense that had to switch to Jared Goff at quarterback in the first quarter despite him being just weeks removed from thumb surgery.

Yakima native Cooper Kupp led the Rams with 78 yards receiving on four catches.

Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd each had two sacks for Los Angeles, while Jarran Reed had two of three Seahawks sacks, with All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner getting credit for the other.

Seattle notably lost the turnover battle, which is something head coach Pete Carroll had spotlighted between his team’s Week 17 win over the 49ers and this game, noting that the Hawks were 12-0 in games they were either even or plus in turnover differential. The Seahawks had no takeaways and committed both an interception and lost fumble.

It’s going to be an interesting offseason for the Seahawks, to say the least, after an offense that was among the NFL’s best in the first half of the year fell apart down the stretch while a defense that was the NFL’s worst in the first half came to life after Week 9.

Here’s a quarter-by-quarter look at the Seahawks’ playoff loss.

First quarter

Rams 3, Seahawks 0

The big question coming into the game was who the Rams would play at quarterback. Goff suffered a thumb injury in the Dec. 27 game in Seattle that required surgery, so Los Angeles had to turn to John Wolford to make his NFL debut in Goff’s place in Week 17.

Goff did not the get the start Saturday, but he was quickly called into action anyways.

During the Rams’ second drive, Seahawks safety Jamal Adams’ shoulder collided with Wolford’s head as he dove forward on a run, resulting in Wolford leaving the game to get checked out for head and neck injuries. (In the second quarter it was revealed that Wolford had gone to the hospital as a precaution for a potential neck injury.) Goff took over, and while he didn’t do much on that drive, Los Angeles was close enough for a 40-yard Matt Gay field goal to open the scoring.

Akers (nine rushes, 46 yards) and wide receiver Kupp (two catches, 28 yards) were key for LA in the first quarter as it took the lead.

The Seahawks’ offense, meanwhile, did not have a banner first quarter, though it did end the frame on a positive note.

After going three-and-out on its first drive, the offense committed back-to-back penalties and gave up two sacks on its second, putting itself at risk of a safety before punting away. Seattle’s defense responded with a three-and-out of its own, though, and Tyler Lockett made an amazing one-handed catch while being interfered with for a 24-yard gain just before the end of the quarter.

Injury note: Seahawks cornerback D.J. Reed missed one play with a shoulder injury.

LAR – Matt Gay 40 FG, 3:56

Second quarter

Rams 20, Seahawks 10

There were a few highs for the Seahawks in the first half, but they were certainly outnumbered by the lows.

Though it looked like the game was going to be a kicker battle with Seattle’s Jason Myers and the Rams’ Matt Gay trading field goals to make it 6-3 Los Angeles, a whole lot of action broke out over the rest of the second quarter. The majority of it helped the Rams.

For the third time in as many games against the Seahawks this season, Rams cornerback Darious Williams intercepted Seattle’s Wilson. This one particularly hurt the Hawks, as Williams returned the ball 42 yards for a touchdown after taking advantage of a some miscommunication between Seahawks receivers DK Metcalf and Freddie Swain.

Metcalf at least had an answer just a few plays later, getting behind the Rams’ defense for a 51-yard touchdown catch as Wilson aired it out for the first time in what seemed like weeks. That cut Los Angeles’ lead back to three points, 13-10.

Despite that big play, the Seahawks couldn’t take control of the game.

A short pass from Goff to Akers on third-and-9 resulted in a 44-yard gain, and Akers kept the pressure on with a 20-yard run to get the Rams in the red zone. Encroachment was then called on Seattle defensive tackle Poona Ford and Akers finished the drive off with a 5-yard touchdown run, making it 20-10 inside of the two-minute warning.

Seattle went three-and-out after Akers’ touchdown, giving the Rams a chance to build on its lead just before halftime. And though the Seahawks were able to stop Los Angeles going into the break, it came at a potentially costly price as All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner had to head to the locker room with an apparent leg injury (he returned after halftime).

SEA – Jason Myers 50 FG, 10:34
LAR – Gay 39 FG, 7:54
LAR – Darious Williams 42 interception return (Gay kick), 6:46
SEA –  DK Metcalf 51 pass from Russell Wilson (Myers kick), 3:43
LAR – Cam Akers 5 run (Gay kick), 1:57

Third quarter

Rams 20, Seahawks 13

The Seahawks’ defense and special teams did what they could to keep the door cracked for a Seattle comeback. The Hawks were still waiting on the offense to kick that door down after the third quarter.

Though Myers kicked a 52-yard field goal early in the second half, that was largely the result of D.J. Reed’s 58-yard kick return that allowed the Seahawks to start the drive in Los Angeles territory. The Rams, meanwhile, managed just one first down in their first three series of the half as Seattle’s defense wasn’t budging.

It wasn’t until inside the final four minutes of the third quarter that the Seahawks converted a third down for a first time all day, with a 3-yard Carlos Hyde run on third-and-1 doing the trick. That made Seattle 1 for 9 on third down to that point. The Hawks couldn’t do anything with it, however, as they followed up with several penalties and a pair of plays where Russell Wilson was nearly picked off, and Seattle eventually had to punt away on fourth-and-24.

Notable in the Seahawks’ third quarter is that they were unable to put points on the board after dominant Rams defensive end Aaron Donald went to the locker room with a midsection injury. He was deemed questionable to return.

SEA – Myers 52 FG, 13:50

Fourth quarter

Rams 30, Seahawks 20

Not long into the final quarter, the Rams tacked on a field goal to ensure that if the Seahawks were going to save their season, they would need at least two scores to do it. But they didn’t stop there.

Seattle continued to be frustrated on offense and the rest of the team tried to make up for it, and Reed tried to get too cute on a punt return and fumbled it away to Los Angeles. Jared Goff was able to find Robert Woods for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 4:46 left, essentially putting the Rams’ lead out of reach 30-13.

The Seahawks responded with their best drive of the day, but a second TD pass from Wilson to Metcalf was too little too late, especially since Los Angeles recovered the pooch kick attempt.

LAR – Gay 36 FG, 11:37
LAR – Robert Woods 15 pass from Jared Goff (Gay kick), 4:46
SEA – Metcalf 12 pass from Wilson (Myers kick), 2:28

O’Neil: Rather than typical comeback, Seahawks collapse in playoffs