O’Neil: Rather than Seahawks’ typical comeback, season ends with collapse
The fourth quarter is when the Seahawks tend to make their comebacks.
This time they collapsed. Already trailing by 10, Seattle coughed up a fumble with just over seven minutes left and then allowed a wide-open touchdown pass with 4:52 remaining that cinched Seattle’s worst playoff loss in coach Pete Carroll’s tenure: Rams 30, Seahawks 20. And that doesn’t even begin to tell you how awful this one was.
The Rams starting quarterback, John Wolford, was taken to the hospital. He was replaced by Jared Goff, who was 12 days removed from surgery on his thumb and couldn’t throw a spiral. Top it all off by the fact that the single-most dominant defensive player in the league – Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald – was sidelined for most of the second half, and the Seahawks still got dusted.
This one hurt. Not just because it was to a division opponent that Seattle defeated 13 days earlier. Not just because it ended a 10-game home winning streak in the playoffs, dating back to a loss to the Rams in the wild-card round of the 2004 playoffs.
It was most disappointing because this Seattle offense, which started this season at a record-setting pace, skidded through the second half of the year before crashing into a ditch against the Rams on Saturday.
Russell Wilson threw for 174 yards, his second-lowest total in any playoff game. The only time he finished with fewer was that wild-card game at Minnesota in January 2016, the coldest game in franchise history. This was 11-for-27 passing, a completion percentage of 41 being a career-low in the playoffs.
Wilson threw as many scoring passes to Rams players in the first half as he did Seattle players; each side got one. Wilson had a 51-yard scoring throw to DK Metcalf after he scrambled to escape the pass rush that seemed to be non-stop. Wilson also had a wide-receiver screen to Metcalf intercepted by Darius Williams, who returned it 42 yards for a score. That wasn’t Wilson’s fault, though. Something about the formation tipped off Williams, and the blocker never had a chance to slow him before he ran in front of Metcalf to pick off the pass and take it the other way.
That interception was probably the most important play in the game, but it was hardly the only reason the Rams won.
They won because Cam Akers rushed for 155 yards, 97 of which came in the first half, which he capped off with a 5-yard scoring run. They won because they didn’t commit a single turnover while Seattle did. Twice. They won even though Wolford had to be taken to the hospital after a first-quarter hit, forcing Goff into the game just 12 days after undergoing surgery on his broken thumb. He couldn’t consistently throw a spiral, yet he managed to complete a higher percentage of his passes than Wilson and sealed the victory with a throw to a wide-open Robert Woods with just under five minutes to go.
The Rams’ offense hadn’t scored a touchdown in either of its last two regular-season games, which included a 20-9 loss in Seattle. The Rams’ offense scored two in this game.
The Seahawks started slow, but that’s a playoff tradition. They haven’t scored more than 10 points in the first half of any playoff game since the Super Bowl loss to New England in February 2015. They trailed 20-10 at halftime in this game. The Seahawks went three-and-out on each of their first two possessions.
But this time, Seattle couldn’t even summon a closing kick to make it close. Seattle trailed by 10 after Matt Gay’s 36-yard field goal with 11:37 left. The Seahawks were penalized twice on the ensuing possession, including a false start that prevented a fourth-and-1 attempt Seattle was planning to try. The Seahawks held the Rams without a first down on the next possession only to have D.J. Reed lose a fumble on the ensuing punt.
Turns out this team that relies on comebacks so often shortcircuited its chance this game.