DANNY ONEIL

Late fumble ends Seahawks’ comeback bid in 9-3 loss to Rams

Sep 18, 2016, 4:28 PM | Updated: 9:51 pm

Seattle's final drive ended when Christine Michael fumbled at the Rams' 29-yard line with under a m...

Seattle's final drive ended when Christine Michael fumbled at the Rams' 29-yard line with under a minute left. (AP)

(AP)

LOS ANGELES – The game was at the Seahawks’ fingertips, which was absolutely amazing given how the first 59 minutes had gone.

Yet with under a minute remaining, the Seahawks were 29 yards from potentially taking the lead when running back Christine Michael – fighting for extra yards – fumbled the ball away on third down.

That was it.

Rams 9, Seahawks 3.

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It was every bit as ugly as it sounds in the first NFL regular-season game in Los Angeles in 22 years. The Seahawks hadn’t scored so few points in any game since Oct. 23, 2011 when they lost 6-3 in Cleveland.

That was another era of Seahawks football, though. Charlie Whitehurst started at quarterback.

Then again, this was against the Rams, a particularly difficult opponent in the best of circumstances and an absolute nightmare with quarterback Russell Wilson playing on a sprained right ankle.

Predictably enough, the Rams launched every able-bodied 300-pounder they have in the direction of Wilson, though they sacked him only twice.

And while the Seahawks didn’t make any fatal errors, they didn’t do much of anything right, either. They crossed midfield just three times in the game and had driven the ball past their own 39-yard line in the second half only once before their final possession.

Yet in the final 2 minutes, the Seahawks were handed a chance to win. Seattle had the ball at its own 13 with one timeout, and on the first play of the drive, Wilson completed a 53-yard pass to wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who had missed most of the second half with a knee injury.

And just like that, a Seahawks team that had 96 yards of total offense in the second half prior to that completion was in prime position to steal a game. A false-start penalty against tight end Jimmy Graham didn’t help, but with just under a minute left, Seattle was at the Rams’ 35 facing third-and-10 when Wilson dumped the ball to Michael.

Fighting for extra yards, he was hit and fumbled away a game that the Seahawks had no business winning yet came so close to stealing away.

First quarter

The Rams scored on the game’s opening possession, a field-goal drive aided by a facemask penalty against strong safety Kam Chancellor. Case Keenum completed a 17-yard pass to wide receiver Tavon Austin immediately after that penalty against Chancellor to put the Rams in field-goal position. The Seahawks wanted to establish the run, handing off on their first two plays. What happened was the exact opposite of establishing the run. The Seahawks lost 7 yards rushing on six carries in the first quarter. The Seahawks gained 67 yards in the first half, 35 of those coming on a first-down completion to Lockett. That was the key play on Seattle’s drive, which produced a field goal in the first minute of the second quarter.

10:38 – Greg Zuerlein 39-yard field goal. (Drive: 9 plays, 54 yards, 4:22)  Score: Rams 3, Seahawks 0

Second quarter

Remember Lance Kendricks? He’s the tight end who caught that 37-yard touchdown that forced overtime in the Seahawks’ season-opener last year. Apparently that didn’t make enough of an impression on Seattle, which neglected him to cover him on the Rams’ final drive of the first half. He got behind Seattle’s defense, and by the time linebacker Mike Morgan chased him down, he had gained 44 yards and given the Rams a first-and-goal at the Seattle 4. The Seahawks held the Rams out of the end zone, pushing them back on consecutive plays before a third-down incompletion forced Los Angeles to settle for a field goal. Seattle threatened to score in the final minute, getting the ball to the Rams’ 43-yard line with 14 seconds left. But after an incompletion on first down, Wilson was sacked on second down, chased down by defensive end Robert Quinn and stripped of the football. The Seahawks lost the ball, but the half ended on the play.

14:45 – Steven Hauschka 23-yard field goal. (Drive: 14 plays, 76 yards, 7:08). Score: Seahawks 3, Rams 3

1:04 – Greg Zuerlein 28-yard field goal. (Drive: 9 plays, 70 yards, 3:15). Score: Rams 6, Seahawks 3.

Third quarter

The Seahawks were short-handed to start the second half with Lockett questionable because of a knee injury and running back Thomas Rawls sidelined because of a leg injury. That left wide receiver Paul Richardson returning kickoffs for Seattle, cornerback Richard Sherman catching punts and Michael carrying the ball. That last part wasn’t a problem. Michael gained 45 yards on five carries over the Seahawks’ first two drives, but Seattle never got past midfield. The Rams outgained the Seahawks 101 yards to 52 in the third quarter and had the ball at the Seattle 31 when the third quarter ended.

Fourth quarter

Did either team want to win this game? It sure didn’t seem like it. Seattle didn’t get the ball outside of its own 39 in the fourth quarter yet even when the Rams had the ball and a chance to cinch the game, they couldn’t stop committing penalties or throwing unnecessary incompletions. The Seahawks apparently felt obliged to chip in. Defensive end Cassius Marsh was closing in on a third-down sack that would have forced the Rams to punt with more than 3 minutes only to grab Keenum’s facemask, giving the Rams an automatic first down.

14:10 – Greg Zuerlein 47-yard field goal. (Drive: 9 plays, 58 yards, 4:28.) Score: Rams 9, Seahawks 3.

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Late fumble ends Seahawks’ comeback bid in 9-3 loss to Rams