DANNY ONEIL

Seahawks must show they’re not as bad as their last loss

Dec 22, 2017, 9:54 AM | Updated: 12:15 pm
Earl Thomas...
Would the Seahawks be willing to trade one of their best players? (AP)
(AP)

The Seahawks played their worst game in years at the biggest moment of the season.

That’s the most charitable interpretation of their 35-point loss to the division-leading Los Angeles Rams last week. It wasn’t a changing of the guard nor was it the end of an era. It was a bad day at the office for a team that just two weeks earlier had defeated one of the best teams in the league in that very same stadium.

Pete Carroll previews Seahawks-Cowboys

For that explanation to have even a whiff of legitimacy, however, the Seahawks must make a more respectable showing on Sunday in Dallas or failing that, actually beat a Cowboys team that has every bit as much to play for as well as a running game potent enough to evoke a cold sweat for anyone even remotely sympathetic to the Seahawks.

Run defense was rendered into an oxymoron in Seattle last week as the single most troubling thing from the abject disaster that was that 42-7 loss to Los Angeles was the Seahawks’ utter inability to stop the run.

The Rams rushed for 244 yards, the most given up by Seattle in seven years. Todd Gurley gained 152 yards on the ground, the most Seattle had allowed to a single player in three years, and when he ran 57 yards without being touched on a third-and-20 play in which the Rams were just trying to run out the clock, well it was quite simply as feeble as Seattle has ever looked under coach Pete Carroll.

Now, that same Seattle defense has to stop Ezekiel Elliott, the league’s leading rusher last season, who’s back from a six-game suspension and looking to carry the Cowboys down the stretch. The Seahawks will have K.J. Wright back, and the burning memory of what happened a week ago against the Rams.

This isn’t about pride for the Seahawks, and it’s not even entirely about the playoffs. It’s about whether Seattle’s loss to the Rams last week was the result of a blown tire or a team running completely out of gas.
Because that Seahawks team we saw last week looked done. They looked slow. They looked shell-shocked. They looked like a team whose window for contention had slammed shut, and as I was leaving the stadium I cringed to think that there were actually two games left on the schedule. I thought about the Monty Python skit with a man leading a cart down a street, ringing a bell and calling for people, “Bring out your dead!” Then I imagined Miracle Max from “The Princess Bride” proclaiming a patient to be, “Only mostly dead.”

Now, I’m actually anxious to see how Seattle plays in Dallas and even a little excited to see that stubborn streak that the Seahawks have exhibited throughout their rise and this run of five consecutive playoff berths.

The Seahawks win if … They score more than 20 points. Seattle’s defensive meltdown was so jarring simply because we hadn’t seen it before. The Seahawks offense firing blanks in the first half? Well, that’s been happening for a good chunk of this season. The difference this time was that Seattle never, ever found anything remotely constituting a rhythm. Given the injuries on Seattle’s defense, the Seahawks offense is going to have to carry more weight than it has been expected to over the past four years.

The Cowboys win if … Ezekiel Elliott rushes for more than 125 yards. It’s not just the yards that matter here, but what they mean in terms of controlling the ball and wearing down a defense that’s already missing three Pro Bowlers with Bobby Wagner likely a game-time decision because of a hamstring injury. The Seahawks don’t have to shut down Elliott entirely to win this game, but they can’t let him control the game.

Prediction: Cowboys 20, Seahawks 17.

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Seahawks must show they’re not as bad as their last loss