O’Neil: Seahawks’ loss in LA a double-digit reminder of their biggest warts
You can win the game in the fourth quarter.
That doesn’t mean you always do, though. That was demonstrated quite clearly in the Seahawks’ 28-12 loss to the Rams that served as a double-digit reminder of some of Seattle’s two biggest warts.
• 1) The defense, which had shown significant improvement in the previous three games, provided only nominal resistance to the Rams’ offense, forcing just one first-half punt.
• 2) The dependence upon Russell Wilson to overcome any shortcoming, which in this case was complicated by the Seahawks’ difficulty in providing Wilson either the time necessary to throw a pass or handles that would be capable of catching it. Hard for a quarterback to do much of anything when – in those occasions when he does have time to throw – his receivers have difficulty holding onto the balls.
Those were the two biggest concerns coming out of the game, not Seattle’s position within the division as the Seahawks’ formula for winning the NFC West remains largely unchanged: If Seattle (10-3) wins its final three games, including the regular-season finale at home against the 49ers (11-2), the Seahawks would be division champs.
It’s the way Seattle lost that game Sunday that’s the cause for bigger concern. The Seahawks’ defense looked like it did the first two months of the season when its pass rush was little more than a rumor and Seattle proved utterly incapable of even slowing the Rams down.
Los Angeles ran 16 first-down plays in the first half, gaining an average of 5.7 yards on those plays, which isn’t staying ahead of the sticks so much as a death sentence. And as bad as that was for Seattle, its third-down defense was even worse as the Rams converted 5 of 6 third-down opportunities in the first half.
That was the kind of defense that Seattle showed too much of in the first two months of the season, relying on its quarterback to make up for the difference.
He couldn’t do that on Sunday, and any attempt to distill this loss down to some sort of referendum on Wilson’s season is remarkably short-sighted. It’s not like Lamar Jackson played any better than Wilson on Sunday. The difference was that Jackson’s Ravens had a defense that not only kept them in the game on the road against a feisty Buffalo Bills team, but ultimately won the game.
Wilson, on the other hand, was asked to win a track meet while throwing to Tyler Lockett, who caught four passes but still seems slowed by the serious leg injury he suffered last month, rookie DK Metcalf and tight end Jacob Hollister, who was on the practice squad when the regular season began. And we haven’t even gotten to an offensive line whose pass protection was a misnomer for much of Sunday.
The Seahawks have built their offense to run the ball, and this requires a certain level of defensive proficiency. And when the defense turns out to be deficient, well then, you’re putting an awful lot of weight on your quarterback to win with an offense that isn’t built to put up pinball scores.
Sunday’s game was a reminder that as far as the Seahawks have come over the previous month, they’ve still got a ways to go to find the kind of defensive consistency that will make them a threat for a deep playoff run.
More Seahawks coverage
• Rost: Seahawks have been impressive, but loss to Rams was anything but
• Paul Gallant’s Hawksplaining: Was Sunday a dud or did LA expose Hawks?
• Pete Carroll says Rashaad Penny has ‘significant’ ACL sprain
• 3 Key Moments: What went wrong for Seattle against the Rams?
• 710 ESPN Seattle’s voices react to 28-12 loss to Rams