Seahawks’ O-line reverts back to its early-season form in loss to Rams

Dec 27, 2015, 10:29 PM | Updated: 11:50 pm
“He got hit pretty good today, and it’s not very often that we see that,” Pete Ca...
"He got hit pretty good today, and it's not very often that we see that," Pete Carroll said of Russell Wilson. (AP)

Russell Wilson running for his life. Defenders wreaking havoc in Seattle’s backfield. Errant shotgun snaps.

It looked like September and October all over again for the Seahawks’ offense during Sunday’s 23-17 loss to St. Louis.

“They were the better team today,” said right tackle Garry Gilliam.

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More specifically, the St. Louis defensive line was much better than Seattle’s offensive line. The Rams have had the upper hand in that matchup in recent years, including in the season opener when they sacked Wilson six times en route to an overtime victory. That game typified the early-season struggles of Seattle’s offensive line, which had since transformed from a liability to what could be considered a strength during the Seahawks’ run of seven victories in eight games.

But on Sunday, playing without starting left tackle Russell Okung and facing arguably the NFL’s most talented defensive front, Seattle’s offensive line took a giant step backward. The issues were across the board, starting with constant pressure on Wilson.

“He got hit pretty good today,” coach Pete Carroll said, “and it’s not very often that we see that.”

At least it hasn’t been of late. The Seahawks had allowed only 10 sacks over the last seven games, which was the most noticeable aspect of their offensive line’s turnaround from a disastrous start in which they allowed a league-high 31 over the first seven.

The Seahawks hadn’t allowed more than two sacks in any game since Week 7. They allowed four on Sunday while St. Louis was credited with 13 quarterback hits.

“He did not have a lot of time consistently, like we’ve had,” Carroll said of Wilson, who came back down to Earth following a historically prolific five-game stretch. He was 25 of 41 (60.9 percent) for 289 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Seattle’s running game was much less effective. The Seahawks entered Sunday ranked second in the NFL in rushing but finished with 60 yards on 22 carries, which snapped a streak of 25 straight games in which they topped the century mark. Wilson accounted for 39 of Seattle’s rushing yards while neither Fred Jackson, Bryce Brown nor Christine Michael had more than 11.

Carroll pointed to the blocking as a bigger issue than the running.

“When we run the ball for 60 yards, we’re not on it,” he said. “We’re in bad shape at the line of scrimmage, and we have to do a lot better than that.”

Seattle’s offensive line committed five of the 10 penalties assessed against the Seahawks. Alvin Bailey was responsible for three of them. He started at left tackle in place of Okung, who was listed as questionable and didn’t play due to a calf strain. Carroll said Okung wouldn’t have been available had the game meant more to Seattle’s playoff seeding.

Okung’s absence was far from the only problem.

In another instance of Seattle’s offensive line reverting back to its early-season form, some plays had trouble even getting started. Drew Nowak’s errant shotgun snaps were part of the reason he lost his starting job to Patrick Lewis earlier this season. On Sunday, Lewis botched two of them himself.

The Seahawks recovered each time but lost a combined 21 yards in the process. The second occurred midway through the fourth quarter with Seattle trailing by 13 points. That forced the Seahawks to punt after moving back 15 yards on third-and-2.

Afterward, Lewis’ red eyes and shaky voice showed just how hard he took it. He excused himself from a group of reporters, apparently needing a moment to gather himself. When he returned, Lewis said he apologized to his teammates and lamented how he put the team in “some bad situations.” He adamantly refused to blame the soggy conditions for his botched snaps.

“I mean, it was wet but it really don’t matter. I’ve played in rainy conditions here before and it was never a problem,” he said. “I don’t know. I guess it was just one of them games for me. I take full responsibility and I’ll go back to work. I might snap 100 balls tomorrow – wet balls.

“So we’ll get it fixed together.”

Seattle’s offensive line has to do the same after a game that looked all too familiar.

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