Was Seahawks’ loss to St. Louis just a misstep or a sign of regression?

Dec 29, 2015, 4:14 PM

RENTON – What happens next week against Arizona and then in the postseason will depend to some degree on what really happened Sunday against St. Louis.

Was the Seahawks’ clunker of a performance a sign that their second-half turnaround wasn’t quite as real as it appeared, of regression toward their early-season form?

Or was that 23-17 loss to the 6-8 Rams – as coach Pete Carroll characterized it – merely a bad day at the stadium, a one-week slip-up for a team that had been playing its best football of the season?

“After the last six weeks of playing, then you see a game like that, I’m going with the six weeks rather than last week of how we’re going to be as we move forward,” Carroll said Monday.

“We’ve put a lot of good things on tape, played a lot of good football, and then we had a day that we just didn’t like the way that it started, and didn’t get back in it quick enough to get a game for us.”

The loss snapped the Seahawks’ five game winning streak, during which their offense was functioning as well as it ever has under Carroll, quarterback Russell Wilson and coordinator Darrell Bevell. The numbers during that stretch were staggering: per-game averages of 34 points and 445 yards, a 64 percent conversion rate on third down with only two turnovers and eight sacks allowed.

That’s what made Sunday’s performance stand out.

The Seahawks committed three turnovers – including a fumble that was returned for a St. Louis touchdown – and recovered two of their own botched snaps. Wilson was sacked four times, took 13 hits and didn’t have much time to operate in the pocket. And then there was Seattle’s running game, which was ranked second in the league but managed a season-low 60 yards.

It all added up to a frustrating day for an offense that had been virtually unstoppable of late.

“The consistency that we have come to really appreciate wasn’t there,” Carroll said.

Seattle’s defense did its part, allowing only 207 total yards and 16 of St. Louis’ 23 points. Not that it was perfect, though. The Seahawks didn’t force a turnover and failed to generate so much as a hit – at least an official one – on Rams quarterback Case Keenum, who completed 14 of 23 attempts for 103 yards and a touchdown.

But those issues were minor compared to those of Seattle’s offense, particularly along a line that was missing starting left tackle Russell Okung and facing one of the league’s best defensive fronts.

That group had transformed from a liability into one of the biggest reasons for the Seahawks’ second-half surge. But Sunday’s game seemed like a step back toward its early-season form.

The pass protection that had been the most noticeable area of improvement didn’t hold up. Center Patrick Lewis, whose play has been considered one of the keys to the offensive-line’s turnaround, was errant on two shotgun snaps, which killed a pair of plays and cost Seattle a combined 21 yards. Carroll identified the run-blocking – as opposed to the runners themselves – as the reason for the Seahawks’ inability to get much going on the ground until later in the second half, by which point they had to throw to catch up.

“For whatever reason, it wasn’t like the last bunch of games,” Carroll said.

Asked about the cause of those the issues, Carroll said they were more self-inflicted than the result of getting physically beat.

“It just wasn’t clean,” he said. “The first five runs, we made a mistake on every one of them. That’s just uncommon for us. It was really out of the norm.”

So was the Seahawks’ performance as a whole on Sunday compared to how well they had been playing of late. Seattle’s chances of making another deep run into the postseason will depend largely on whether that was merely a one-week misstep or something worse.

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Was Seahawks’ loss to St. Louis just a misstep or a sign of regression?