Rams run into defensive juggernaut in 20-6 loss to Seahawks

Dec 28, 2014, 7:11 PM | Updated: 9:46 pm
Shaun Hill was sacked four times and picked off twice as the Rams were held without a touchdown. (A...
Shaun Hill was sacked four times and picked off twice as the Rams were held without a touchdown. (AP)
(AP)

Every time the Rams and Seahawks meet, defense is the prevailing story. The only variable is which team’s is the most dominant.

On Sunday that distinction belonged to the Seahawks in their 20-6 victory, though the Rams stated their own case pretty well, especially in the first three quarters. St. Louis held Seattle scoreless in the first half and limited the Seahawks to two field goals through the third quarter. And even though though the Rams gave up a pair of touchdowns in the fourth, one was a pick-six by Seattle’s Bruce Irvin.

The real issue lied with the Rams’ offense, which managed just 245 total yards – including a paltry 42 on the ground – and committed three crucial turnovers on consecutive drives in the fourth quarter. But even though St. Louis was working with a fairly patchwork lineup led by its onetime third-string quarterback Shaun Hill, a 34-year-old career journeyman, the lack of offensive production had a lot more to do with spectacular plays by Seattle than it did with the Rams’ lack of punch.

How else can you explain what happened in the fourth quarter, when each of the Rams’ turnovers were more improbable than the next? There was Jordan Hill picking off a pressured attempt from Shaun Hill to spike a pass at the feet of a running back, Irvin returning an interception 49 yards for a score after Bobby Wagner poked loose a seemingly completed pass to tight end Lance Kendricks, and Earl Thomas chopping the arm of running back Benny Cunningham at the goal line to cause a fumble into the end zone and out of bounds, resulting in a touchback that gave Seattle possession.

“They made the plays in the second half and we didn’t,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said.

It was a defensive effort, and a series of events, that left the Rams spinning.

“I actually thought I was in the end zone,” Cunningham said of his fumble. “I was just trying to see the replay to see if they made the right call, which they did.”

Kendricks, regarding the interception that went through his hands, said: “I had no vision of it. I was trying to catch it, tuck it, and go down. … It was tight coverage. It might happen one out of 100.”

“I had to look up at the Jumbotron because I had no idea what happened,” added Shaun Hill.

As for the other interception, he seemed a bit astounded as to how it occurred.

“It was a screen but they had it covered so you have to burn the ball into the ground, but it has to be at the running back’s feet. So I can’t throw it directly down like I would to kill the clock,” Hill said. “You have to get it into the vicinity of the running back, and their guy made a crazy play on it. He just made a great play on it.”

Crazy as those plays were, it wasn’t just the turnovers that killed the Rams’ offense. The Seahawks only allowed St. Louis into the red zone two times on the day – and the Rams still left empty-handed both times.

It’s that kind of defensive play that helped Seattle lock up the NFC’s top seed in the playoffs. Only three teams scored 28 points or more against the Seahawks this season, and even though the Rams were one of them, that came all the way back on Oct. 19 in St. Louis. It’s pretty clear this was a defense running on all cylinders this time, which was not the case 2 1/2 months ago.

“It’s an outstanding defense. What they have going here is special,” Fisher said about the Seahawks. “You can’t hear on offense and they make you drive the football, as you can see. They get off the field and they can rush the passer. They can stop the run. When you can’t hear on offense in this venue, it’s hard to do those things, especially against a defense like that.”

Under Fisher, the Rams have built a reputation as the one team that has the closest thing to the Seahawks’ number in the NFC West. They own home victories over Seattle both this season and in 2012, and they were within a yard of beating them in St. Louis in 2013. But even so, it doesn’t extend to games in Seattle, where the Rams haven’t won in 10 years.

Once again, as it has been many times over that stretch, defense was the reason why on Sunday.

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Rams run into defensive juggernaut in 20-6 loss to Seahawks