Rookie Greg Zuerlein Leads St. Louis Rams to 19-13 Win over Seattle Seahawks

Brandan SchulzeContributor IIIOctober 1, 2012

September 30, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein (4) kicks a 48 yard field goal against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

Coming into this week’s matchup against the St. Louis Rams, fans knew it was going to be a rough stretch of games ahead for the Seattle Seahawks.  With four of the next five games on the road and a home game against the New England Patriots, this was the game fans were counting on for a win. 

On the first drive of the game, the Seahawks made it look like it was going to be the win everyone expected from a team that had won 13 of its last 14 against the Rams.  It took Seattle just eight plays to go 80 yards, with Marshawn Lynch getting in the end zone on an 18-yard touchdown run.

But the Seahawks offense never looked as good as they did in the opening drive, and Rams rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein had a huge day to help knock off the Seahawks 19-13.

“Their kicker did a fantastic job today of taking advantage of the field,” said coach Pete Carroll during his post-game press conference. “He was able to knock the balls in from halfway down the other end, and that was the difference in the game.”

Zuerlein connected on three long field goals from 48, 58 and 60 yards. He kicked another from 24 yards out and lined up for a field goal where punter Johnny Hekker threw the Rams' only touchdown pass of the game to Rams receiver Danny Amendola.

Seattle’s special teams unit failed to pick up Amendola hanging out toward the sideline and St. Louis got the easy score.  After the game, Carroll said he recognized the play, but wasn’t able to get the timeout call in.

“We saw it upstairs and I didn’t do a good enough job to get in [the officials] view,” said Carroll. “I was calling timeout before the ball was snapped, and unfortunately they didn’t catch it.”

Carroll also pointed to turnovers, offensive production and drive-killing penalties that contributed to the loss.

“We didn’t produce enough offensively to get us what we needed,” said Carroll. “A couple crucial penalties at the wrong time really hurt us today.”

Even though Seattle was penalized only five times all day, two personal foul calls on right tackle Breno Giacomini were unnecessary and cost the Seahawks offense yards it simply couldn't afford to give up.

The way the Seahawks expect to win games is becoming clear.  Play tough defense, don’t turn the ball over and do enough on offense to win.  Turning the ball over on three interceptions and getting backed up by penalties has a huge impact, especially for an offense ranked last in the league in passing.

In his press conference following the game, quarterback Russell Wilson noted the impact the turnovers had on the game.

“We just have to execute better,” said Wilson. “We have to figure out how to get the ball in the end zone.”

Overall on the day, Wilson was efficient in his throws, going 17-of-25 for 160 yards, but Seattle couldn’t convert on third down at all in the first half, and only twice in the second half.

“Third down conversions and not getting into the end zone and red zone—those are big issues and we have to do better there,” said Carroll.

Unless Lynch or Robert Turbin were running the ball, the Seahawks struggled to move the ball offensively.  Together, the two combined for more yards on the ground than the team had through the air. Lynch finished with 118 yards on 20 carries and Turbin had 45 on six carries.

“It was a really good day for us on the ground,” said Carroll.  “We just needed a couple plays here to take advantage of how well we were running it.”

Seattle had an opportunity to win and were beginning to mount a drive in the last two minutes when tight end Anthony McCoy slipped, leading to the third interception. Wilson was optimistic that despite the struggles on offense, they still had a chance to win late in the game.

“We still had an opportunity though,” said Wilson. “It shows that if we can just fine tune the little things that we’re doing wrong, you know, we got a shot to really be good.”

The Seahawks defense continued to shine, and even though they gave up some big plays on third down, the defense had a huge impact on keeping the game close.  In fact, the defense is so good there isn’t much patience among Seahawks fans for watching a young quarterback develop, and “Russell-mania” is already beginning to dwindle.

Seattle has a playoff-caliber defense with multiple Pro Bowlers and one of the league’s best running backs on offense, yet they have the lowest ranked passing offense. 

With Carroll taking full blame on Wednesday for “holding the lid” on the offense, it’s natural to point out that perhaps there’s a better candidate to put behind center that may not need to be reined in, in terms of the play-calling.

It’s easy to look at Matt Flynn as the solution to this problem, especially when in just one game last year he threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns.  It has taken Wilson four games to reach that amount of yardage and he’s still two touchdowns shy.

Carroll said that any time the quarterback throws three interceptions it deserves a close look.

“I’m still thinking he’s improving and getting more comfortable,” said Carroll. “We’ll see what it all means. I don’t know yet.”

Monday’s press conference, after the coach has an opportunity to review tape, should provide some information on Carroll’s plans moving forward. 

As poorly as the Rams have played in the past, this year under coach Jeff Fischer they have shown significant improvement over previous years. Obviously the entire NFC West is better and it is beginning to show. 

The Arizona Cardinals improved to 4-0 with a comeback win against Miami.  Dolphins’ rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for 431 yards, but the Cardinals were able to tie the game 21-21 at the end of the fourth quarter.  An interception in overtime led to Jay Feely’s 46-yard field goal to keep the Cardinals undefeated.

San Francisco traveled to New York and embarrassed the Jets in a 34-0 shutout to bounce back after their loss to Minnesota last week.

It’s still early in the season to draw any big conclusions, but the NFC West and NFC East are the only two divisions without a team below .500.  Even this early in the season it’s an improvement for a division that didn’t have a single team above .500 in 2010.

Keeping that in mind, and with the Seahawks' two losses coming against division opponents, they need to be very careful they don’t end up on the bottom.  

Brandan Schulze is a Navy veteran and member of the Military Sea Hawkers, the military chapter of the official booster club for the Seattle Seahawks. For more information on the chapter, visit Membership is free for all military service members and veterans.