It was far from convincing and came down to the final play, but the Seattle Seahawks squeaked out a tough 14-9 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Monday Night Football.
The Seahawks made a goal-line stand at their own 1-yard line as time expired to improve to 7-1 on the season.
The Seahawks put up just 135 total yards on the win, with 80 coming on one play. The Rams notched 23 first downs to Seattle's seven in a losing effort.
Despite coming in at 3-4 and straight off losing starting quarterback Sam Bradford for the season, the Rams played inspired football. The hosts got out to an early 3-0 lead by flipping field position and running the ball to set up a 33-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal at the 4:37 mark of the first quarter.
Seattle's offense, meanwhile, stalled throughout the early goings as the Rams front seven wreaked havoc all across the backfield.
St. Louis defensive end Robert Quinn was the story of the first half, racking up three sacks and impacting plays in the backfield on many other occasions.
The Rams offense didn't sustain its early (relative) success, as Kellen Clemens threw two picks and amassed just 40 yards through the air in the first 30 minutes.
His first pick was a head-scratching throw that was intercepted by pass-rushing specialist Bruce Irvin late in the first quarter, which caught the ire of ESPN's Bomani Jones:
kellen clemens hit bruce irvin in stride. right, not good.— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) October 29, 2013
Richard Sherman unsurprisingly snagged the second in the Rams' very next drive, which set up Seattle's only offensive success. Russell Wilson used his legs to set up a short drive that culminated in a two-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate midway through the second quarter.
The Seahawks went into halftime with a 7-3 lead but trailed in total yardage, 131-38. CBS Sports' Will Brinson humorously noted:
Robert Quinn has as many sacks as the Rams have points.— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) October 29, 2013
In the second half, it was more of the same—both defenses dominating—until Clemens led the Rams on a long drive that stalled deep in Seattle territory, leading to St. Louis' second field goal on a 28-yard chip shot by Zuerlein to make the score 7-6.
The Seahawks had 42 total yards of offense with four minutes left in the third quarter.
Then, the big play. Tate climbed over a defender to make an excellent catch, taunting the Rams secondary while running into the end zone for an 80-yard touchdown that nearly doubled Seattle's total yardage for the game.
Despite changing the game in the course of one play, Tate's taunting during the play drew the ire of head coach Pete Carroll, who had a talking-to with his receiver after the drive.
B/R's own Matt Miller added:
When running into the endzone, ask yourself: "What Would Barry Sanders Do?"— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) October 29, 2013
A remorseful Tate after the game, via Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports:
Golden Tate: "I have to represent this team better, act like I've been there before."— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) October 29, 2013
On the following drive, St. Louis marched down the field with success, but again couldn't get the ball into the end zone. Another short Zuerlein kick and it was 14-9 Seahawks early in the fourth.
As was the case all game, the Seahawks offense couldn't put together drives thanks to the stingy Rams front seven that kept St. Louis in the game late and gave the offense plenty of chances to win it.
The Rams got the ball back and again drove down the field, this time getting down to the 1-yard line on a 4th-and-goal situation with four seconds remaining.
One play for the game. The Seahawks brought an all-out blitz, spurring Clemens to toss a fade route that easily fell incomplete as time expired. Often criticized but always entertaining, ESPN personality Skip Bayless gave his take on the ugly final play and Clemens' performance:
Shocked Kellen Clemens kept StL in the game. Not shocked final play was so poorly and hopelessly run.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) October 29, 2013
All in all, it was a promising second half for the Rams, who had some success on both sides of the ball and put themselves in position to win the game. But the three field goals just weren't enough and the team fell to 3-5.
Seattle came up big when it mattered most, and, as such, escaped with the win.
Kellen Clemens, QB, Rams: B-
The Rams have to come out somewhat impressed by what Clemens was able to do against arguably the NFL's best defense, but he just couldn't get it done in the red zone.
Clemens was very turnover-prone on the night, throwing two costly first-half picks and fumbling late in the third quarter (the ball fortunately rolled out of bounds). He led the Rams on a couple of deep drives, but the inability to punch it into the end zone ultimately made the difference.
The 30-year-old veteran finished 15-of-31 passing for 158 yards, with no touchdowns and two picks.
Zac Stacy, RB, Rams: A-
The run game has been a sore spot for St. Louis this season, as injuries and ineffectiveness have struck the position. Stacy looks to be putting and end to that.
He finished with 26 carries for 134 yards, showing a lot of burst early on and keeping it throughout the contest for a Rams offense that otherwise received stagnant performances from all parties.
Stacy was a beast but left the game late. Mike Garafolo tweeted:
Zac Stacy, who left the game late, going for X-rays.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) October 29, 2013
Coach Jeff Fisher provided further detail on the injury after the game:
With fellow running back Daryl Richardson getting eight carries, it looks like Stacy's job to lose after a big night if he's still healthy.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks: C-
St. Louis stacked eight in the box early on and stifled Lynch to four first-half carries for eight yards. It didn't get better in the second half for Lynch; he finished with eight carries for 23 yards.
The extra attention kept Lynch bottled up to his worst performance of the year, by far. And it was no coincidence that the Seahawks happened to have arguably their worst offensive performance of the season.
Robert Quinn, DE, Rams: A+
Although it was in a losing effort, Quinn notched one of the best defensive performances we've seen all season.
ESPN Stats & Info broke down his effectiveness:
Robert Quinn (3 sacks in 1st half): 1st Rams player with 10 sacks in first 8 games of season since Kevin Greene in 1988.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 29, 2013
Quinn had a huge day for a team that needed big plays, and it nearly helped result in a victory for his struggling squad.
Now 7-1, the Seahawks escape St. Louis with a win and see things get much easier as they return home next weekend to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Meanwhile, the Rams will stay at home to face a slumping 3-4 squad in the Tennessee Titans, who are coming off a bye and will be well-rested compared to St. Louis' short week of preparation.