Why was Seattle Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner flexing for the cameras? Why were the Seahawks defenders jumping around, slapping each other and celebrating?
Probably, they'd tell you, because they'd just pulled off a last-second, game-winning goal-line stand on Monday Night Football:
That would normally be cause for celebration—but their hideous 14-9 win over the directionless, quarterback-less St. Louis Rams is nothing to be proud of.
A team with Super Bowl aspirations has absolutely no business letting a 3-4 team—minus the quarterback who was key to all three wins—make it that close.
A team with designs on an NFL championship doesn't get held to 14 points by a team allowing an average of 26.3 points per game.
A Long Way From Home
The Seahawks, as I wrote after their last prime-time disappointment, are a shadow of themselves when playing on the road.
Week 8 was no different. They traveled to the Edward Jones Dome and made the Rams—a mostly middling defense across the board—look like the 1985 Chicago Bears.
Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch had a tame 23 yards rushing on just eight carries.
The injury-ravaged offensive line allowed the normally elusive Russell Wilson to be sacked seven times for minus-48 yards.
Were it not for an incredible in-flight ball adjustment by Golden Tate, Wilson's 10-of-18 passing for 139 yards and two touchdowns might have been 9-of-18 for 59 yards, one touchdown and an interception:
All told, the balanced, high-powered, dangerous Seahawks offense mustered just seven first downs and 135 total net yards, per NFL.com.
That's nowhere near good enough.
There's no doubt the Seahawks' many injuries are taking a toll. With starting offensive tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini out, Robert Quinn and the Rams defensive line had a field day.
Not only did Quinn individually rack up three of the Rams' seven sacks, but St. Louis' defensive line physically dominated the Seahawks' offensive line.
On the other side of the ball, the Rams' running backs punished the vaunted Seattle defense. Zac Stacy gashed the Seahawks for 134 yards on 26 carries, and Daryl Richardson added 39 yards on eight carries of his own.
All told, the Seahawks allowed 200 rushing yards to a team that had averaged just 70.6 over its first seven games.
Through the air, the Seahawks' pass defense initially did its job, intercepting journeyman backup Kellen Clemens twice and holding him to 15-of-31 for 158 yards and no touchdowns. Unfortunately, 47 of those yards came on the improbable final drive, when the Rams marched from their own 3-yard line to the Seahawks' 1-yard line.
The Seahawks may be thinking that when Okung and Giacomini get back in the lineup—not to mention prize offseason acquisition Percy Harvin, who has yet to play a down for his new team—all their problems will be solved.
But if they keep it in cruise control until those guys get back, the Seahawks will miss the on-ramp to the Super Bowl.
Time to Open Up the Throttle
The Seahawks can't keep playing these road games not to lose, crossing their fingers and waiting for the cavalry to arrive from the trainer's room.
Russell Wilson—if he's the quarterback and leader we all thought we saw last season—needs to take his game to the next level. He needs to make better adjustments to a defensive line pinning its ears back and getting quickly into the backfield.
If Wilson can't make protection, progression and read adjustments on the fly, the responsibility then falls to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and head coach Pete Carroll.
Against the Rams, the Seahawks coaches seemed all too willing to lay up and play for a 9-6 score—and it nearly cost them a crucial divisional road game.
It's true that good teams win even when they play badly, but the Seahawks have gutted out far more than their fair share of ugly wins in 2013.
At 7-1, with only two games against teams with winning records left on the schedule, the Seahawks have every opportunity to not only run away with the NFC West, but to lock up a first-round bye and all-important home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Seahawks have to iron out these wrinkles now and go all out to win every play of every quarter of every game for the rest of the regular season.
If Wilson, Lynch and that self-satisfied defense are what they think they are, they'll wake up tomorrow, look in the mirror and say, "We were bad last night and got lucky."
Then they'll use it as fuel to get better.
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