With one yard to go in Super Bowl XLIX, Pete Carroll declined to give the ball to Marshawn Lynch. He's taken public criticism nearly every day in the seven months since.
On Sunday, the Seahawks once again needed one yard in a critical situation. This time, Carroll gave it to Lynch. Unfortunately, the Seattle coach made another wrong decision.
The St. Louis defense stopped Lynch for a loss on 4th-and-1 during Seattle's lone drive in overtime to give the Rams a 34-31 upset victory in their season opener.
Greg Zuerlein nailed what turned out to be a 37-yard game-winner, which came after another Carroll decision that will draw some ire. Kicking off to the Rams for the first possession of overtime, Carroll bet on his defense and attempted an onside kick that landed in the arms of a St. Louis player. Given a short field, the Rams went 30 yards in six plays to set up Zuerlein.
Stephen A. Smith of ESPN didn't mince words:
Russell Wilson, who struggled throughout the game to make headway downfield, finished with 251 yards passing and a touchdown against an interception. Lynch added 73 yards on the ground. Seattle totaled 343 yards on a quiet offensive afternoon, taking advantage of key Rams errors in their first game that counts since that Super Bowl loss.
Mike Sando of ESPN noted how high-scoring the game was despite the offensive struggles:
St. Louis, which led 24-13 heading into the fourth, was playing at a sizable disadvantage, with Todd Gurley, Tre Mason and Brian Quick out of the lineup. Third-string running back Benjamin Cunningham managed just 45 yards on 16 carries, though he added 77 yards as an effective member of the passing game. Nick Foles' passing numbers (18-of-27 for 297 yards) looked solid overall, but he lost two fumbles and spent the majority of the game ignoring his wide receivers.
The second of his two fumbles nearly gave Seattle a win in regulation. Sacked from behind by Cary Williams, Foles fumbled the ball deep in St. Louis territory, only for Williams to scoop it up and take it in for six points. The score gave the Seahawks a 31-24 lead and completed an 18-point swing.
However, Foles proved he could atone for his mistakes. The fourth-year quarterback, traded to St. Louis this offseason for Sam Bradford, took the Rams 84 yards on 12 plays and connected with Lance Kendricks on a 37-yard score to send the game to overtime.
For the most part, the Rams were dependent on a huge performance from Tavon Austin. The third-year wideout had a rushing touchdown and brought back a punt for a score, good for his first multitouchdown game since Nov. 10, 2013. He had just 15 total yards on offense (17 rushing, minus-two receiving) and added 81 as a return man.
It was a big start to 2015 for Austin, who came into 2015 hoping to shed the fast-approaching "bust" label. The West Virginia product compiled just 71 receptions over his first two seasons, failing to score through the air in 2014. He also showed a marked decrease in effectiveness in other areas, posting a long carry of just 19 yards.
"I think it’s real big to be honest just because of how the media say I’m a bust and all of that stuff," Austin said in June, per Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com. "I really don’t pay too much attention to it but I know one thing about it is when I’m focused, I’m focused. It’s going to be a different story this year and we’ll see what happens when we get to the end of the year."
Dave Rappoccio of Uproxx made an amusing observation:
The Seahawks also got a return touchdown from Tyler Lockett, who took a punt 57 yards to the house in the first quarter. A rookie out of Kansas State, Lockett brought two returns back for scores in the preseason and appears to be a big part of Seattle's plans this season.
Jermaine Kearse (eight receptions, 76 yards) and Jimmy Graham (six receptions, 51 yards and a touchdown) also had respectable opening weeks. Jared Cook, who had five receptions for 85 yards, led all receivers and was Foles' steadiest target all day.
In the end, though, it's the scoreboard that will send Rams fans home jumping for joy while Seahawks faithful again question the decision-making of their head coach.
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