Seahawks vs. Rams: Seattle Grades, Notes and Quotes
This Seattle Seahawks' (0-1) season began in the fashion their last one ended: in a state of disbelief, unable to get the one yard they needed.
With the game in overtime and the Seahawks facing a sudden-death down, Lynch was stuffed in the backfield on a 4th-and-1 run play from the St. Louis 42, extinguishing what was a ravenous comeback attempt.
Early on, things looked promising for the 'Hawks in the Edward Jones Dome, an arena they rarely, if ever, find favorable.
Rookie return specialist Tyler Lockett not only set the tone, but he also made history with his first career punt return.
Lockett's 57-yard punt-return touchdown—in which he crossed poor punter Johnny Hekker up like he was some sort of Steph Curry victim—made him the first rookie to score a touchdown on his first career return since 2005, according to NFL Director of NFC Football Communications Randall Liu.
But, for Seattle, the rest of the first half was a dreary trudge toward the locker rooms.
Russell Wilson was under constant duress, with his offensive line looking like a broken levee trying to hold off far too powerful a flow.
Wilson was sacked three times in the first half and was under real pressure at least three times that number.
Seattle's defense was the reason the 'Hawks were able to stick around, though a blown edge contain by linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright led to a 16-yard Tavon Austin touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter.
Austin's most impressive play, however, came on a 75-yard punt-return touchdown in the third quarter that helped push St. Louis' lead to 24-13.
Wilson looked tentative and out of sorts, especially in the red zone, but the offense eventually found a rhythm, and Wilson finally began to utilize new weapon Jimmy Graham.
Wilson connected with Graham on a seven-yard touchdown, and Lynch converted the two-point try to make it a field goal game at 24-21.
But the defense simply wasn't right, wasn't "booming" the way it ought to.
Seattle gave up eight plays of 20 yards or more, most coming in big spots with the Rams' backs against the wall.
Despite defensive miscues and offensive struggles, Seattle managed to stay in the game by capitalizing on Rams miscues.
With 4:39 left in regulation, offseason acquisition and new starting cornerback Cary Williams came around the edge untouched on a corner blitz and strip-sacked quarterback Nick Foles. But Williams wasn't done; he had the wherewithal to continue after the bouncing ball, scoop it, and run in for the eight-yard touchdown, which helped give Seattle a 31-24 lead.
The lead looked secure in the hands of Seattle's defense, but Foles led St. Louis on a 12-play, 84-yard drive culminating in a 37-yard Lance Hendricks touchdown, the result of Kam Chancellor-replacement Dion Bailey tripping over himself and falling to the ground in man coverage.
Oddly, Pete Carroll appeared to elect to start overtime with an onside kick, which St. Louis recovered near midfield (more on this call later).
Foles' perfectly executed sideline loft toss to receiver Stedman Bailey, who had Richard Sherman draped all over him, put St. Louis in field-goal range, leading to a 37-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal.
Seattle had the chance to march downfield and extend overtime with a field goal or win straight up with a touchdown, but, as it was on February 2, it was also the case on September 13: Seattle couldn't gain the yard.
The division loss isn't an ideal way to begin the season, but now Seattle will look ahead to a Sunday night meeting with the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
Position Grades for Seattle
Quarterback: Russell Wilson (32/41, 251 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT) was running for his life much of the game, and you could tell it was affecting him every time he lined up. He was tentative to make some plays and flat-out missed on some others, such as a pass to Jimmy Graham near the end zone that he overthrew. But he used his legs (8 CAR, 31 YDS) to stay afloat until the offense began to settle a little and nearly led Seattle to a comeback victory.
Running Backs: The offensive line was dominated in all facets of the game, so there just wasn't much to be had here. Seattle still rushed for 124 yards, but the team averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, a far cry from the 5.3 it averaged in 2014. Lynch had several nice bursts, including a long of 24, but that final play is one that will haunt both Seattle and Beast Mode.
Wide Receivers: Jermaine Kearse (8 REC, 76 YDS) was often a safety valve for Wilson. Tyler Lockett (4 REC, 34 YDS) is such a smart receiver; he knows exactly where to go and how to go for a first down. Doug Baldwin (7 REC, 35 YDS) had plenty of opportunities, but he didn't do much with them.
Tight Ends: Graham followed a quiet first half with an explosive second, but his blocking left something to be desired. He's not known as a strong blocker, but he'll need to improve that facet of his game with this line struggling. Luke Willson wasn't able to haul in his only target, and he didn't do much in the protection game, either.
Offensive Line: Six sacks. Constant pressure. Bullied all game. Demolished on the final play of the game. A poor outing all around.
Defensive Line: Though not up to the same standard as St. Louis, the Seahawks line performed excellently. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril pushed around the Rams line all game, and the run stopping was top-notch. Jordan Hill, Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh all made the most of their opportunities.
Linebackers: Oddly, there were plenty of missed tackles to go around for this unit Sunday. Wagner and Wright also looked lost on some plays, letting open men glide across the field with no impediment. They were strong against the run, though, and made some timely plays when it mattered.
Cornerbacks: Cary Williams had the biggest play of the game until St. Louis' late touchdown, but he proved he can be a contributing member of this defense. Sherman was his typical shutdown self, not being challenged much, but Stedman Bailey's incredible catch over him led to the field goal that thwarted the Seattle comeback. Sherman also played some nickel, which (duh) he was great at, with DeShawn Shead doing a quality job moving outside for him.
Safeties: Earl Thomas did everything he could to make up for Chancellor's absence. He led the team with nine tackles and jarred the ball loose from running back Isaiah Pead, stopping a Rams drive deep into Seattle territory when Bruce Irvin jumped on it to recover. Dion Bailey was less than stellar in his debut, and his trip against Hendricks is the reason the game even went into overtime.
Special Teams: Tyler Lockett is awesome. That's going to be a recurring theme this season, as long as teams are foolish enough to keep kicking to him. But Steven Hauschka's mis-kick to begin overtime, which granted St. Louis excellent field position to begin the period, is too critical to this loss to ignore.
Coaching: Carroll didn't do enough to adjust to what Gregg Williams was doing on defense, and when he found something that worked, he tended not to stick with it. Against a defense like this, you need to get creative, and Carroll simply didn't do enough to get his team to win. Plus, the seven penalties hurt.
Important Note No. 1: Chancellor Gains Leverage
No one roots for their team to lose, not even those embroiled in lengthy, tenuous holdouts.
But, for Kam Chancellor, this game, his team's loss, was a win.
You can point to a number of plays that validate Chancellor in his belief that this secondary simply cannot perform without him:
- Jared Cook roaming across the middle of the field, seemingly invisible to any Seahawks defenders on his 30-yard reception.
- Stedman Bailey surrounded by nothing but an empty ring of turf on his 29-yard catch-and-run.
- Benny Cunningham's 42-yard scamper, made possible by an uncharacteristic plethora of missed tackles.
But, really, all attention will fall on one play made by the man who replaced Chancellor: Dion Bailey.
It was Bailey who was lined up in man coverage against Lance Kendricks. It was Bailey who tumbled and fell, allowing Kendricks to score the game-tying 37-yard touchdown with just over 50 seconds left in regulation. It is Bailey who became this game's GOAT, who became Chancellor's best hope of making the Seahawks see things his way.
For a Seattle team that allowed just 186 passing yards per game last season—tops in the NFL—this performance, in which they allowed 276 yards through the air and 352 total, is unacceptable.
Luckily for Seattle, help is a phone call away.
It might be another loss for management, but for the team, bringing Chancellor back in would be a sorely needed win.
Important Note No. 2: Offensive Line Embarassed
Overshadowed by the media infatuation with Chancellor's holdout was the fact that Seattle has a new offensive line that looked shaky during preseason.
It didn't need to be perfect against St. Louis to quell concerns—this Rams pass rush would be formidable even against an offensive line as experienced as the one in Dallas.
But, it needed to be consistent. It needed to hold blocks, to allow Wilson the necessary time to either find his men downfield or escape with his legs. For most of the game, this line did neither.
It began with Aaron Donald beating J.R. Sweezy in the first quarter and didn't stop.
Statistics show six sacks, but they don't properly show the pressure Wilson was constantly under, they don't show the poor snaps he had to field from new center Drew Nowak.
Even Russell Okung, who needed to be reliable facing Robert Quinn's perilous rush, was manhandled.
Twice Quinn found his way through and past Okung for sacks. Eugene Sims also did so on Seattle's final drive of regulation, with his sack effectively ending the Seahawks' chances to get Steven Hauschka in range to attempt a game-winning field goal.
Donald, Quinn, Sims and cornerback Lamarcus Joyner combined to sack Wilson six times for a loss of 32 yards, with most either ending a drive or pushing Seattle out of field-goal range.
While Wilson spends the night in an ice bath, Pete Caroll and Tom Cable will need to decide the best way to fix this situation.
It could be leaving in Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson to block, or feign blocking, more often, or it may require Seattle to utilize quick hits more often in the passing game.
Hopes for a repeat run to the Super Bowl rest on the line's ability to keep Wilson upright. Lose those battles every week and you lose the season.
Important Note No. 3: Graham Starts Slow, Finishes Fast
How could a 6'7", 265-pound tight end be so...invisible?
Seattle had possession of the ball for over 18 minutes in the first half, yet offseason acquisition and resident red-zone monster Jimmy Graham had just one reception, on one target, for seven yards.
It was a powerful grab, but still, just one target?
But that's why you don't judge until the game goes final.
Graham was everything Seattle hoped he would be in the second half.
The former New Orleans Saint caught five balls for 44 yards and, more importantly, one fourth-quarter touchdown.
Unsurprisingly, Gregg Williams once again brought a jailbreak, seven-man blitz. But Marshawn Lynch was able to lay just enough of a block for Russell Wilson to find an open Graham outrunning safety T.J. McDonald to the sideline.
A critical score that closed St. Louis' lead to 24-21 with just over 12 minutes left in the game. We all know the outcome, but Graham's score put Seattle in a position to take the game back, which they did until Dion Bailey's fateful fall.
It was strong first impression for Graham, and Seahawks fans hope it's the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
Quote No. 1: Hauschka Takes the Blame
Quote No. 2:
All offseason, from the moment the Super Bowl ended until the very last play of Sunday's Rams-Seahawks game, fans, analysts, coaches and pundits all said it: Marshawn Lynch can get one yard, anywhere, anytime, against anyone.
Sunday, with the game on the line, with just one yard needed to keep Seattle's hopes alive, Carroll gave the Beast the ball, and the Beast failed.
But he never really had a chance to succeed. The offensive line was completely overwhelmed, again, by the Rams' ferocious defensive front.
As soon as Wilson placed the ball in Lynch's hands, Rams defenders were already swarming him. Marshawn Lynch is a powerful man—he took about seven Rams on a ride down the field earlier in the game—but this was just too much to ask.
Left tackle Russell Okung acknowledged the offensive line's failing following the game, per the News Tribune's Gregg Bell: "Fourth-and-one, we've got to win that."
But they lost that battle, and with it, the game.
Quote No. 3: Bennett on Kam
During postgame interviews, defensive lineman Michael Bennett—who had an extremely disruptive game against St. Louis, finishing with four tackles (all for loss) and one sack—was asked the inevitable about Chancellor.
"Whenever you lose everyone is going to turn around saying this and that, Kam Chancellor this but we were still in the game. Regardless of what the situation was we had more opportunities during the game," Bennett said, per the Seattle Times' Bob Condotta.
It's clear the defense had difficulties in St. Louis, especially in the secondary, where the Rams just seemed to be patrolling without any defensive escort much of the day.
But Bennett is right, Seattle was in the game. Seattle did have opportunities that, in the past, it has capitalized on.
If Dion Bailey's foot doesn't betray him, we could very well be talking about a compelling Seahawks comeback victory right now.
It's called a "game of inches" for a reason, and in this one, the inches ultimately cost Seattle.