SEATTLE -- The Seahawks went punch-for-punch at times with the high-powered offense of the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, but were unable to get the chance at final opportunity to win the game due to offensive miscues and inability to get off the field when they needed it most.
The Rams held on for a 33-31 victory over the Seahawks as offensive penalties on D.J. Fluker and Germain Ifedi pushed the team out of field goal range on their final offensive possession. The defense also allowed the Rams to convert a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-inches with Jared Goff to seal the victory with just over a minute left to play.
"I was pretty frustrated about this because we put ourselves in position to win," head coach Pete Carroll said. "We hit the big play to Tyler and we're in field goal range and we're going to knock it in, we're going to run the clock down, they had no timeouts, we're going to run the clock down and kick a field goal and win the football game and go home. So, it was right there."
Seattle punched and the Rams counter-punched all throughout the second and third quarters of Sunday's game. But when it got to the fourth quarter, the Rams kept scoring while the Seahawks had their serve broken with a pair of empty possessions that allowed Los Angeles to take the lead.
The Seahawks allowed their best offensive performance of the year to go for naught as the fell essentially 3.5 games behind the 5-0 Rams just five weeks into the season.
Here are the takeaways from Sunday's loss to the Rams:
1. Running game is finally rolling behind Chris Carson and Mike Davis.
The Seahawks said they wanted to run the football and they're doing it quite well over the last three games.
Carson and Davis combined to rush for 190 yards on 31 carries, good for an average of 5.9 yards per carry against the Rams.
"I'm thrilled about that because you can see it, you can tell what kind of team we are now. You know who we are," Carroll said. "We know who we are, too. We're just getting warmed up. That's really important for us as we go through the middle part of the season."
It was the first time Seattle running backs had posted 100-yard rushing games in at least three straight games since Marshawn Lynch posted four straight 100-yard games to end the 2012 regular season.
Carson gained 102 yards on 32 carries against Dallas and Davis posted 101 yards on 21 carries against Arizona last week. Carson finished Sunday's game with 116 yards on 19 carries for Seattle on Sunday.
The Seahawks believe that running the ball takes pressure off their passing game, sets up play-action opportunities, allows them to control the flow of the game better and ultimately wear down a defensive front over the course of 60 minutes. Seattle hit several big passes in the game off play-action as well, including touchdowns to Tyler Lockett and David Moore.
"They're a great front but they don't want to play that run," right guard D.J. Fluker said of the Rams. "They're not about that. They made plays here and there. They're a great football team, their offense saved them."
Collectively, the Seahawks have gained 474 yards on the ground on 105 attempts over the last three games for an average per carry of 4.5 yards.
2. There was nothing wrong with Pete Carroll's final timeout.
There was a collective furor in the Twittersphere regarding Pete Carroll electing to take a timeout before the Rams fourth down conversion that sealed the game.
Here is what happened.
After Todd Gurley was stopped shy of a first down on third-and-1, Carroll ran onto the field to call a time out to stop the clock with 1:39 remaining. At that point, the officials elected to measure to determine whether Gurley had gained a first down. Since that would have stopped the clock, Carroll had the time out essentially returned to him.
Carroll was then asked if he still wanted to take the time out, which he confirmed he did to stop the clock. The Rams could have run the clock down to a minute to play before taking another snap. The clock would have started again after the measurement.
"What happened there is that the clock would have been running and we would have used the time out," Carroll said. "But, because of the stoppage there we get the timeout back, so we had another timeout. What would have happened there is they were going to wind the clock and I think there was 33 seconds on the clock, and at 1:39 that would have taken us down to a minute, so it was worth using the timeout to save that 33 seconds right there."
After having the punt team take the field during the stoppage, the Rams ultimately put their offense back on the field and ran a quarterback sneak to pick up the necessary yardage to end the game.
Rams head coach Sean McVay said the players wanted to go for it and he decided to go for it along with them.
"The believe they had in how much they wanted to do it," McVay said. "Because of their belief it made me feel confident. It made us as a coaching staff feel confident to make that decision."
The furor is over the thought that the Rams would have punted the ball had the time out not occurred. The play clock had not started when the final timeout was enforced. So even if the timeout had not been taken, the Rams would have had a full 40 seconds of the play clock to change their minds, which easily could have happened given the general stoppage of play.
Ultimately, Seattle's decision to save the 40 seconds that would run off the game clock was a sound decision. It's more advantageous to have 1:30 to try and get into field goal range than 50 seconds, even if the latter came with a time out attached. Seattle can't control the decision-making of the Rams and it's uncertain if the Rams absolutely would have punted had the time out not been called.
If you want to argue a timeout should have been taken after Gurley's first down run to force the Rams to run another play before the two-minute warning, that would be a reasonable quibble. Letting 40 seconds run off the clock when you can prevent it and need the time to score is a defensible decision.
3. D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy have helped bring an edge of toughness back to Seattle OL.
The Seahawks manhandled the Rams at times up front on Sunday.
Want an example? Here's Fluker burying Ndamukong Suh on Mike Davis' 6-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Oh my goodness. Watch DJ Fluker (RG) with the savage pancake of Suh on this touchdown. pic.twitter.com/OleSTLNNrQ— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) October 7, 2018
Fluker and Sweezy have helped bring back a toughness to Seattle's offensive line. The Seahawks had that toughness with James Carpenter, Max Unger, Breno Giacomini and Sweezy in his first stint with Seattle. As some of those pieces were siphoned away through the years, that edge had waned considerably.
But Fluker plays hard and physical and was fired up over the way Sunday's game ended. He feels Seattle missed a ripe opportunity for a victory. He also felt like the Seahawks imposed its will over the Rams vaunted defensive front.
"I told the ref, I said ‘it’s going to be a gang fight today," Fluker said. It’s going to be a hard fight. They’re going to play hard, we’re going to play hard.’ At the end of the day, we’ve got to play harder. The thing about it is everybody gets terrified with 99 (Aaron Donald) and 93 (Ndamukong Suh). We weren’t terrified. We weren’t scared. We’re offensive linemen. We’re built to do this. We go out there and grind every single day.
Fluker was upset about the holding penalty that backed Seattle out of field goal position on the final drive. Review of the play showed he held Suh's right shoulder pad with his left hand as Suh tried to reach for a Seattle running back.
"I'd been taking him to the water all game," Fluker said. "Me and 93 going at it all game. He got frustrated. I got frustrated. At the end of the day, we're both competitors. I got respect for him, I've got a whole lot of respect for him. At the end of the day, I've got to do my job. I got to go block him. I got to take him... wherever he needs to go, I'm going to take him there. I ain't scared of no one. I don't back down for no one. At the end of the day, they got lucky."
Nevertheless, Fluker and Sweezy have helped pave the way for Seattle's rushing attack to take significant strides over the last last three weeks. Russell Wilson was sacked officially just twice in the afternoon, but a couple others were negated by defensive penalties against the Rams. It's still a night and day difference from the performances the unit had a season ago.
"Hats off to our guys just being physical, playing with great leverage, finishing blocks, the running backs running extremely hard running behind their pads," left tackle Duane Brown said. "I don't think (the Rams) wanted to be in that kind of game. You look at the games they've been in, they've been up, been ahead and teams kind of get one-dimensional trying to pass the ball and that's not what you want to do against them."
4. Seattle couldn't come up with defensive stops it needed against a top offense.
In the first game without Earl Thomas, Seattle's defense saw multiple Rams receivers carve through their secondary unimpeded as the Rams put up 468 yards of offense in the victory.
Even as Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cooks were knocked out of the game due to concussions, the Rams kept finding ways to move the ball through the air against Seattle's defense.
Outside of a 56-yard romp by Robert Woods on a fly sweep, the Rams rushing attack was mostly kept in check, but Goff threw for 321 yards and a touchdown as Los Angeles was able to counter every Seattle score with a score of their own.
They sacked Goff just once and hit him just twice in the game. It allowed him all the time he needed to cut through Seattle's back end.
The Rams offense is a thing of beauty to watch at times. They find ways to get defenses stressed to allow for their weapons to find openings - sometimes big openings - in zone coverages. Los Angeles managed to find its spots against Seattle as well.
But they had a chance early in the fourth quarter on a fourth-and-2 at their 10-yard line only for Shaquill Griffin to interfere with Woods to give the Rams a first down. They'd score on a 5-yard Gurley run the very next play. They had a chance to force a punt on the Rams final possession and quickly gave up a 12-yard run to Gurley to get another set of downs.
The Seahawks forced a three-and-out on the Rams opening possession and Frank Clark intercepted Goff on a batted pass at the goal line on their second drive, but the Rams on every possession from there on out except their drives that ended each half: Touchdown, field goal, touchdown, interception (Hail Mary), touchdown, touchdown, field goal, end of game.
Photo Credit: SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 07: Running Back Chris Carson #32 of the Seattle Seahawks runs the ball in the first half against the Los Angeles Rams at CenturyLink Field on October 7, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)