ST. LOUIS – A visibly irritated Red Bryant lingered in the locker room, one of the last Seattle players to make his way to the bus after a head-scratching 19-13 loss to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday afternoon at the Edward Jones Dome.
Even though Seattle’s defense did not give up a touchdown, special teams gaffes, three critical turnovers and ill-timed penalties led to a second game in four weeks that slipped away against an NFC West Division rival.
The Seahawks are tied with the Rams at 2-2 in the NFC West standings, a game behind San Francisco (3-1) and two games behind division-leading Arizona (4-0).
But with the Seahawks entertaining expectations of making a deep run in the playoffs, Bryant knows each game is precious.
“It’s very frustrating because of what our goals are,” Bryant said. “We’re trying to go far in the playoffs. We feel like we’ve got a good team to do that. But we’ve got to win these types of games – bottom line.”
Seattle controlled the trenches, rushing for 182 yards and holding St. Louis to 75 rushing yards.
“I still think we played a good enough game to win the game,” Seattle safety Earl Thomas said. “We controlled what we can control.”
But the Seahawks once again failed miserably in executing the little things.
Quarterback Russell Wilson played like a rookie third-round draft pick, throwing three interceptions, including one on Seattle’s final drive in St. Louis territory when tight end Anthony McCoy slipped and fell on an out route.
The Seahawks finished with three personal fouls – two by tackle Breno Giacomini – that stalled drives.
But the most critical mistake came on special teams.
With just over a minute remaining in the opening half, Seattle’s defense held and forced the Rams into a 20-yard field-goal attempt by rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein.
But St. Louis faked it, with holder/punter Johnny Hekker standing up and throwing to wide-open receiver Danny Amendola for an easy 2-yard touchdown pass.
Amendola had stayed out on the field after the third-down play, sneaking over and lining up near the Rams’ sideline – which is allowed, according to league rules.
And Seattle’s defensive field goal unit did not account for him. Seattle coach Pete Carroll said he tried to call a timeout, but did not get the officials’ attention before the Rams snapped the ball.
Officials initially threw a flag on the play, but picked it up once they realized that Amendola had not left the field after the previous play.
“We’re supposed to see it,” Carroll said. “We talk about it all the time. We just missed it. And they did a great job of getting it off.”
The play put St. Louis ahead for good, 10-7. The Rams added a 48-yard Zuerlein field goal just before the half after forcing Seattle to punt with 40 seconds to go.
Zuerlein broke the Rams’ record for longest field goal with a 58-yarder late in the first quarter to cut Seattle’s lead to 7-3, then broke his record with a 60-yarder after Seattle botched an onside kick to open the second half.
While Seattle’s offense moved the ball between the 20-yard lines, the Seahawks once again settled for field goals in the red zone.
The Seahawks also struggled on third down, going 2-for-9 on third-down conversions. Seattle was 1-for-3 inside the red zone, settling for Steven Hauschka field goals of 31 and 30 yards in the second half after Marshawn Lynch ran 18 yards for a TD on Seattle’s first possession.
“It’s hugely frustrating,” Seattle tight end Zach Miller said. “In a tight game like this, that’s what it comes down to. If we score touchdowns in the red zone, it’s a different ballgame.”
Said Carroll: “That’s just not good enough. We’ve got to get better and convert.”
While the defense played well enough to win, the Sea-hawks have to play better in all three phases – offense, defense and special teams – to realize their goal of being a playoff contender.
“We expected to leave here with a ‘W,’ ” Bryant said. “I give a lot of credit to the Rams for preventing us from that. We’ve got a long flight home. We’ll look at the tape and see what the adjustments are we need to make. And just like we had to put the win behind us (against) Green Bay, we’ve got to put this loss behind us and press on.
“We’re frustrated, but we’re not discouraged.”Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks/