By Dave Thomas
Just because one team isn’t going to the playoffs doesn’t mean they don’t have your number. The Seattle Seahawks found that out the hard way on Sunday afternoon. The St. Louis Rams completed the season sweep of the Seahawks with a 23-17 victory.
Seattle had already clinched a Wild Card berth before Sunday’s game kicked off, so it serves as a wake-up call the Seahawks will need to work on before the playoffs start in January. Beating Seattle 34-31 in overtime in the season opener in St. Louis, the Rams swept the season series by jumping out to an early lead and keeping the Seahawks at bay the remainder of the afternoon. Even though the loss did not impact Seattle making the post-season, it could come back to haunt the Seahawks following next weekend’s regular season finales. Seattle had the fifth-seed in the NFC going into this weekend, but Minnesota could grab that spot and push the Seahawks down to the sixth and final seed when all is said and done.
After scoring at will the last few Sundays, the Seahawks managed two touchdowns and a field goal on this weekend; but it was a far cry from the recent games, games where Seattle was blowing out (Minnesota, Baltimore and Cleveland). Quarterback Russell Wilson, who had been on fire in recent weeks, settled for 289 yards passing, two TDs and one INT. With team-leading rusher Thomas Rawls on the shelf with a season-ending ankle injury and starter Marshawn Lynch (abdominal surgery) still on the mend, Seattle’s running game was all but non-exsistent on this day. The Seahawks rushed for a mere 60 yards, with Wilson leading the way with 39 yards on six carries. Only two weekends away from the playoffs, Seattle will need a much improved effort on the ground if it is to get out of the first-round of the playoffs. Through the air, wide receiver Doug Baldwin led the way with eight catches for 118 yards and one touchdown.
While St. Louis is certainly not the worst offense in the league, the Rams are not exactly Carolina, Arizona or New England. St. Louis managed to wrack-up only 207 yards of total offense, but it was enough to secure the victory. The Rams got 85 yards and one TD on the ground from rookie running sensation Todd Gurley, while quarterback Case Keenum tossed one touchdown. As for the receivers, Kenny Britt had 49 yards receiving and one score. Seattle was led defensively by Bobby Wagner (11 total tackles) and Kelcie McCray (10 total stops). One key cog missing on this afternoon was safety Kam Chancellor, out due to a pelvis injury. Getting Chancellor healthy for the playoffs is crucial if Seattle’s Legion of Boom is to be better prepared to stop a Washington, Green Bay or Minnesota in the first round.
Special Teams: (B-)
It was a rather quiet day in the kicking game, as kicker Steven Hauschka only got one field goal attempt, hitting a 26-yarder. Hauschka was two-of-two on extra point attempts, while punter Jon Ryan five times for a 40.4 average.
With head coach Pete Carroll seemingly pushing all the right buttons in recent weeks, Seattle has been on quite a tear. Even though losing to St. Louis is not the end of the world, it does show that the Seahawks are a far cry from the team that went to and won the last two NFC title games and split the last two Super Bowls. Yes, the running game has been impeded at times this season by injuries, while the defense has also dealt with some setbacks. For Carroll and the Seahawks to get on a run through the playoffs, both coaches and players will need to be at their best, especially given how crazy this season has been in the NFL. With Washington, Green Bay and Minnesota all capable of playing some great football on any given day, any one of those teams is certainly able to prevent Seattle from a third-straight NFC crown (Carolina and Arizona will receive first-round byes).
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.