The Seattle Seahawks season and run of home playoff victories came to an abrupt end on Saturday afternoon.
A Seahawks offense that began the season as one of the league's most prolific units was a calamity of confusion and blunders. The Los Angeles Rams throttled them in a 30-20 result even with Jared Goff unable to start at quarterback and still limited due to a broken thumb sustained here two weeks.
But the offense never managed to get on the same page as the front of the Rams caused havoc in the backfield all day. Even with Aaron Donald leaving the game in the third quarter due to a rib injury, the Seahawks couldn't get anything going outside of one broken play strike to DK Metcalf for a 51-yard score.
Russell Wilson continued his run of poor form, going just 11-of-27 for 174 yards with two touchdowns and a pick-six from Darious Williams. Williams has now intercepted Wilson three times this year and should have had a fourth in their meeting just two weeks ago. Even those numbers don't accurately illustrate the issues the offense had on the day. Wilson had 64 yards passing in the fourth quarter when the game was basically already sealed away to bolster his still uninspiring final totals.
The defense held up OK for a while outside of struggling to stop running back Cam Akers, who didn't play in the Week 16 matchup between the two teams. But they couldn't keep the flood gates closed with an offense that couldn't pull its share of the load.
It's the first home playoff loss for Seattle since the St. Louis Rams won 27-20 in the 2004 playoffs, snapping a run of 10 straight home playoff victories for the franchise.
Here are the takeaways from the game that ended Seattle's season:
-- Seahawks need to do some serious diagnostics on what happened to their offense.
Pete Carroll said repeatedly in recent weeks that he wasn't concerned about the lack of production from the offense.
Apparently he should have been.
The offense again came out of the gates completely flat against the Rams. Seattle punted on each of their first three drives having gained only one first down. Their second possession saw them facing a 2nd-and-34 from their own 1-yard line after a holding penalty (1st-and-20), false start (1st-and-25) and a sack from Aaron Donald for a 9-yard loss backed the team up to their own goal line.
"We didn't do our part today. We didn't win," Wilson said.
"The reality is is that we have a great football team and I think we have great guys. But we didn't play great today. And that's what matters most."
They had one drive all have gain more than 25 yards and that was thanks to a 51-yard touchdown pass to DK Metcalf on a broken play. In an effort to get Metcalf a touch after a rough offensive start for the team, they tried to throw him a quick screen only to have Darious Williams jump the throw and return it for a 42-yard touchdown.
Seattle was 0-of-8 on third down to begin the game before ultimately finishing the contest 2-of-14. The offense was responsible for seven of the team's nine penalties with five of those coming from the offensive line.
In three games against the Seahawks this season, the Rams sacked Russell Wilson 16 times. Leonard Floyd alone had seven sacks of Wilson this year. Even with their starting line back intact for just the sixth time all year, the offense couldn't get it together.
"It seemed like during the course of the season after the halfway point, we had hit so much early and we had been so effective that people found ways to stay back and just try to bleed us and make us have to throw the ball underneath and we were maybe really going for it more than we needed to and didn't take advantage of switching gears a bit there as effectively as we'd like. Because we like chunking them and like going after them. As I look back now I would think that, and we got a lot of work to do to figure it out, but I would think that we might think that way a little differently. One part of the year it was available and we took it, and then the second part of the year against the really good defenses that we've played, they were able to keep us out of that kind of mode and so I wish we would have adapted better under those circumstances."
And these are just the problems from Sunday's game.
After looking like the bona fide MVP front-runner through the first half of the season, Wilson looked like a mid-level starter at best in the second half of the season. Outside of a four touchdown game against a then-winless New York Jets team, Wilson didn't have stellar stat lines in any of the team's games since their 44-34 loss in Buffalo in Week 9. He never threw for more than 263 yards in a game and four times was held under 200 yards passing, including in Saturday's season-ending loss. They only had one receiver muster a 100-yard game over that stretch when DK Metcalf had 177 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles.
"It seemed like during the course of the season after the halfway point, we had hit so much early and we had been so effective that people found ways to stay back and just try to bleed us and make us have to throw the ball underneath and we were maybe really going for it more than we needed to and didn't take advantage of switching gears a bit there as effectively as we'd like. Because we like chunking them and like going after them," Carroll said. "As I look back now I would think that, and we got a lot of work to do to figure it out, but I would think that we might think that way a little differently. One part of the year it was available and we took it, and then the second part of the year against the really good defenses that we've played, they were able to keep us out of that kind of mode and so I wish we would have adapted better under those circumstances."
Wide receiver Tyler Lockett also said that the team going more pass heavy this year led to them seeing more varying and exotic coverages that they struggled to anticipate and adapt to at times.
"Because we became a passing team it became easier for teams to try to scheme a little bit different," he said. "When we ran the ball a lot, we didn't have to worry about teams trying to throw out all these weird, different coverages that we haven't seen before because they had to figure out how to stop the run. Sometimes when you start passing the ball like we did, we did a great job of it as well, but now you've got teams that's starting to figure out let's drop eight people back, let's do all this different type of stuff that they normally haven't shown on film and now we got to learn how to adjust."
Lockett said he believes they did do a good job of making those adjustments as they needed to.
But the big picture issue remains. The Seahawks continued to throw the ball at a significant clip and the effectiveness of Wilson and the passing attack cratered in the second half of the year. It was the offense's inability to score that cost them a game against the New York Giants that would have given them homefield advantage in the playoffs and this weekend off. It was the offense that couldn't pull its weight the second half of the season and against the Rams on Saturday. Now they need to find out how to recapture that success moving forward.
-- Jamal Adams was clearly not playing at 100 percent.
It's hard to play at full strength when you've got two injured shoulder and a pair of broken fingers.
Adams was wearing a harness on his injured left shoulder on Saturday and said he would need surgery to address the torn labrum sustained in last week's win over the San Francisco 49ers.
Adams gave a Herculean effort to play against the Rams despite his injuries but it was obvious he was restricted in his level of play. He couldn't raise his left arm enough on two pass plays he could have possibly broken up on throws to Cooper Kupp. Kupp got behind Adams and they out-jockeyed him for a ball underthrown by Goff for a 44-yard gain.
"I'm not a person that's going to make excuses," Adams said. "Yes I did have a harness on that restricted me from going up or going across but that's not an excuse. I've got to make the play. It was a hell of grab. Stuff like that happens but obviously the ball just didn't roll our way on that one."
Additionally, on a dump off pass to Akers late in the second quarter, Adams made a flailing diving attempt and missed as Akers broke free up the sideline for 44 yards before Quandre Diggs managed to run his down.
"Obviously this wasn't the plan, right," Adams said of the loss. "We can come up with a million and one excuses but the fact of the matter is we're not going to do it."
Adams deserves credit for finding a way to play despite his numerous injuries. There's no doubt that his determination was admirable. There's a chance he may not have been the best option for today given the issues he was facing and that a healthy Ryan Neal may have had more to offer given the circumstances.
"We did win a division but at the end of the day we knew what our mission was and we fell short. To me it is a failed season but that doesn't mean anything. That just means that another opportunity to get back swinging and fighting for a Super Bowl next year. It's just not our year."
-- False start/delay of game on Jordan Simmons after Damien Lewis injury was inexplicable.
The Seahawks were all set to go for a fourth-and-1 from their own 34-yard line with 9:51 remaining as they tried to overcome a 23-13 deficit. Right guard Damien Lewis had been injured on the previous play and it took a couple of minutes for him to be evaluated on the field before leaving for the sidelines.
This break in the action presented plenty of opportunity for the Seahawks to get set and have the play they wanted to run in place with the needed personnel adjustment to account for Lewis' absence.
Instead, the Seahawks didn't break the huddle until just five seconds remained on the play clock.
Jordan Simmons - in for Lewis at right guard - was called for a false start on the play. But realistically, the Seahawks didn't have time to get the play off and Simmons moved into the rush to get to the snap.
"We were talking it over and we were discussing plays and I kind of got in the middle of it and we just, we got late. That's why we wound up jumping. we screwed it up," Carroll said.
The Seahawks punted at fourth-and-6 instead of continuing to try to get the first down. Would the Seahawks have been able to rally even with the conversion? Perhaps not given the struggles of the offense overall. But the chances of mounting a comeback seemed to dwindle substantially when the ball left Michael Dickson's foot.
"We didn't function the way we needed to right there and so we had to punt the football," Carroll said. "Punting the football wasn't a bad idea either just to get them on down and take them to the next couple sequences but I would have really liked to have made that so that's why we went ahead and tried to get the chance and we just didn't function cleanly like we needed to."
Seattle could have called time out as well and Carroll said he considered it. But in the end he decided he was OK with punting and wanted to hold onto the timeout.
"We thought we were going to get it off," Carroll said. "But honestly, right there I could have called timeout. I realized... I could see it was going and I didn't mind that we were going to have to kick the football because that was not a bad choice there. So I had to take it."
Given the enormous amount of time the team had to make a decision, for them to screw that situation up seems rather ridiculous. It shouldn't be that troublesome to decide to go for it and have a play ready to go so your players can get to the line of scrimmage without taking a penalty. Did it really alter the outcome of the game? Probably not. But it was still bad process. Just like the bad challenge of a Jared Goff pass being across the line of scrimmage when it was two yards behind it in the first half.
Photo Credit: SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JANUARY 09: Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks is sacked by defensive end Aaron Donald #99 of the Los Angeles Rams during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Lumen Field on January 09, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)