Ed Willes: Rams expose fading Seahawks in first-place showdown

 

 
 
 
 
Running back Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams is tackled by linebacker Terence Garvin of the Seattle Seahawks during the 2nd quarter of the game at CenturyLink Field on December 17, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.
 
 

Running back Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams is tackled by linebacker Terence Garvin of the Seattle Seahawks during the 2nd quarter of the game at CenturyLink Field on December 17, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.

Photograph by: Steve Dykes, The Province

SEATTLE — It happens in the fight game.

A great champion hangs around for one last title fight against a younger, hungrier opponent, believing he still has one more great performance to give. He has experience on his side. He has a winners’ pedigree. But he quickly finds out those intangibles are no match for the speed and power of youth.

The resulting humiliation is difficult to watch as the proud champ stands there, taking shot after shot. Afterwards, they’ll say the cumulative effect of all those battles caught up to him, that he got old in one night.

So tell us. Is that what happened to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday? And take your time answering that one because it seems Todd Gurley scored another touchdown while we were posing the question.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever …,” said Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, his voice trailing off. “They beat us pretty good today.”

Before Sunday, in fact, the Seahawks had never been beaten by more than seven at home in the six years of the Wilson-Pete Carroll era. Then the Los Angeles Rams came to town and throttled them 42-7.

“I wasn’t happy with anything,” said Carroll. “There was nothing about this game. We avoided getting shut out. We got a touchdown. But, no, there was nothing to be happy about. That was really a dismal performance by us.”

And one that seemed to mark the end of an era.

In a showdown for first place in the NFC West, the Seahawks were bludgeoned unmercifully by the younger, hungrier, faster, more powerful Rams in front of 69,077 stunned fans at CenturyLink Field. The win left the Rams in first place in the division and dropped the Seahawks below the playoff bar at 8-6. But its deeper significance went far beyond the standings and the Seahawks’ playoff hopes this year.

This game was billed as the last stand for the Seahawks’ greatest team ever, a mini-dynasty which won 56 regular-season games, a Super Bowl and came within seconds of winning another. But the core of that team has slowly been eroded by time, injuries and the laws of competition and, Sunday, the worst fears of this franchise’s loyal following were realized in a three-hour nightmare.

In the game’s first seven minutes, the Seahawks fumbled, took three penalties, surrendered two sacks and had their best offensive play nullified by a video challenge.

And then things got a lot worse.

Trailing just 6-0 after their horrendous start the Seahawks’ defence surrendered four straight touchdowns over a 20-minute stretch that was interrupted only with the end of the first half. Rams running back Gurley, who had himself a Hall of Fame game, scored three of those majors, the final on a 57-yard burst with 51 seconds left in the second quarter. That run came on a third-and-20 after the Seahawks had called a timeout.

We’d add that Gurley, who finished with 152 rushing yards and four touchdowns in, yeesh, less than three quarters of work, wasn’t touched on the play, but why bother.

Gurley, mind you, wasn’t the Seahawks’ only problem. The Rams defence, led by defensive player-of-the-year candidate Aaron Donald, sacked Wilson seven times, hit him on nine other occasions and forced two Wilson fumbles. Pharoh Cooper had punt returns of 53, 26 and 26 yards and finished with 180 return yards. Quarterback Jared Goff threw for just 120 yards; then again, that’s about all the Rams needed because they ran for 244 yards.

“It’s really hard for me to explain to you because this is something I have seen us do and play that far off,” said Carroll. “But the running game was really the issue.”

The Seahawks, meanwhile, took nine penalties for 60 yards and accumulated just 149 yards in net offence. Doug Baldwin, their leading receiver on the season, caught one pass for six yards. Tight end Jimmy Graham caught one pass for minus-one yard.

“It just seemed like everything went wrong,” said tight end Luke Willson, who caught a touchdown pass in the second half which at least averted a shutout. “There wasn’t one thing we could do right today. “

“That’s not the kind of defence you want to become one-dimensional against,” said offensive tackle Duane Brown. “We were in two-minute drill throughout the game and they were pinning their ears back.”

It didn’t help that the Seahawks’ defence was without injured All-Pros Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Cliff Avril and K.J. Wright; and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, the guts of the unit, was essentially playing on one leg before he left in the second half.

“Hats off to the guys who played but I don’t think they should have played,” said safety Earl Thomas, the one remaining link to the glory days. “Normally you see Wags going sideline to sideline making plays and he couldn’t do it today.”

The Seahawks now face the Cowboys in Dallas and the Arizona Cardinals at home over their final two games, and 10 wins might get them into the playoffs. That, predictably, was the focus of most of their post-game commentary. But the more lasting impression to emerge from Sunday’s loss had little to do with this season’s playoff race and everything to do with the future of this team.

“Obviously. it was an embarrassing game,” said Baldwin. “We didn’t play Seahawks football. We have to remember this feeling, come back tomorrow and get ready for Dallas.

“It’s the only way to grow. You have to let it burn, remember that feeling and that emotion. We can’t waste this. This loss can’t be in vain.”

Oh, they’ll remember this one in Seattle, all right, but not for the reasons Baldwin was talking about.

ewilles@postmedia.com

Sunday

Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys

1:25 p.m., AT&T Stadium, Fox, TSN1040

 
 
 
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Running back Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams is tackled by linebacker Terence Garvin of the Seattle Seahawks during the 2nd quarter of the game at CenturyLink Field on December 17, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.
 

Running back Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams is tackled by linebacker Terence Garvin of the Seattle Seahawks during the 2nd quarter of the game at CenturyLink Field on December 17, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.

Photograph by: Steve Dykes, The Province

 
Running back Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams is tackled by linebacker Terence Garvin of the Seattle Seahawks during the 2nd quarter of the game at CenturyLink Field on December 17, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.
Quarterback Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks scrambles to avoid a tackle from outside linebacker Connor Barwin of the Los Angeles Rams during the fourth quarter at CenturyLink Field on December 17, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.
Los Angeles Rams players celebrate at their bench late in the second half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, in Seattle.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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