INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Last loss, it was the players' not executing what they’d been coached. That’s what Pete Carroll said.
This loss, it was Carroll. He did not put any faith in the league’s highest-scoring, top-ranked offense. To gain 8 inches.
Instead, Seattle’s defensive-minded coach put his faith in his last-ranked, historically bad defense.
That’s why the Seahawks are now in the third place in the NFC West.
Carroll’s decision to challenge the official’s spot on Russell Wilson’s scramble short of the line to gain on third down, then choice to punt rather than go for the first down resulted in the pivotal points in the Los Angeles Rams' 23-16 victory over the sunken Seahawks at the new palace called SoFi Stadium.
Carroll said after the third loss in four games for the Seahawks (6-3) that in hindsight he “probably” would make the same decision again.
“That early in the game...I didn’t want to give them the ball at the 40-yard line,” Carroll said. "That’s a turnover. That’s just like handing them an interception, if we don’t make it. If they make a play, penetrate (the line of scrimmage) into the backfield...knowing Mickey (Dickson, his punter) is going to kick it inside the 10-yard line, do something good with that and go play good defense. That’s believing that we are going to be all right.
"It was too early in the game. I was believing that our guys were going to pull it off and have plenty of time to get back and play well.
“I just didn’t want to give them a turnover there. I just felt like it wasn’t worth it.”
Neither is this: Wilson has committed 10 turnovers in those three losses. He hasn’t had powerful lead running back Chris Carson (sprained foot) in any of them.
Carson’s absence again Sunday contributed to Carroll thinking in terms of not making a fourth and inches instead of making it.
“At this point, we don’t feel the same,” without Carson, the coach said.
Seattle hosts first-place Arizona (6-3) on Thursday night in another key division game.
This team’s truth remained: if Wilson makes mistakes, Seattle loses. Its defense is not consistently strong enough to withstand its quarterback’s mistakes.
Wilson did what he’d done in all three of Seattle’s losses this season. He turned the ball over three more times. Los Angeles' Darious Williams intercepted him twice, the second time on a brilliant play coming over tight end Greg Olsen on third down at midfield midway through the fourth quarter with the Seahawks trying to rally.
Wilson also lost a fumbled shotgun snap from fill-in center Kyle Fuller in the second half.
But the game—Seattle’s momentum, and the best chance to win—changed with Carroll’s decision to punt on fourth an inches down 17-13 in the third quarter.
The Seahawks had come from down 17-7 to a chance to take the lead for the first time Sunday, on the opening drive of the second half. After trying to draw the Rams (6-3) offsides with a long, hard cadence by Wilson on fourth down and inches in the third quarter, Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer chose to take a delay-of-game penalty then have Michael Dickson punt.
Predictably, the Rams took the ensuing drive the length of the field, back across where Carroll punted to keep the Rams from getting.
On third down and 2 from the Seahawks 5-yard line, new starting cornerback D.J. Reed ran with Rams tight end Gerald Everett in the end zone. Jared Goff’s pass sailed far left of them incomplete. But an official on the back line of the end zone flagged Reed for interfering with Everett during hand-fighting as the ball arrived.
Given the gift first down, the Rams scored on a 1-yard touchdown by Malcolm Brown. That upped Los Angeles' lead to 23-13.
The score stayed that way through Wilson’s ninth turnover in the last four games, a fumble on a low snap by Fuller. Fuller was starting his first NFL game at the position because Ethan Pocic was out with a concussion.
Wilson finished 22 of 37 passing for 248 yards, and no touchdowns. The Rams sacked him six times.
He drove the Seahawks from their own 5 to Jason Myers' 40-yard field goal with 25 seconds left.
Rams wide receiver Robert Woods recovered the onside kick, which almost never succeed in the NFL anymore because of rules changes in the name of player safety.
The Seahawks' maligned, shredded defense did its job after halftime. Seattle limited the Rams to 114 yards and six points in the second half.
“We improved,” Carroll said.
“But it was after the fact.”
Wilson—and the coaching decision—let down the defenders.
“We’ve got work to do,” Carroll said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
DEFENSE FALTERS FIRST--AGAIN
Jamal Adams continued his blitzing and had two sacks in the first half. On the second one, he knocked the ball from Jared Goff’s hand as the Rams' quarterback was about to throw it. Reed, replacing injured Quinton Dunbar, decisively dived onto the fumble for a Seahawks recovery at the Rams 27-yard line.
It was the play Seattle’s reeling defense almost desperately needed, giving its offense the chance to tie the game.
But Wilson made one of his worst decisions in recent seasons on the second play after the turnover. He scrambled up the middle after dropping to pass, and had only one, distant Rams defender between him, open field and the goal line. Instead he threw wildly across his body to the deep left, where three Los Angeles defensive backs were masses. Wilson was trying to throw to tight end Will Dissly along the left sideline of the end zone. Williams moved over, jumped and rather easily intercepted the gift of a throw for his ninth interception this season. It was his sixth interception in 3 1/2 games.
“When we get the big turnover, we get a chance to make a real (statement) in this game. And we turn it right back over,” Carroll said.
“Really big mistake there.”
Yet the Seahawks' defense got another stop at the end of the half. Wilson started a drive at his own 9 with 1:11 left in the half, and this time ran on a scramble for 11 yards during a hurried march to midfield. After three straight incomplete passes from the Rams' 43-yard line, Myers sent a Seahawks-record 61-yard field goal just over the crossbar on the half’s final play.
Defensive players ran off Seattle’s sideline to celebrate Myers' boot—and the fact they’d been shredded but remained in the game.
© 2020 Cox Media Group