Unable to capitalize on a last-gasp comeback effort after squandering the lead in the closing moments of regulation, the Seattle Seahawks suffered a demoralizing 17-16 loss to the Los Angeles Rams to drop to 6-4 on the season.
Missing a significant chunk of the second half with an elbow injury, Geno Smith completed 24 out of 33 pass attempts for 233 yards and a touchdown and came back into the lineup to march the team down the field for a game-tying field goal attempt, only for Jason Myers' kick to go wide right. Riq Woolen intercepted his second pass of the season and Devon Witherspoon registered a sack to lead Seattle's defense in defeat.
Here are five quick takeaways from a back-breaking loss at Sofi Stadium:
1. Seahawks continue year-long trend of starting fast and ending stagnant on offense.
As they have done on several occasions this year, the Seahawks came out roaring on offense behind a sizzling Smith, who completed seven of his first eight passes for 50 yards, completed two clutch third down passes to move the chaines, and capped the drive off with a touchdown. While both possessions sputtered out in opposing territory, he then led the team to a pair of field goal drives headlined by a 53-yard connection to Metcalf, helping build a 13-0 advantage with under five minutes to play in the first half. Those missed opportunities proved costly, however, especially after Smith exited in the third quarter with an elbow injury.
With Drew Lock checking in for the rest of the game until Smith unexpectedly came back in on the final drive, the offense couldn't muster anything. The veteran backup misfired on a pair of deep balls to Jaxon Smith-Njigba on his first two drives, leading to Michael Dickson punts on three-and-outs. Then on his next shot inside seven minutes to play, he threw up what amounted to an arm punt on third and long and got picked off by Derion Kendrick. In total, the offense produced 87 yards and three points after halftime while converting on only two of their final 12 third down opportunities.
2. With a short week ahead, injuries loom large beyond Sunday's results on the field.
Injuries cannot be used as an excuse in the NFL, but there's no question the Seahawks were hamstrung by losing Smith and Ken Walker III, who exited early in the first quarter with an oblique injury and never returned to action. Before Smith departed and couldn't make it back in, the offense had produced 16 points on four scoring drives, at least functioning to an extent. Whether fair or not, Lock wasn't able to do that in only his second regular season appearance with the team, struggling to connect with receivers and living and dying by the deep ball.
In the run game, Zach Charbonnet had a promising first half rushing for 33 yards in Walker's stead. But offensive coordinator Shane Waldron seemed to mostly abandon the run game in the second half and with no sustained drives to be able to re-establish the ground attack, he rushed for only 14 yards in the final two quarters and the Seahawks couldn't even get to 70 rushing yards for the game as a team. Set to face the division-leading 49ers on Thursday night, all eyes will shift to the health of Smith and Walker, as the offense looked punch-less without them.
3. Third down, red zone success buoyed an overall strong effort by Seattle's defense.
After getting gashed by Stafford in the opener for over 330 yards, the Seahawks got off to a fast start defensively, as Witherspoon sacked the quarterback on the second play of the game to set up a quick punt. On their first three drives, the Rams failed to put any points on the board, going three-and-out twice and getting stopped on fourth down inside the five-yard line on a pass breakup by cornerback Tre Brown. With the exception of a touchdown drive late in the half, the defense held serve by holding the opposition to one third down conversion on four attempts.
This success continued after halftime, as the Seahawks continued to get the job done on money downs. After letting the Rams convert on 11 out of 17 third downs in the season opener, they shut Stafford and company down with only two conversions on nine attempts in the rematch. All three of their defensive drives in the third quarter finished with punts and Riq Woolen intercepted Stafford on a flea flicker early in the fourth quarter, making a win for the road team feel like a near-certainty. But fate had different plans on this day...
4. Good fortune ran out late as the Seahawks fell apart defensively in large part due to penalties.
Statistically, Seattle turned in a solid performance across the board on defense. Los Angeles ran for just 80 yards and a meager three yards per carry, while Stafford completed just 54 percent of his passes for 190 yards and a 70.6 passer rating. But a lack of disciple eventually doomed defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt's defense, as they couldn't avoid drawing flags from officials all afternoon. In the first half, they were able to rebound from a foolish 45-yard pass interference penalty on Julian Love with Brown's excellent fourth down coverage in the back of the end zone, preventing the Rams from scoring any points. Los Angeles also failed to capitalize on a blown coverage by Witherspoon in the third quarter when Darrell Henderson came wide open on a wheel route, only for Stafford to misfire.
But by the fourth quarter, the barrage of mistakes made by the Seahawks finally started to catch up with them. After being gifted with an offensive pass interference penalty on Tyler Higbee that wiped out a Henderson touchdown on a screen, Witherspoon got nailed for a questionable pass interference penalty on Puka Nacua, extending the drive. Henderson punched it in shortly after to cut the lead to two points inside seven minutes to play. Following Lock's interception, an illegal hands to the face penalty called on Woolen negated a 3rd and 15 incompletion, extending what ultimately turned into the game-winning drive in the closing moments. Overall, they racked up 12 penalties for a whopping 130 yards with most of that damage coming on defense.
5. Questionable clock and field management coupled with a dysfunctional mic came back to bite Seattle in the waning seconds.
Named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts making all five field goals last week, Jason Myers again came through for Seattle early in Sunday's game. In the first half, he booted a 55-yard field goal with tons of room to spare and also connected on a 42-yard kick to give his team a 13-point lead. Considering the kick he made from 55 yards out, after Smith came back in for the final drive, a 21-yard completion to Metcalf put the team in the kicker's range. But as the quarterback mentioned after the game, the mic in his helmet went out right after the play and he couldn't get the call from Waldron, leading him to call a run play believing they could get several yards to move closer.
Unfortunately, Charbonnet only got two yards on the carry as the clock ticked closer to zero and Smith then clocked the ball on second down. Not executing in the situation as well as they wanted to after Metcalf's big play put them in Myers' range, the ensuing kick flew wide right and may not have had enough distance to be good anyway, securing a devastating loss that slipped away late.