SEATTLE -- The Seahawks were in perfect position, both for a go-ahead field goal and potentially an upset win that would have ranked among the most impressive of the Pete Carroll era, all things considered.
Trailing by two with close to five minutes left against the undefeated Los Angeles Rams, Russell Wilson hit Tyler Lockett for a 44-yard gain. That connection was one of several things the Seahawks had working on Sunday as they went toe-to-toe with the NFC's only undefeated team. The last of several big plays for the Seahawks’ offense gave them a fresh set of downs at the Rams’ 32, well within Sebastian Janikowski’s range.
“It was right there,” coach Pete Carroll said.
And then it wasn’t.
A false start on Germain Ifedi and a holding penalty on D.J. Fluker in the span of three plays pushed the Seahawks back to the 45. They opted against what would have been a 63-yard attempt into the open end of CenturyLink Field and decided instead to punt. The Rams took over and ran down the clock for 33-31 victory after converting a fourth-and-1 with a Jared Goff sneak.
"I was pretty frustrated about this because we put ourselves in position to win,” Carroll said. We hit the big play to Tyler and we're in field-goal range and we're going to run the clock down. They have no timeouts. We're going to run the clock down, kick a field goal and win the football game and go home.”
Fluker disagreed with the penalty, which negated a 5-yard Mike Davis run that would have put the Seahawks (2-3) at the 30. Carroll didn’t go as far as to say that Fluker shouldn’t have been penalized, but he called it “really disturbing” that it happened.
“We ran the ball 32 times on the day and they ran it 30, I think, so there was 60-something runs and it comes down to, 'Let's throw that flag right there,'” Carroll said. “Unfortunately it happened. They got a great break out of that. It was a great break for them. I haven't seen the play, but there was a lot of plays in that game that probably could have warranted a penalty thrown. And it happened on that play right then. Really, it just pissed me off knowing that was how this thing ended. It was unfortunate."
So many things had to go right for the Seahawks to pull off an upset as seven-point underdogs, and for the game's first 55 minutes, quite a few did. Another big day on the ground for Chris Carson and a typically efficient performance from Wilson -- who tossed three touchdowns without an interception -- helped keep the Seahawks in it.
They also got some timely stops by their defense, which lost another one of its pillars last week when Earl Thomas broke his leg. But the Seahawks could have used Thomas securing the back end while the Rams did to Seattle what their top-ranked offense had been doing to opposing defenses throughout their 4-0 start -- beat them with huge gains. That included completions to Robert Woods that gained 17 and 20 yards on what turned out to be the game-winning field goal drive. Los Angeles racked up 468 yards and averaged a more-than-healthy 7.4 per play. Missed tackles were part of the problem.
“They had some plays that got away from us,” cornerback Shaquill Griffin said.
The Seahawks’ offense had several of its own, including runs of 37 by Davis and 21 by Carson. Seattle finished with 190 yards on the ground, marking three straight weeks in which its running game has delivered after a curiously slow start to the season.
"We literally kicked their ass up front,” Fluker said. “I think that showed everything. We played hard every single snap. I mean, shoot, I don't know how much you can ask for there. They're a great front but they don't want to play that run. They're not about that. They made plays here and there. They're a great football team. Their offense saved them. But at the end of the day, we played hard for 60 minutes in that ball game and, shoot, I just don't understand how we didn't come out on top. But at the end of the day, we all played hard for each other and we're going to see them again. I can't wait for it."
Said Carroll of how the run game has found its footing: "I'm thrilled about that because you can see it, you can tell what kind of team we are now. You know who we are and we know who we are too. We're just getting warmed up."
It's a sign of how times have changed for the once-mighty Seahawks to search for positives in a two-point defeat -- at home, no less. But that's where they are in this season of transition. Trading punches with one of the best teams in the league shows that the distance between them may not be as large as it has looked since the Rams throttled the Seahawks by 35 points in December, their most lopsided loss under Carroll.
They should be favored in next week’s game against the Oakland Raiders (1-4) in London, which will be a prime opportunity to even their record heading into the bye.
But this one was right there for the taking.
“It’s frustrating,” left tackle Duane Brown said of the penalties on the final drive. “That’s when you have to be at your best. I have to go back and see the call. There was some debate on what happened. The false start was just miscommunication. If you give [Janikowski] 5 more yards, we’re right there. It’s a tough one to take on the chin, but like I said, we got some encouraging effort out of it and we’ve got to keep going.”