Pressure on Russell Wilson dooms Seahawks in loss to Rams

SEATTLE -- During the Seattle Seahawks' recent five-game winning streak, coaches constantly pointed to the improvement up front as the main reason for the offensive success.

But in a 23-17 loss to the St. Louis Rams, Pete Carroll's squad looked more like the group that started the season 2-4.

Russell Wilson completed 25 of 41 passes for 289 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, his first pick since Week 10. Wilson also lost a fumble late in the fourth quarter.

Too often, the Seahawks lost their battles up front. Wilson took four sacks and was hit 13 times. Because of the pressure, the offense never found a rhythm, and the Seahawks lost for the first time since Week 9, dropping their record to 9-6 on the season. This was the first game all year in which the Seahawks did not have a lead in the fourth quarter.

The loss is no reason for massive panic. Seattle already clinched a playoff berth last week, and not every team has the level of talent the Rams have on the defensive line. The Seahawks were playing without left tackle Russell Okung (calf) as well.

But the game was another reminder of what makes this offense go. If the line can protect, Wilson can operate from the pocket at an extremely high level, and the Seahawks are difficult to beat. But if the protection isn't there, and Wilson is forced to constantly improvise and escape pressure, the Seahawks will have trouble making a deep run in the postseason.

Did you notice: An animated Carroll going after the officials in the fourth quarter? The Seahawks thought they had recovered a Benny Cunningham fumble, but the ruling on the field gave the Rams possession. The Seahawks had used up all their challenges, so there was nothing they could do. Later on the drive, Todd Gurley fumbled, but St. Louis recovered.

What it means: The Seahawks' final seeding and first-round opponent will not be determined until next week. They could still be the No. 5 or No. 6 seed. Potential opponents have been narrowed down to Washington, Green Bay and Minnesota.

Cause for concern: The Seahawks could not get the run game going. Christine Michael finished with six carries for 6 yards. Bryce Brown had seven carries for 9 yards. Plenty of attention this week will be focused on the status of Marshawn Lynch, who continues to recover from a sports hernia surgery.

Fantasy watch: Doug Baldwin had another huge game with eight catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. He set a new franchise record with 14 touchdowns on the season and has scored 11 times in the past five games.

Injuries: The Seahawks are already thin at tight end and lost Luke Willson to a concussion. Strong safety Kam Chancellor (pelvis) and Okung (calf) were inactive. Wide receiver Tyler Lockett was evaluated for a concussion in the second quarter but returned to the game.

What's next: Seattle closes out its season at the 13-2 Arizona Cardinals. With the Carolina Panthers' loss Sunday, the Cardinals still have a shot at the top seed in the NFC playoffs.