Late Sunday afternoon a friend of mine asked me a question.
“I’m behind in my nomenclature,” he texted. “Does this count as a thorough ass-kicking?”
“No,” I fired back quickly while I laughed at his naivety. “This is actually what we professionals in the business refer to as both a COMPLETE and THOROUGH ass-kicking.”
We were referring to the 42 to 7 beat down delivered to the Seahawks by the Los Angeles Rams at Century Link Field Sunday afternoon in a result that felt like a changing of the guard in the NFC West. The Rams treated the Hawks like a stoned post-concert fan would a bag of Dick’s hamburgers.
And the only thing that surprised me about the result was that anyone was surprised by it.
Here’s where I should link to my pre-game column where I wrote, for the record, that Los Angeles would throttle the Seahawks. The column where I pointed out that the Rams were one of the best rushing teams in the league, that their second-year quarterback Jared Goff was clearly a man on the come, and that they were ready to beat the hell out of Seattle.
I’d provide that link if I could. But I didn’t write that column.
Oh, I pointed out in my pre-game missive that the Rams were really good and that the Hawks were an injury-riddled shell of what they thought they’d be in December. I pointed out that Goff was having a great year and that Rams running back Todd Gurley II was third in the league in rushing and might be poised for a big day given the fact that one of his worst days of the season came versus the Seahawks two months ago.
I also pointed out that the Seahawks had dominated the division since the last time they had played the Rams in a truly meaningful game (the first round of the 2004 NFL playoffs) and that they had a long track record of winning these kinds of games in December in Seattle. That’s what I figured would happen Sunday afternoon.
But I had room in my pre-game thoughts to consider the other side of the story.
Despite their loss to Philadelphia last week (perhaps a preview of the NFC championship game?) the Rams have been one of the NFL’s best stories this year. Winners of just four games last year they lead the league in point differential (they’ve scored 166 points more than they’ve given up) and their Sunday rout of Seattle was the fifth time this season they’ve beaten an opponent by 26 points or more.
Now, factor in how long the Seahawks have been the Kings of the NFC West. They’ve ruled the roost in this division for over a decade. They’ve won it eight times in the past 12 years and they’ve been to the playoffs nine times in that stretch. And particularly since Pete Carroll arrived they’ve dominated the division (and to a debatable extent the NFC) in a loud, brash, and sometimes arrogant style reminiscent of Farkus, the neighborhood bully who regularly makes Ralphie Parker’s life miserable in the classic holiday film “A Christmas Story”.
So ultimately, it shouldn’t have shocked anyone that when another team finally got a leg up on the Seahawks the result wouldn’t be pretty. When you’ve been good for this long, and when you’ve been pretty loud about the fact that you’re good along the way, you end up making a lot of enemies.
The Rams jumped on Seattle early and then flailed away all afternoon like Ralphie after Farkus pelted him with one too many snowballs. Let’s not kid ourselves about this, for the many people around the NFL who are not Seahawks fans the result of the game brought out the kind of fist-pumping “yeah!” you’re likely to bellow when Ralphie tackles Farkus and starts belting him. There were a lot of players and fans around the league who smiled big, toothy grins when they saw the result of the game.
Whether it be sports, politics, pop culture, or the neighborhood bully, we in America take a certain joy in watching someone who has been on top for a while take a big tumble. The Seahawks have been on top for a long time and the way the Rams beat them, and the way they celebrated, shouldn’t have come as too much of a shock. Every great team in every sport eventually gets humbled. It’s the nature of the beast.
The team had to stay until the bitter end, but the fans began wandering out of Century Link Field at halftime. By the start of the third quarter, the stadium had the atmosphere of an exhibition game. The fearsome 12s and their legendary noise making ability to cause false starts and miscommunication were a ghost of what they’ve been in big December games of the past. And by the end of the day, big December games felt exactly like that: something that happened in the past.
But before we write the franchise obituary it should be noted that the Hawks wouldn’t be the first good NFL team to take a small step back before moving forward again. They’ll look different next year. That doesn’t mean they won’t have talent. It doesn’t mean they won’t be good.
And they still have two games left this season. If they win both of them they could make the playoffs again and anything they dreamed possible at the start of the year would still be possible.
But if they make another misstep, and particularly if they get drubbed by either Dallas or Arizona, there will be a lot of people enjoying the pain. In their minds, the Seahawks have had this coming for a long time.
Photo Credit: SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 17: Running back Todd Gurley #30 of the Los Angeles Rams stiff-arms free safety Bradley McDougald #30 of the Seattle Seahawks as he rushes in the first quarter at CenturyLink Field on December 17, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)