Takeaways from Seahawks 36-31 loss to Rams

Seattle Seahawks v Los Angeles Rams

For the second time this season, the Seahawks had a chance to knock off the Los Angeles Rams. And for the second time this season, the team fell one score shy of accomplishing that task.

Russell Wilson's throw for Tyler Lockett on 4th-and-10 sailed out of bounds as the Rams held on for a 36-31 victory over the Seahawks on Sunday. Seattle has lost their two games to L.A. this season by a combined seven points.

The Seahawks had a big day on the ground despite being without Chris Carson and D.J. Fluker on offense. However, the Rams carved up Seattle's defense and the Seahawks were poor on third down as the offense sputtered in key moments.

The loss gives the Rams a chance to lock up the division title this week if Seattle were to lose to Green Bay on Thursday night and the Rams managed a win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Mexico City next Sunday.

The Seahawks, now 4-5, face an uphill climb in their efforts to reach the postseason.

Here are the takeaways from Sunday's loss in Los Angeles:

1. Seahawks are no longer finding a way to win close games, though they keep playing them.

Under head coach Pete Carroll, the Seahawks have almost always played close games with their opponents. When the games haven't been close, they're usually the team winning those contests.

But unlike the case for much of the Russell Wilson era, the Seahawks are no longer winning those games with regularity. SInce Wilson took over as the team's starting quarterback at the beginning of the 2012 season, the Seahawks have played in 56 games that have been decided by one score (eight points) or less. 

The Seahawks are 25-30-1 in those games during Wilson's tenure at quarterback. However, they've won only once in their last nine games decided by one score or less. The 20-17 win at Arizona in Week Four is their only such victory in a one-score game dating back to last November.

Atlanta (34-31), at Jacksonville (30-24), Arizona (26-24), at Denver (27-24), at Chicago (24-17), L.A. Rams (33-31), L.A. Chargers (25-17) and at Rams (36-31) are their eight defeats over that span. That's five times in nine games this season that the Seahawks have played a one-score game and they've lost four of the five.

The Rams are 8-1. They are a better team that Seattle is this season, but the Seahawks have had a chance to beat them in both meetings this year anyway. They've come up short both times. As much pride as Pete Carroll takes in his teams finishing games, they've been unable to close out victories in tight contests for the last calendar year.

2. Russell Wilson has to make up the margin of error the Seahawks no longer have.

The Seahawks were without their starting running back and right guard. Their strong safety was banged up and limited against one of the top offenses in football. If Seattle hoped to beat the Rams, they would need a top performance from their star quarterback.

Instead, Wilson left another opportunity to beat the Rams unfulfilled.

It's not that Wilson played poorly against the Rams. He played a mostly decent games and finished with some decent numbers when all was said and done. He rushed for 92 yards on nine carries, his most since Nov. 2014. He tossed three touchdowns to Nick Vannett, Tyler Lockett and Mike Davis with 176 yards on 17-of-26 passing and a 123.2 passer rating. 

Nevertheless, the Seahawks went 2-for-9 on third down with all four sacks of Wilson coming on third down opportunities of six yards or less to gain to keep a drive alive. Not every sack was directly Wilson's fault, but they were missed chances to keep the offense on the field.

Mike Davis and Rashaad Penny gave the Seattle offense over 100 yards rushing in the first half alone even with Chris Carson out. The Seahawks had 133 rushing yards at halftime giving the passing game all the support it should have needed to produce.

Instead, Wilson had just 39 passing yards in the first half and was sacked twice by Aaron Donald on two key third down chances in the second quarter. He had just 61 yards passing through three quarters. The majority of his passing yards came as the team tried to rally from a two-score deficit. The lone Seattle turnover of the game came on a Wilson strip-sack by Dante Fowler that set up a touchdowns that made it a 36-24 lead with just under six minutes left to play.

Since injuries ransacked the 2017 Seahawks, the team no longer has the margin of error to not play their absolute best and still win against talented teams. They need Wilson to max out his performance each and every week. Wilson had a nice, solid B-plus showing against the Rams with his scrambling efforts offsetting some of the lack of passing numbers, but they needed an 'A' game on Sunday and didn't quite get it.

3. Rams mistakes kept Seattle in the game.

One way the Seahawks were able to stick around with the Rams on Sunday was due to Los Angeles making plenty of mistakes of their own.

The Seahawks gained five first downs via penalties assessed against the Rams. They had six different 15-yard penalties called against them, though one was negating due to offsetting penalties.

Cory Littleton and Ndamukong Suh each were called for roughing the passer on Russell Wilson. Blake Countess and Aaron Donald (offsetting) were called for unnecessary roughness, and Dante Fowler Jr. was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct and facemask penalties.

The Rams were assessed a total of 10 penalties for 102 yards on the day. Fowler's unsportsmanlike conduct and Littleton's roughing the passer extended drives for Seattle that were headed for punts after third down stops. Two of Seattle's four offensive touchdowns came on these two possessions.

The Seahawks took advantage of the gifts they were given, but the Rams committed a good number of unforced errors that allowed Seattle to have a chance to win late.

4. Defense could have done more but the Rams offense is also really, really good.

While allowing 36 points certainly wouldn't be considered a roaring success for Seattle's defense by any means, it was enough to keep the team in the game.

Especially when a fumble by Wilson set the Rams up with a first-and-goal situation with six minutes left to play.

The L.A. offense is one of the league's most potent. The Rams have scored at least 30 points in all but two games this season. And in one of those two sub-30 games, they scored 29 points. They are averaging 33.5 points per game this season. Only the Denver Broncos have held the Rams under 25 points this season.

Todd Gurley gained 120 yards on 16 carries, which is the second straight week an opposing running back has averaged over seven yards per carry. That's not good. Jared Goff threw for 318 yards and two touchdowns as well.

However, Seattle forced the Rams to only go 5-for-10 on third down and held the Rams to touchdowns on only four of their seven trips inside the Seahawks red zone on Sunday. Additionally, the Seahawks did not force a turnover on Sunday for the second straight week. Their ability to force turnovers the first half of the season was one reason the revamped unit was exceeding expectations.

It was far from a standout performance. They got gashed down the field by the Rams brilliant passing attack and let Gurley run free too often. But they did limit the scoring chances the Rams were able to get enough to keep Seattle within reach at the end. 

Seattle's defense did essentially the same thing every team that has played the Rams this season has done, which is allow a lot of points. 

5. Rashaad Penny gives a glimpse of his ability in possible breakout game for Seahawks rookie.

With Chris Carson out due to a hip injury, first-round pick Rashaad Penny was able to get an extended look against the Rams on Sunday.

He didn't disappoint.

The rookie out of Norwalk, Calif. excelled in his first pro game back in Southern California. Penny gained 108 yards on 12 carries and scored his first career touchdowns against the Rams. He accounted for three of Seattle's 10 longest offensive plays on Sunday with runs of 38, 24 and 18 yards.

The Seahawks have remained high on Penny's future prospects despite the slow start to his career over the first half of the season. Penny said this week that he was finally starting to feel comfortable after a broken finger in training camp wiped out several weeks of valuable practice time.

He maximized the runs that he had come his way, slashing through the Rams defense multiple times. He also showed an ability to make defenders miss that had been somewhat lacking over the first eight games of the season. He held off a linebacker to break free for his 18-yard touchdown and utilized a later cut to the outside to spring free for 24 yards.

It's only one game but Penny looked like a first-round pick in his production against the Rams. Now he has to repeat that performance when the opportunities come along. Even with Carson likely to return this Thursday against the Green Bay Packers, Penny has probably earned a few more chances than he'd been getting prior to Sunday.

Photo Credit: LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 11: Cornerback Troy Hill #32 of the Los Angeles Rams celebrates his stop of wide receiver Tyler Lockett #16 of the Seattle Seahawks after his catch in the third quarter at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 11, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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