RENTON, Wash. — Russell Wilson spent nearly as much time on his back getting sacked as he did standing and completing passes. Seattle’s defense bent to the final yard on the final play before making a goal-line stand.
The Seahawks are lucky style points don’t count in the NFL because their 14-9 win in St. Louis was an ugly, unimpressive performance.
For a week, the belief that Seattle is the best team in the NFC took a shot, even if they’re the only team in the conference that’s 7-1. And the news didn’t get better Tuesday with the team confirming wide receiver Sidney Rice will miss the rest of the season after suffering an ACL tear in his knee.
Rice was not having much of an impact in Seattle’s pass game this season, but Wilson was under immense pressure from blitzing defenses recently as the Seahawks’ makeshift offensive line failed to provide adequate protection. Rice was targeted 35 times by Wilson, but finished the year with just 15 receptions for 231 yards and three touchdowns. He went without a catch against the Rams and was targeted three times before getting injured in the first half.
Throughout his three seasons in Seattle, Rice was slowed by injuries. His first season in 2011 was cut short by a serious concussion and shoulder problems that saw him limited to nine games. He played in all 16 games in 2012 and had 50 catches for 748 yards and seven touchdowns. It was his most productive season since 2009 when Rice went to the Pro Bowl after eight TDs and 1,312 yards receiving.
Rice’s knees have been bothersome to the point he flew to Switzerland to have treatment during training camp and was brought along slowly in the preseason and at the start of the regular season. He’s due $17.5 million in base salary the next two seasons, meaning his time in Seattle could be done without a significant restructuring of his contract.
The team was off on Tuesday, but on his weekly radio show earlier in the day coach Pete Carroll spoke about Rice showing concussion symptoms rather than problems with his knee.
The loss of Rice leaves Seattle without a tall receiver and makes the return of Percy Harvin even more critical to an already thin unit. Harvin remains day-to-day, Carroll said on Tuesday. Carroll said the Seahawks pushed Harvin last week, but were then forced to rest him.
Second-year receiver Jermaine Kearse — now the tallest receiver at 6-foot-1 — will likely get the bulk of the playing time in Rice’s place until Harvin is ready to go.
There won’t be immediate help on the offensive line either. Carroll said Tuesday that right tackle Breno Giacomini (knee) is still a couple of weeks away and while left tackle Russell Okung is getting healthy, he isn’t eligible to return from short-term injured reserve until Week 11.
“These are the guys we are going with and we have to fix it,” Carroll said after Monday’s win. “We are trying. We knew that these guys would be a difficult match up for us, so we tried to help them, but it just didn’t work out as well as we liked. This was a very tough night on the quarterback. I thought under the circumstances Russell Wilson did an excellent job once again.”
Seattle’s seven first downs were the fewest in a victory in franchise history. The 135 yards were the fewest in any game since 2009. Seattle went three-and-out on six of its 11 possessions. Only once did the Seahawks gain more than one first down on any drive, coming on their first touchdown drive in the second quarter. They ran for only 44 yards and Marshawn Lynch got only eight carries.
The protection by the Seahawks offensive line was porous and Wilson had little room to escape. Wilson was sacked seven times and hit another 10. Seattle has been without both starting offensive tackles since Week 3 and in the five games since the offensive line has been exposed, allowing 19 sacks. Only Oakland and the New York Jets have allowed more sacks during that five-week stretch.
“I definitely believe we’re going to fix it. There’s no doubt in my mind we’re going to fix it,” Wilson said.
Because of Seattle’s offensive problems, the defense was on the field for the majority of the night. The Rams ran 71 offensive plays to just 40 for the Seahawks. St. Louis had more than 38 minutes of possession.
It was the sixth time since 1998 that the Seahawks have allowed more than 38 minutes of possession to their opponents and still won. It was the second time this season. It also happened in Seattle’s Week 4 overtime win over Houston.
The Seahawks defense was on the field for a combined 141 plays the past two games.
“I think championship teams are able to win the ugly games, where things aren’t going right, ball isn’t going their way, and they are still able to stand up when they need to,” Seattle CB Richard Sherman said.